War and Its Aftermath: New Writing on Latin America

By Ramsey, Russell W. | Parameters, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

War and Its Aftermath: New Writing on Latin America


Ramsey, Russell W., Parameters


This cluster of books on Latin America deals with war, civil-military relations, and the social aftermath of conflict. The works are literarily important, strategically significant uneven in scope, and likely to enjoy an enduring place in library collections.

We jump quickly into the ideological frying pan with John Charles Chasteen's written new work, Born in Blood and Fire: A History of Latin. In short and superbly written chapter, Professor Chasteen profiles a survey sketch of Latin American history which emphasize, both military and social conflict in each major period. The focus gives the reader an unbalanced overall view, since cultural history and civil society get little space. Author Chasteen's outlook is also distinctly at odds with well-documented facts revealing Latin Am to be the world region historically possessing the fewest casualties due to war, the fewest soldiers as a 'cent of the population, and the smallest percent of the gross domestic to military spending (see Ruth L. Sivard's World Military and Social Expenditures, 1991, pp. 22-23; 50-51).

Professor Patricio Silva has edited The Soldier and the State in South America: Essays in Civil-Military Relations, the title deriving from Professor Samuel P. Huntington's 1957 classic on civil-military relations. Professor Silva's book fills the gap between the definitive writing on this topic by Professor Lyle N. McAlister in the 1960s and the present day. The essays deal with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru and are descriptively valuable, but not structurally definitive. Professor Paul Cammack's contribution characterizes these Latin American countries as "state-managed democracies," with the armed forces being increasingly less praetorian, yet retaining social not fully consistent with the posse comitatus model, Complementing this book is the Fall 2000 issue of the Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs. The essays in that issue cover civil-military relations in Argentina Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela. They show an expansion of civil society, a growth in constitutionalism, and occasional forays into military populism.

Manual G. and Cynthia M, Gonzales have written En Aquel Entonces, which translates loosely as "Way Back Then." They depict the post-conflict conditions under which Mexican citizens lived during the transition into immigration to the United States, or to living in proximity to the United States. They capture unforgettably the racially negative stereotypes which North Americans have usually held about Mexicans, a racism best understood as the "Black Legend." Shifting from the world's most populous Spanish-speaking country to the overwhelmingly dominant Portuguese-speaking nation, we examine Professor R. S. Rose's One of the Forgotten Things: Getulio Vargas and Brazilian Social Control, 1930-1954. For a period of time in the late 1930s, Vargas was evidently more akin to Adolph Hitler than to the benign autocrat the distinguished liberal Brazilian historian Gilberto Freyre has portrayed him to be. This book offers intimate detail on the centralization of power from the state capitals to the national capital then located in Rio de Janeiro, supported with sickening accounts of torture administered to alleged communists in select prisons. The author shows how vicious struggles between the political right and the left of that era somewhat resembled events in the streets of Rome and Berlin a decade earlier. The author does not implicate the Brazilian armed forces, but rather identifies terroristic police entities resembling the German Gestapo.

Bradley L. Coleman has written "The Colombian-American Alliance: Colombia's Contribution to U.S.-Led Multilateral Military Efforts, 1938-1953," in which he portrays the United States and Colombian armed forces as senior and junior partners in a cooperative military partnership which effectively boosts the national security goals of both countries, including the strengthening of democracy. …

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