What are the most important sources of institutional variation among authoritarian regimes, and how do such institutions influence these dictatorships' propensity to initiate military disputes? This article argues that most existing studies in both comparative politics and international relations employ a flawed conceptualization of authoritarian institutions. Excessive focus on the personalization or institutionalization of authoritarian regimes' decision-making procedures has distracted attention from the more critical issue of what institutions these regimes deploy to enhance social control and secure political incumbency. Since military regimes are systematically less effective than single-party regimes at developing these types of authoritarian institutions, they more frequently resort to desperate measures to fend off domestic challenges to their power. In particular, we find compelling empirical support for our hypothesis that military regimes are more likely than single-party regimes to initiate military disputes, irrespective of whether those regimes are highly personalized or not.