This is a highly sophisticated analysis of the mechanics of the coup d'etat. Focusing on the Third World, but also using European examples for background, Luttwak distinguishes the preconditions for effective overthrow: economic backwardness, political participation confined to a few; governmental centralization; substantial freedom from foreign control. He then details the techniques of infiltration, recruitment, deployment of forces, and post-coup planning which undergird the seizure most likely to succeed. No rigid rules are laid down; the author constantly points to circumstances dictating variation and flexibility. Copious illustrations are drawn from the over 300 coups attempted in 70 countries since 1945. At times, the value-free tone may startle (Nkrumah is criticized for an ""insufficient propaganda and repression effort""), but at least the writer avoids, by complete impartiality, playing anti-Communist games a la CIA. As a technical manual, this scholarly and tightly written book should provide Machiavellian bedtime reading for a future military junta member. And as a description of the soft underbelly of many Third World governments, it sheds a fascinating light on the political conditions obtaining throughout most of the world.