South America: an under-conflictual
Why are there relatively few interstate wars in South America? Interstate security dynamics have mostly been secondary to domestic issues, and the 'unstructured' explanation that works for such a situation in Africa does not hold for the much more developed South America. The possibility of war certainly has not been absent from the continent: military force has been threatened or used more than two hundred times in the twentieth century (Mares 1997: 195; 2001: 38). South America has not been a security community or anything close to it. Still there have been relatively few wars, and those that have occurred in the twentieth century have been markedly more limited and less destructive than those of the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth century, wars 'were long, spread beyond two parties, and entailed great loss of life and exchange of territory. Twentieth century wars have been more limited affairs' (Mares 1997: 196). Yet political violence is not low, quite the contrary. In one sense, the wars of independence continued into wars of state formation that then became civil wars. The civil wars of the Americas are among the bloodiest conflicts: the American Civil War, the Mexican revolution, the violencia in Colombia, the Central American wars of the 1980s.
Other issues to be given special attention (partly because of their particular interest for RSCT) are: (1) the relationship to a dominant great power neighbour; and (2) the process of a possible division of an RSC as the northern and southern parts of South America seemingly part ways– and the factors that restrain such a process. However, the questions of most profound importance for the future of the region are the ones at the core of each of the subcomplexes: the war on drugs in Colombia and the future of Mercosur in the Southern Cone.