Brett J. Kyle
I am a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I earned my PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013, where I was a Graduate Fellow with the Human Rights Initiative.
I focus on political behavior, democracy, and military politics in Latin America.
My dissertation, Recycling Dictators: Ex-Authoritarians in New Democracies, explains the electoral presence
and performance of members of former military regimes in Latin America who have run for president after the third wave of democratization. I trace regime legacies
from preceding eras of democracy and military rule and find that recycled dictators compete at higher rates and secure higher vote share in countries of lower democratic continuity.
Other current projects investigate human rights and military reform in Latin America.
My work has been published in edited volumes and in the journals Armed Forces & Society and Law & Society Review.
When I'm not teaching, reading, or writing, I am exploring my new home, vibrant downtown Milwaukee.
Dissertation & Other Research
Recycling Dictators: Ex-Authoritarians in New Democracies
My dissertation, Recycling Dictators: Ex-Authoritarians in New Democracies, investigates the phenomenon of members of former authoritarian regimes who run for elected office in the democratic era.
Former repressors have asserted themselves in democratic politics, meeting with varied levels of success. The recycled dictator phenomenon is not limited to Latin America. In many regions of the world, individuals associated with a former authoritarian regime have run for office. These candidates occupy a unique place in the post-transition political landscape. Recycled dictators face distinct challenges and opportunities in their electoral campaigns, and their presence in the new system poses an array of questions about the past, present, and future of politics in transitioning states.
The presence of ex-authoritarian leaders in the new system may herald the beginning of a new era in which candidates of all ideological perspectives have accepted the rules of the democratic game; or, their continued influence in government may signify a renewal of authoritarian appeal. Despite the wealth of research on democratic consolidation and concern about new democracies backsliding into semi-authoritarianism, ex-dictators' role in electoral politics has not been studied systematically. My dissertation addresses the absence of this analysis and contributes to our understanding of popular and elite commitment to democracy by investigating the role of former regime candidates in competitive elections.
I conceptualize recycled dictators as the general phenomenon of those individuals associated with non-democratic government who enter democratic politics after a transition to democracy. Broadly understood, these may be figures emerging from one of many authoritarian contexts such as a one-party state, civilian-led dictatorship, or military regime. In this study, I focus on candidates associated with the military regimes that immediately preceded the third wave of democratization in 12 countries across Latin America. I identify 67 ex-authoritarian candidacies in presidential contests. Eight former military government officials have been elected to the presidency in their countries, most recently, former General Otto Pérez Molina in Guatemala in November 2011.
I find that recycled dictators compete in presidential elections at higher rates in cases of lower "democratic continuity," a concept I have developed to reflect the interaction of historical democratic experience with military rule and the combined impact of both periods on the contemporary democratic era. Regarding recycled dictators' showing at the polls, my project challenges the notion that Latin American voters are not committed to democracy, as most ex-regime officials finish with only single-digit vote share. Candidates who achieve +10% of the vote exhibit shared characteristics. I elaborate a typology with three distinct types of successful recycled dictators: (1) Regime Heir - a candidate who assumes the mantle of the regime in which he served; (2) Rogue Officer - a candidate who led a military uprising with an anti-corruption message and who quickly parlays that message into a political career; and (3) Caudillo Democrat - a candidate who has built a more traditional path to the presidency by holding lower-level public office and constructing a party over time, yet who still runs promising authoritarian solutions to widespread, intractable challenges in the country.
Evaluating the role former regime candidates play in post-transition politics advances our understanding of the quality of democracy in the region and across the globe. My theories of ex-regime candidates in democratic elections are generalizable to ongoing and future transitions in states such as Egypt, Iraq, and Burma where former regime leaders have re-entered the political sphere.
Lobbying with the Sword: Military Mobilization in Contemporary Latin America
In a separate project, I investigate the continued use of force or threat of force among militaries in Latin America to affect government policy. While direct military rule has disappeared from the region and coups d'etat have become rare, barracks revolts and saber rattling has continued. Despite trends toward less military involvement in civilian political disagreements (Pérez-Liñán 2007), armed forces have pressed for their own interests through force in contemporary democracies. I argue that these events are best understood through the prism of institutional lobbying, rather than through existing theories of military intervention in politics that focus on the tutelary role of the armed forces. I catalog events of military rebellion in the region since 1980 to develop a new theory of military influence over political decision making.
Dictating Justice: Human Rights and Military Courts in Latin America
Andrew G. Reiter and I examine the use of military courts in Latin America to shield armed forces personnel from accountability for human rights abuses in the region. We find that variation in the state of military court reform is the result of the relative balance between military autonomy and the strength of civilian reformers.
