Trinkunas, Harold A.

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Trinkunas, Harold A.


Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., B.S., 1991; Stanford University, M.A., 1994, Ph.D., 1999.


Office—Naval Postgraduate School, Public Affairs Office, Code 004, 1 University Circle, Monterey, CA 93943. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, editor, and educator. Naval Postgraduate School, associate professor of National Security Affairs and chair of department. Field officer and electoral observer, Carter Center, 1998—.


Stanford Ayachuco Research fellow, 1994-95; MacArthur fellow, Center for International Security and Arms Control, 1996.


Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela: A Comparative Perspective, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2005.

(Editor, with Jeanne K. Giraldo) Terrorism Financing and State Responses: A Comparative Perspective, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2007.

(Editor, with Thomas Bruneau) Global Politics of Defense Reform, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2008.


Author, editor, and educator Harold A. Trinkunas is an associate professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. In addition to his academic work, he also serves in an administrative capacity as the chair of the National Security Affairs Department. His own research centers on Latin American politics, with a focus on democratization and its effects in countries throughout Latin America. Trinkunas completed his undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania, then went on to earn both a master's degree and a Ph.D. at Stanford University. He also studied abroad in Venezuela and Argentina as a Stanford Ayacucho research fellow.

Trinkunas has found himself directly involved in the democratic process of Latin America. During the controversial and hotly contested Venezuelan presidential and congressional elections of 1998, he served as a an observer and field officer for the Carter Center electoral observation mission, helping to monitor the Venezuelan elections for fraud or other irregularities. He has continued to participate in these observational missions for the Carter Center.

Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela: A Comparative Perspective offers an in-depth case study and comparison of issues related to the benefits derived from keeping the ultimate control of any country's military in the hands of expert civilians. "The central proposition Trinkunas advances in this book is that there is no substitute for direct civilian control of the armed forces," noted Steve Ellner, reviewing the book in the Journal of Latin American Studies. Trinkunas uses the perspective of this book to not only examine Venezuelan history and politics but to put forth an assessment of the need for civilian military control in other countries as well. He uses the "civil-military lens to explore Venezuelan politics since the 1940s," while at the same time "using the Venezuelan case, with some comparisons, to develop a systematic model of strategies for civilian control," commented Deborah L. Norden in the Political Science Quarterly. Throughout the book, "Trinkunas creates a very compelling theory of Venezuelan civil-military relations," observed Latin American Politics and Society reviewer Angel E. Alvarez. "He also presents a systematic and well-documented account of the historical clashes and agreements between civilian politicians and the armed forces, which supports his claims about politicians' incapacity or unwillingness to enforce more effective controls," Alvarez noted.

In the book's first chapter, "Trinkunas makes a good point when he argues that experts in Venezuelan democratization have overstated the importance of civilian politics and underestimated the role of the military," commented Alvarez. Trinkunas observes that the choices made by elected Venezuelan presidents have resulted in situations where the country's military has been effectively controlled and directed by civilian politicians and other nonmilitary authorities. According to Alvarez, Trinkunas finds that politicians and others can apply one of four different types of strategies to working with and managing the military: "appeasement (satisfying institutional and personal demands of the military to dissuade military intervention), monitoring (maintaining surveillance and ‘fire alarms’ to identify opportunely possible threats), divide and conquer (exploiting internal cleavages to prevent stable antiregime coalitions), and sanctioning (to induce cooperation with the democratic regime)." The author provides detailed assessments of the benefits and disadvantages of each strategy, and considers which are likely to produce the desired results under particular circumstances. No matter which strategy is involved, however, the ultimate goal is to establish civilian control and oversight of military operations.

Elsewhere in the book, Trinkunas provides case studies of failed attempts by Venezuelan politicians to take charge of the military. He looks at the state of military and civilian relations in the period following Venezuela's democratic transition in 1958. He "contributes substantially" to the ongoing discussion on how to establish civilian control of the military, Norden commented. "Perhaps most important is Trinkunas's emphasis on the importance of competent civilian control over such critical areas as military organization and role," Norden stated. "Trinkunas presents an outstanding account of the overall political environment and particularly the uneasy relations between different military factions and democratizers," Alvarez reported.

In Terrorism Financing and State Responses: A Comparative Perspective, edited with Jeanne K. Giraldo, Trinkunas and the book's contributors carefully examine terrorist groups and their financing, from the perspective of "political economy and rational choice theoretical approaches," commented a Reference and Research Book News contributor. The editors and contributors consider such topics as the internal workings of terrorist funding networks, the nature of fund-raising activities within the difficult context of terrorist funding, and the methods of funds transfer that funnel money into the hands of groups that will use it for terrorist activity. The editors and contributors provide detailed case studies of a number of insurgent groups and state-sponsored terrorist organizations, including groups in Afghanistan, territorially based groups such as Hezbollah, and global jihadists such as al Qaeda. Also included is information on government responses to terrorist organizations in various parts of the world, including Europe, East Asian, Latin America, East Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. Trinkunas, Giraldo, and their contributors offer insights into existing policies for disrupting funding for terrorists, and stress the need for creation of techniques that are based more heavily on intelligence gathering.



Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History, April, 2007, Gabriel Marcella, review of Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela: A Comparative Perspective, p. 694.

Choice, May, 2006, D. Schwam-Briad, review of Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela, p. 1674; September 1, 2007, P. Clawson, review of Terrorism Financing and State Responses: A Comparative Perspective, p. 149.

International Affairs, July, 2006, Julia Buxton, review of Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela, p. 825.

Journal of Latin American Studies, November, 2006, Steve Ellner, review of Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela, p. 881.

Latin American Politics and Society, summer, 2007, Angel E. Alvarez, review of Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela, p. 213.

Political Science Quarterly, fall, 2006, Deborah L. Norden, review of Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela, p. 539.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2007, review of Terrorism Financing and State Responses.


Harold A. Trinkunas Home Page, (April 22, 2008).

Navy Postgraduate School, National Security Affairs Department, Web site, (April 22, 2008), author profile.

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