Building Democracies with Southern Command's Legal Engagement Strategy

By Addicott, Jeffrey F.; Roberts, Guy B. | Parameters, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Building Democracies with Southern Command's Legal Engagement Strategy

Addicott, Jeffrey F., Roberts, Guy B., Parameters

America has conducted itself in the post-Cold War era with the understanding that fostering democracies and encouraging military establishments subject to the rule of law are vital to US national security interests. [1] In this regard, the warfighting unified commands mirror the overall US national security policy of peacetime engagement not only by maintaining close contacts with allies and friendly governments for the purpose of imparting values and ideals associated with democratic principles, but by focusing this commitment through detailed engagement plans.

For example, in a document entitled "Strategy of Cooperative Regional Peacetime Engagement," General Charles E. Wilhelm, Commander in Chief of US Southern Command from 1997 to 2000 (now retired), set out his vision for Latin America and the Caribbean as "a community of democratic, stable, and prosperous nations...served by professional, modernized, interoperable security forces that embrace democratic principles, demonstrate respect for human rights, are subordinate to civil authority, and are capable and supportive of multilateral responses to challenges." [2]

In addition, recognizing that there is a legal dimension to almost every aspect of the US Southern Command engagement plan, the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate developed and published a first-ever legal engagement strategy in 1998. [3] The intent of the legal engagement strategy is to promote the concept of professional law-based militaries that operate in accordance with the rule of law, respect internationally recognized human rights, [4] and are subordinate to and controlled by democratically elected civilian governments. In short, the US Southern Command legal engagement strategy is a blueprint for democracy-building in the context of the rule of law. In the quest for war avoidance, this legal engagement plan is a unique force multiplier and contributes to the "shaping" dimension of the National Military Strategy.

The Importance of the Rule of Law in War Avoidance

In his groundbreaking book about warfare in the 21st century, Race to the Swift, Richard Simpkin argues that democracies must find "politico-legal devices" to confront the enemies that threaten today's societies, and that the armed forces of a democracy must carry out their duties in conformity with the rule of law. Simpkin states, "Democratic governments rest on the rule of law, and must so rest. [5]

The term "rule of law" was initially coined to refer to the common law system of jurisprudence with particular emphasis on equality before the courts. The more modern common meaning, however, encompasses those rules and legal standards of behavior recognized and practiced between states in the context of the community of nations, and connotes consistency in the application of democratically passed and impartially implemented and enforced national laws and regulations. In the words of University of Virginia law professor John Norton Moore, the importance of the rule of law is central to international relations: "Law... is vitally important. Even in the short run, the [rule of] law serves as a standard of appraisal for national actions and as a means of communicating intentions to both friend and foe, and perceptions about lawfulness can profoundly influence both national and international support for particular actions." [6]

In tandem with Professor Moore's admonishment, the Clinton Administration's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said that of all the problems facing the Southern Hemisphere, none is more important than improving adherence to the rule of law. "Where justice is absent," Albright writes, "peace and stability of a nation and its neighbors come under threat; where justice is partial, citizens who do not have access to equal treatment lose faith in their government, and the forces of extremism grow strong; and where justice is unprofessional, crime flourishes, corruption grows, and economies suffer.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Building Democracies with Southern Command's Legal Engagement Strategy


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?