Our first article in this research agenda, "Dictating Justice: Human Rights and Military Courts in Latin America," was published in the January 2012 issue of Armed Forces & Society. Our second article, published in the June 2013 issue of Law & Society Review, investigates the process by which military courts have been reformed in 13 countries in the region. We identify two major pathways of reform--one, unilateral civilian efforts and two, a more collaborative process of civil-military bargaining. We find that military compliance with reform is greater when civilian leadership engages with the military. Unilateral efforts most often alter formal laws but fail to change practices. While successful reform of military court jurisdiction is a positive development for the rule of law, we caution that success through bargaining suggests continued challenges in civilian control of the military.
The Rise and Fall of Civil Wars
In a project with Scott Straus, we track divergent civil war trends across the globe. At the end of the Cold War, the number of civil wars increased, temporarily, in each region of the world except for Latin America, where a number of conflicts came to a close. We hypothesize that the ideological nature of the Central American wars and the external funding for these proxy battles help to explain the cross-regional variation.
I am currently teaching Latin American Politics; Democracy, Authoritarianism, and Totalitarianism; and Introduction to Comparative Politics at Marquette University.
My teaching fields include Comparative Politics, Latin American Politics, Human Rights, Democratization, Civil-Military Relations, Transitional Justice, and Political Violence.
I was a Teaching Assistant for a variety of courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
- Latin American Politics, Fall 2007, Prof. Leigh A. Payne
- Transitional Justice, Spring 2008, Prof. Leigh A. Payne
- Introduction to American Politics, Fall 2008, Prof. David Canon; Spring 2009, Prof. Ken Goldstein; Spring 2012, Prof. John Coleman
- Comparative Study of Genocide, Fall 2009, Prof. Scott Straus
- Global Challenges: Introduction to International Studies, Fall 2011, Prof. Stephen Young
I gave guest lectures in the following courses:
Brett J. Kyle Curriculum Vitae
My CV is available for download in PDF format as well as below. For other formats, please contact me via e-mail.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- PhD Candidate in Political Science (2013)
- Major Fields: Comparative Politics (Latin America) and International Relations
- Minor Field: Political Violence and the Rule of Law
- Dissertation: Recycling Dictators: Ex-Authoritarians in New Democracies
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- M.A. in Political Science (2007)
University of Texas at Austin
- B.A. in Government, with highest honors (2004)
- Government Honors Thesis: Yielding Power: The Transition from Military to Civilian Rule in El Salvador and Guatemala
- Washington Semester Foreign Policy Program (2002)
Honors & Awards
- Mildred Potter Hovland Journal Article Award, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012 (for “Militarized Justice in New Democracies: Explaining the Process of Military Court Reform in Latin America,” with Andrew G. Reiter)
- UW-Madison Department of Political Science Summer Initiative Award, 2012
- Vilas Travel Grant, Graduate School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2011
- Institute of International Education, Fulbright U.S. Student Program, 2011 (Alternate)
- Human Rights Initiative Dissertation Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010
- Vilas Travel Grant, Graduate School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009
- Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Field Research Grant, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009
- Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship (Portuguese), 2007
- University Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006-2007
- Vilas Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006
- The William Jennings Bryan Award—1st Place Government Honors Senior Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 2004
Research & Project Experience
- Project Assistant, Steve Stern, Cluster Hire Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012-2013
- Project Assistant, Scott Straus, Human Rights Initiative, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010
- Project Assistant, Alexandra Huneeus, School of Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009
- Research Assistant, Versiones Libres project, Leigh A. Payne, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008
- Research Assistant, Authoritarian Regime and Transition Type Dataset, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008
- Research Associate, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington, DC, 2002
- “Militarized Justice in New Democracies: Explaining the Process of Military Court Reform in Latin America.” Law & Society Review 47:2 (2013): 375-407, with Andrew G. Reiter.
- “Dictating Justice: Military Courts and Human Rights in Latin America.” Armed Forces and Society 38:1 (2012): 27-48, with Andrew G. Reiter.
- “The Law, Security and Civil Society Freedoms,” in Civil Society, Conflict and Violence, eds. Wolgang Dörner and Regina List (Bloomsbury Academic, 2012), with Mandeep Tiwana.
- “Honduras,” in The Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice, eds. Lavinia Stan and Nadya Nedelsky (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
- “National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras,” in The Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice, eds. Lavinia Stan and Nadya Nedelsky (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
- “Justice and the Generals.” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Vol. 22, Nos. 23-24 (December 17, 2002).
