Warriors in Peacetime: The Military and Democracy in Latin America, New Directions for US Policy

By Fishel, John T | Military Review, March/April 1996 | Go to article overview
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Warriors in Peacetime: The Military and Democracy in Latin America, New Directions for US Policy


Fishel, John T, Military Review


WARRIORS IN PEACETIME: The Military and Democracy in Latin America, New Directions for US Policy. Edited by Gabriel Marcella. 163 pages. Frank Cass Publishers, Ilford, England. 1994. $35.00 clothbound. $19.50 paperback.

This slim volume is the most important book on civil-military relations specifically related to Latin America to appear in recent years. Edited by Gabriel Marcella, a Third World studies professor at the US Army War College, Warriors in Peacetime grew out of the December 1992 Inter-American Defense College Conference. Within the Americas' democratic revival context, it links related notions of what soldiers, suddenly at peace, do within US policy toward the region. The collection's strength lies in raising the right questions, which more than justifies the book's purchase.

Warriors in Peacetime does suffer from an inability to weave tightly its two central themes: the Latin American armed forces' role in the democratic societies marking the region in this post-Cold War era; and the ways US Armed Forces should interact with their Latin American comradesin-arms to strengthen democratic civil-military relations. Both are pronounced North American policy goals.

Despite this, both themes stand out. The articles by Marcella, Juan Rial and Richard Millett clearly address the first theme and not entirely optimistically. Marcella points out some difficulties developing appropriate armed forces roles during declining budgets and low-threat perceptions. Rial notes civil-military relations have not moved nearly as far as the democratic transition suggests. Finally, Millett points to the "backsliding" on democracy represented by the successful 1991 Haitian coup, the Venezuelan and Argentine 1992 coup attempts and Peruvian President Alberto K. Fujimori's 1992 autogolpe.

US policy issues range from Kenneth Sharpe's North American drug policy critique; through Howard Wiarda's guided tour of human rights and democracy policy development to Jack LeCuyer's discussion of military policy tools, with emphasis on military engineers and nation assistance; and Ambassador Cresencio Arcos' articulate analysis of Latin American democracy problems and defense of current US policy.

Sharpe's piece argues that North American drug policy is counterproductive to its Latin American democracy goals. Although he may be right, it is for the wrong reasons. As Ambassador Edwin Corr stated in his commentary on Sharpe's presentation, the US government never did devote the funds needed to support its drug war on the supply side.

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