Academic journal article Military Review

Strategic Assessment of Bolivia's Defense Policy

Academic journal article Military Review

Strategic Assessment of Bolivia's Defense Policy

Article excerpt

Considering Bolivia's dramatic economic growth over the past decade, as well as the increasing sophistication of its defense policymaking process, it seems appropriate to make an assessment from a strategic point of view of its available military resources and current doctrine as they may pertain to achieving its future national policy objectives. This analysis is timely, considering Bolivia's increasingly strident claim to a sovereign outlet to the Pacific Ocean as a permanent national objective. One such policy of concern reflects Bolivia's interest in expanding its territory by reclaiming portions of the Pacific coast it ceded to Chile in a past war that is currently part of sovereign Chilean territory. To conduct this analysis, the ends, ways, and means formula will be used to synthesize the concept of strategy that predominates in the hemisphere.

Bolivia, under President Evo Morales, has recently achieved an unparalleled level of political stability and economic growth in its history. This progress has gone hand in hand with the emergence of a new elite that took political power in 2006 with a firm will and determination to transform the country by consolidating for the first time thirty-six ethnicities in an attempt to establish a genuine plurinational state.1 To achieve this, new policy foundations are being established, which in turn are generating a new institutional framework of governance. With Morales's reelection at the end of 2014 and his assumption of a third term in office in January 2015, these types of policies that aim at consolidating a plurinational state are projected to continue for another five years.2

Given these developments, it seems prudent to make an assessment of Bolivia's defense policy as it relates to its geographical neighbors from a strategic point of view following the model developed by Arthur Lykke, which is based on the ends, ways, and means formula.3 Such an assessment is especially germane because of the recent resurgent Bolivian claim that it is morally and legally entitled to restoration of territory ceded by Bolivia to Chile after a war fought more than a century ago. The area is currently part of Chile, but Bolivia demands sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean and requires that the outlet be useful to harbor a port.

Reasserting this territorial claim has been institutionalized as a major Bolivian strategic objective as is evident in essential Bolivian strategic-level documents such as: Plan Nacional de Desarrollo [National Development Plan] (2007); Constitución Política del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia [Political Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia] (2009); and Bases para la Discusión de la Doctrina de Seguridad y Defensa del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia [Framework for the Discussion of Bolivian Security and Defense Doctrine] (2010). A clear articulation of this policy is found in the National Development Plan, as follows:

Bolivia has declared its maritime integration to the Pacific coast a permanent objective of its foreign policy, based on historical and judicial rights. This reintegration is justified due to commercial, economic, and political imperatives as well as access to the exploitation of marine resources.4

The national strategic objective of regaining previously ceded territory and gaining a sovereign corridor to the Pacific Ocean is also evident in the restructuring of the government's administrative bureaucracy that established, under the guidance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Maritime Restitution Board as well as the Strategic Office for Maritime Restitution (both created in April 2011), and the publication of El Libro del Mar [The Book of the Sea] (2014).5

Other contributing elements that suggest a need for monitoring Bolivian steps to achieve this object are internal changes occurring in Bolivia noted below:

* The rapid growth of Bolivia's gross domestic product (GDP), which in fifteen years has increased 360 percent, reaching U. …

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