The expansion of provincial military forces, and the politicizing effect of the 1911 Revolution on these forces, made military control a key issue for the early Republican provincial regimes. Unlike later warlord military governors, Li Yuanhong and Tan Yankai did not gain their positions because of their personal military authority. Rather, one of their main concerns was how to establish their authority as military governors over the disparate military forces that had emerged from the revolution. Some of their efforts to this end, such as using personal ties and patronage to strengthen the loyalty of military commanders, resonate with warlord practice. They also did not hesitate to use whatever loyal military support they had at their disposal to suppress plots against their governments. At the same time, it would be difficult to argue that Li and Tan did not have the right to expect obedience from their provincial armies or the prerogative of using these armies to defend their regimes. More important, unlike in the case of the warlords who arose later, personal military power never became the main foundation of their authority as military governors. Indeed, the con-
tinuing weakness of their military control was an important factor in their decision to disband their provincial armies. At the same time, their commitment to general rather than selective disbandment shows that the preservation of order and the general stability of the provincial regimes were their main political objectives, not the acquisition of personal military power. As a final solution to depoliticizing the military, disbandment may have reduced military threats to Li and Tan's own positions, but it also removed a threat to the civil polity they represented.
The process of troop disbandment in Hunan and Hubei reveals a relationship between military and political power that was more complex than the future pattern of warlordism. The general failure of military commanders to mount any effective resistance to disbandment shows that they, as well as the military governors, lacked the confident personal power that future warlords would have over their troops. One reason for this was that most of their commands were too newly formed for them to solidify their personal control. At the same time, these commanders were restrained by the general lack of discipline in their units, a condition exacerbated to no small degree by the democratic spirit that had infused the rank and file during the revolution. As a result, the greatest political threat from the military in Hunan and Hubei did not come from ambitious commanders at the head of personal armies, but from the politicized lower ranks, with their potential to duplicate the military coups of the revolution. This form of military political intervention pointed in a direction quite different from the development of warlordism. It was, however, a line of development that disbandment purposefully, and with a large degree of success, brought to an end.
The programs of disbandment carried out in Hunan and Hubei after the 1911 Revolution were major achievements of their provincial regimes. The success of disbandment showed that the politicization of the military that had occurred as a result of the revolution did not necessarily lead to the subordination of politics to military power and military interests. Rather, the provincial regimes showed their potential to reconstitute government and politics on a civil basis. This civil potential, though, developed within very specific provincial contexts. In the end, the ability of the Hunan and Hubei regimes to hold warlordism at bay on a provincial level was upset by the intrusion of broader political problems on a national level.