Date of Award

December 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Colin Elman


Diffusion, Indonesian military, Japanese military, Military emulation, Military personnel, Military Westernization

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation explains why and how some militaries are better than others at emulating the organization and doctrine of foreign armed forces. I define military emulation as the changes to a pre-existing military organization resulting from an imitation of another military's structure or doctrine. The changes stem from the diffusion of military ideas from one polity to another. I call those ideas `theory of victory' and `theory of corporatism'. The former explains the next mission a military needs to fight and how to win, while the latter details how intra-military institutions and their raison d'etres are designed, maintained, and defended in their relationship with the state and society. I am interested in explaining two ideal types of military emulation: maximalist and minimalist. In a maximalist emulation, we should see the transplantation of existing theories of victory and corporatism with foreign-based ones. The rapid, expansive, and thorough adoption of those theories is the hallmark of such an emulation. In a minimalist emulation, we should see a small number of changes to the military's pre-existing theories of victory and corporatism. The diffusion process is likely to be slow, limited, and produce few similarities with the original model.

This dissertation develops a new theory arguing the variation of military emulation depends on the interaction of: (1) the transmission pathway between the foreign model and the potential emulator supplying new theories of victory and corporatism, and (2) the quality of the emulator's personnel infrastructure (career management and education systems) shaping the organizational capacity to interpret, adopt, and implement them. Some pathways have accelerative properties allowing emulators to obtain consistent and coherent theories of victory and corporatism while giving them agency to `localize' those theories. The personnel infrastructure quality determines whether new career trajectories could emerge for officers trained in foreign theories of victory and corporatism, allowing them to become product champions, and ensure that the broader learning capacity is boosted. A higher learning capacity is necessary for senior officers to understand, adopt, and implement the new theories. A maximalist emulation is likely when there is: 1) an accelerated and coherent transmission of foreign theories of corporatism and victory, and 2) an organization capable of interpreting and adopting them. A minimalist emulation is likely when there is: 1) a decelerated and incoherent transmission of foreign theories of corporatism and victory, and 2) and an organization incapable of interpreting and adopting them.

To assess the new theory's analytical value, I present a systematic plausibility probe by comparing Cold War Indonesia (1950--1991) and Meiji Japan (1868--1912). For the former, I explain why and how the Indonesian military did not become ``Americanized'' by the end of the Cold War, despite employing thousands of American-trained officers. For the latter, I explain why and how Meiji Japan managed to successfully emulate Western theories of victory and corporatism within a short period of time. I employ a comparative process tracing design integrating within-case analyses and cross-case comparisons. For each case, I examine archival materials, organizational documents, and historiographical sources. I also create two original officer-level datasets on the career patterns of the military elite in Cold War Indonesia and Meiji Japan. I use the qualitative and quantitative data to evaluate how well my theory could explain the empirical puzzles of the cases.

I find that the diffusion of US theories of victory and corporatism to Indonesia was hindered by the fact that Washington viewed military education and training aid as a political tool to combat communism rather than a method to remodel the Indonesian military over its own image. Statistical analyses of the Indonesian Army's career patterns show there was no significant correlation between `professional' career markers, including US education and training, with successful retirements. Only around 16% of 677 Indonesian Army generals had some form of US education or training. The military's educational institutions also focused on ideological coherence and non-military duties while officers valued higher-level education for its political and patronage effects. Consequently, we see a doctrinal stagnation in the 1960s and the limited and inconsistent application of US theories of victory in major operations. These findings suggest the Indonesian military achieved a minimalist emulation.

For Meiji Japan, the diffusion of Western theories of victory and corporatism was facilitated by the commercial contracts the government signed with Western military trainers. They allowed the military to control and localize the diffusion process. The professional, merit-based career management created new career pathways for Western-trained officers. Statistical analyses of the career patterns show that, compared to other career markers, Western studies background was a significant predictor of whether officers retired as three or four-star generals and admirals. Roughly half of 684 Meiji generals and admirals had some form of Western studies background. The centrality of education as professional qualifications---the academies and war colleges emphasized military sciences, competitive examinations, and academic focus---helped senior officers understand, adopt, and implement Western theories of victory and corporatism. The organization-wide military Westernization by the Sino-Japanese War (1893-94) demonstrates Meiji Japan's maximalist emulation.

The arguments and findings have broader theoretical, empirical, and policy implications. They speak and contribute to the resurgence of diffusion studies across the social sciences. As military organizational change is rare, understanding when and how it occurs is important for a wide range of military and political outcomes. Military emulation speaks to the generation of military power and offers insights into how states respond to different challenges and opportunities within the international system. How Asian polities in particular engage in military Westernization speaks to a range of important political outcomes associated with various state building processes. Finally, understanding how emulation occurs illuminates a wide range of contemporary security policy challenges; from the changing nature of warfare to military education and training assistance programs.


Open Access