Building Regional Security Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere: Issues and Recommendations

Building Regional Security Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere: Issues and Recommendations

Building Regional Security Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere: Issues and Recommendations

Building Regional Security Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere: Issues and Recommendations

Excerpt

Today's Western Hemisphere strategic environment is unique. In stark contrast to many other parts of the world, countries in the Western Hemisphere are not threatened militarily by their neighbors. Twenty-five years ago, the vast majority of the governments in Latin America and the Caribbean were under either communist or autocratic rule. Today, every country in the hemisphere except one is a democracy. Democracy is the goal and the accepted model for government in the Western Hemisphere. This is significant because democracies tend to look out for the welfare of their people, seek positive relations with their neighbors, and, most importantly, do not make war against each other.

When flare-ups have occurred in the Americas in the past decade, they have been resolved by diplomacy and regional cooperation rather than by force of arms. Contrary to popular myth, Latin America is the least militarized region of the world, accounting for only 4 percent of the world's defense spending. The peace between our nations should have translated into greater prosperity and more security for the people of the Americas, but for some it has not. We know that our hemisphere, like the entire world, has become a more volatile and unpredictable place, and we've got a long way to go to make it safe.

Today the threat to the countries of the region is not the military force of the adjacent neighbor or some invading foreign power. Today's foe is the terrorist, the narcotrafficker, the arms trafficker, the document forger, the international crime boss, and the money launderer. This threat is a weed that is planted, grown, and nurtured in the fertile ground of ungoverned spaces such as coastlines, rivers, and unpopulated border areas. This threat is watered and fertilized with money from drugs, illegal arms sales, and human trafficking. This threat respects neither geographical nor moral boundaries.

Nowhere is the threat more graphically and brutally active than in Colombia, where Latin America's oldest democracy is under attack by three narcoterrorist groups. These terrorists should not be referred to as guerrillas, insurgents, or rebels because such “romantic” labels imply some sort of legitimacy. There is nothing . . .

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