Observing Our Hermanos de Armas: U.S. Military Attaches in Guatemala, Cuba, and Bolivia, 1950-1964

By Robert O. Kirkland | Go to book overview

Conclusions

There are divergent assessments of attaché performance during the Cold War. One position holds that military attachés to Latin America lacked the training and cultural awareness necessary to understand their host country and military counterparts. These authors claim that attachés failed to establish contacts and foster confidence with their foreign military counterparts and as a result were ineffective as intelligence gatherers. In contrast, various books and reports, mostly by former government officials, argue that U. S. attachés accurately reported on the military situation of their host country. Some of these authors claim that attachés’ reports were the most reliable and accurate of all information gathered by the U. S. intelligence community. Of the two points of view, which is the most accurate? Or do both have a degree of validity?

A person reading only chapters two and three might conclude that attachés were woefully unprepared to report on political-military matters. Chapter one noted that the attaché’s job since the 1880s had primarily focused on military reporting—for that was the subject in which the attaché was best trained and equipped to report. In fact, attachés in the pre-World War II period did a more than adequate job reporting on military developments overseas. Their dispatches may not always have been read or acted on by the military and civilians in Washington, but for the most part their observations accurately reflected what was happening on the ground. Rarely did attachés report on political-military matters. Those who did were immediately told to turn their attention back to military issues. Those who ignored this directive and persisted were disciplined. While not all officers who supervised the attachés in the War Department agreed that attaches should avoid political subjects, there was tacit acknowledgment among senior officers that political-military affairs were ancillary to the overall intelligence collection plan. A reader might conclude in studying the history of the attaché corps before World War II that there seemed little reason why this

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