Rut Clara Diamint and Cynthia Watson
The armed forces in Argentina have had a significant role in the political system for much of the twentieth century. Between 1930 and 1989, no elected government completed its term without some sort of intervention, many of these incidents caused by the armed forces seizing power to protect Argentina from enemies. Civilian control over the military was, for much of this time, problematic because of weakness on the part of civilians and distrust by military that the needs of the country were being met.
The last prolonged period of military governance was between 1976 and 1983. During that time, Argentina suffered through a guerra sucia (dirty war), a traumatic military defeat in the South Atlantic, and a period of economic crisis caused by mismanagement and massive external debt. When civilians assumed office on 10 December 1983, the Argentine armed forces were humbled but angered that their role in saving the nation had been misunderstood by the people they sought to protect. Within a decade, however, the military had taken what appears to be a position which will make it permanently subservient to civilian control. Rather than looking at national security as solely based on the need to protect the patria, it has become one of the most frequently used armed forces for international peacekeeping operations. It is one of the most dramatic transformations of a civil-military relationship anywhere in the world.
This chapter will examine the position that the Argentine military has occupied in society since 1930 and explore the changes that have transformed it from a force to intervene frequently into one which has an increasingly external outlook for national security.
One of the fundamental issues which must be understood about the armed forces in Argentina is the perception that they have about their role in society.