Chilean Politics, 1920-1931: The Honorable Mission of the Armed Forces

Chilean Politics, 1920-1931: The Honorable Mission of the Armed Forces

Chilean Politics, 1920-1931: The Honorable Mission of the Armed Forces

Chilean Politics, 1920-1931: The Honorable Mission of the Armed Forces

Excerpt

Civil-Military relations have been an ingredient of politics as long as governments have existed and military organizations have been supported by the state. Whether a nation's government is controlled by civilians or under the influence of men in uniform, the interrelationship of its civil and military authorities is a vital one. Particularly in a time of national crisis is this so. In modern history, viable civilian governments have attempted to restrict their armed forces to the traditional role of national defense. At certain times, however, the civil-military relationship inverts; military men do govern and are the masters while civilians are governed and are the servants.

Emerging, underdeveloped, or developing nations in which crisis may be endemic, society transitional, and democratic traditions weak are particularly fertile ground for such inversion. Indeed, some of the original emerging nations of the non-western world, such as Turkey in the 1920s and Japan after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, owed their emergence to the military as much as to any other factor. The manifest fragility of democratic institutions, or the inability of democratic processes to cope with immediate problems and provide order and tranquility, almost compels the professional military organization to step in, at times eagerly and with no apparent purpose, sometimes reluctantly but determined to solve the problems of the fatherland.

In Latin America the relationship between civilians and the military is an intriguing one. Men on horseback have played a political role since independence times when Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín, together with their lieutenants Antonio José de Sucre and Bernardo O'Higgins, liberated most of Spanish South America, and Agustín de Iturbide founded his short-lived Empire of Mexico. The great liberators completed their roles by 1830, and in some countries were replaced by lesser liberators. During the nineteenth century all the Latin American nations were at one time or another governed by military men.

The Republic of Chile was governed by generals from the initial outbreak of the independence movement in 1810 until 1851. Even after 1831, when the army was at last expelled from politics, Generals Joaquín Prieto . . .

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