- “Recent Media Extravaganza Revives Immigration Debate.” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Vol. 22, Nos. 21-22 (December 3, 2002).
- “Uruguay Faces Regional Challenges.” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Vol. 22, No. 19 (October 22, 2002). [Jovana Garzón, co-author]
- “Statistics & Resources: UNESCO’s Comparative Education Study.” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Vol. 22, No. 19 (October 22, 2002). [Jovana Garzón, co-author]
Invited Talks & Guest Lectures
- “Recycling Authoritarians: Historical Public Dialogue in Latin American Presidential Campaigns,” Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability, New York, NY, 7 December 2013
- “Lobbying with the Sword: Military Rebellion in Contemporary Latin America,” Latin American Studies Association Congress, Washington, DC, 30 May 2013
- “Lobbying with the Sword: Military Rebellion in Contemporary Latin America,” 71st Annual Midwest Political Science Association National Conference, Chicago, IL 13 April 2013
- “Roads to Reform: Typologies of Changing Military Courts in Latin America,” with Andrew Reiter, 2011 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, San Francisco, California, 4 June 2011
- “Recycling Dictators: Ex-Regime Candidates in New Democracies,” 69th Annual Midwest Political Science Association National Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 31 March 2011
- “Dictating Justice: Military Courts and Judicial Reform in Latin America,” with Andrew Reiter, 2010 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, Chicago, Illinois, 28 May 2010
- “Why Militaries Rebel: Military Mobilization in Contemporary Latin America,” 2009 International Biennial Conference of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, Chicago, Illinois, 25 October 2009
- “Dictating Justice: Military Rule and Judicial Reform in Latin America,” with Andrew Reiter, 67th Annual Midwest Political Science Association National Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 2 April 2009
- “Recycling Dictators: Authoritarian Leaders and Democratic Integration,” 66th Annual Midwest Political Science Association National Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 3 April 2008
- “Causes for Civil War and Failed Revolution in El Salvador,” 24th Annual Institute of Latin American Studies Student Association Conference, Austin, Texas, 14 February 2004
- “Transitional Justice: Trials and Truth Commissions,” presentation for Political Science 617: Comparative Legal Institutions, 13 December 2010
- “Why do States Abuse Human Rights?” presentation for Political Science 317: The Politics of Human Rights, 9 April 2010
- “Recycling Dictators: The Persistence of Authoritarian Elites in New Democracies,” presentation for University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Political Science 3rd-year research presentation, 13 March 2009
- “Chile: The Pinochet Dictatorship,” presentation for Political Science 630: Latin American Politics, 3 March 2009
- “Lustration and Public Vetting,” presentation for Political Science 401: Transitional Justice, 15 April 2008
- “Guatemala: Violence and Human Rights & Citizenship and Equality,” presentation for Political Science 630: Latin American Politics, 29 November 2007
- Visiting Assistant Professor, Marquette University, 2013-2014—Latin American Politics (Fall 2013); Introduction to Comparative Politics and Democracy, Authoritarianism, and Totalitarianism (Spring 2014)
- Teaching Assistant, International Studies, 101—Global Challenges: An Introduction to International Studies, Professor Stephen Young, Fall 2011 (4 sections of 20 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 318—Comparative Study of Genocide, Professor Scott Straus, Fall 2009 (4 sections of 18 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 104—Introduction to American Politics, Professor Ken Goldstein, Spring 2009 (Head TA, 4 sections of 18 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 104—Introduction to American Politics, Professor David Canon, Fall 2008 (4 sections of 18 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 401—Transitional Justice, Professor Leigh Payne, Spring 2008 (non-section, 75 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 630—Latin American Politics, Professor Leigh Payne, Fall 2007 (4 sections of 18 students)
- Comparative Politics
- Latin American Politics
- Civil-Military Relations
- Transitional Justice
- Political Violence
- “Review sessions,” presentation for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Department Teaching Assistants, 21 February 2013
- “Organizing a Dissertation,” presentation for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Graduate Association, 8 December 2011
- Comparative Politics Search Committee, Fall 2010
- “Grading,” presentation for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Department Teaching Assistants, 8 October 2010
- “Prelim preparation,” presentation for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Graduate Association, 1 May 2009
Language and Methodological Skills
- Spanish – Advanced
- Portuguese – Basic
- Statistical Inference, Qualitative Research Design, Questionnaire Design
- American Political Science Association
- Midwest Political Science Association
- Law and Society Association
- International Studies Association
- Latin American Studies Association
- Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society