Georgetown forum; Latin America: Military's role
Latin America the role of the military the topic for the 11 100th and 60th consecutive broadcast of the Georgetown University radio forum. Another in a series of educational and informative programs from Washington D.C. The Georgetown forum was founded in 1946. This is Wallace Fanning speaking to you by transcription from the Raymond Rice studio on the campus of Georgetown University historic Jesuit seat of learning in the nation's capital. Today's discussion will be Latin America the role of the military participating our Mr James W. Rowe research associate at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Luis Aguilar associate professor of history at Georgetown University and Dr. William H Bill associate professor of Government at Georgetown University. President Nixon has called for an action program of realistic dimensions
to attack the problems of Latin America. And as a result our relationship to Latin America may well be the focus of serious reexamination. With this in mind the Georgetown University forum proposes to do five programs between now and June to examine the elements of what the president calls the problems of Latin America. Some of the elements are the role of the military which we discussed today. The relationship between nationalism and economic integration. The significance of student dissent. The nature of the New Left and an evaluation of our permanent commitments to our hemispheric neighbors. Today as we said we direct our attention to the various roles that the military has played to enhance or inhibit the development of political democracy in Latin America. Now Mr. Rove about the role good or bad of armies in
South America today are you are you able to make a general observation to open the discussion. North Americans and Latin Americans of many different persuasions often refer to putting the military in their place. I would submit that if history is any indicator both the recent past and the room more remote past the place of the military has been and is likely to be in the forseeable future squarely in the middle of politics. Today 10 out of the 19 Latin American members of the OAS are controlled by military regimes. There have been 38 military successful military coups since the year in 1930. There have been 12 since President Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress at the end to the last in
1961 military intervention and military presence has been a pervasive and apparently permanent factor through all stages up to the present of Latin American development in the pre industrial pre-modern and the era in which middle class groups came to share power and in the post Alliance for Progress period here and which a great emphasis in our countries is on the notion of development. The fact that this is so. Permanent and pervasive a factor I think gives us a starting point to begin our discussion even before we attempt to assess whether these are good or bad I would add one more point that it seems to me a very basic factor in
this is the nature of these Assad is in which these military regimes are present. We are more aware of the problem of politicization of the military than we are of some other forces which are equally politicized. Countries that have political armies don't have political universities political clergy political corporations. The absence of adequate political structures rather than questions of ideology right left or center seems to me to be fundamental in this ongoing pattern of military dominance. Thank you Mr. O now Dr. I get. Well the question of if they have been good or bad in general for results too makes a certain generalization because my first reaction to big good or bad for whom or for what. I have no doubt that the military group are usually good for the military. Now for the
political democracy or the development of political democracy in Latin America I tend to consider even if we have to make immediately make a cautious remark that Latin America is a vast continent and you cannot speak in the same level of Argentina and power wire Central America. But in general even with exceptions I still consider that dame intervention of the army in the political affairs of Latin American nation. You surely provoke paralyzation of political development. And in general in the spite of certain nationalistic gestures they usually make at the beginning of their role. They represent a force of stagnation in those nations even if they present as I said today a new tendency that still is to be examined that they are an instrument of progress as they bring order and they are going to solve the economic problems of the
nation Manal military. So far as I can see the uniforms in power brings order but it is very doubtful if they bring economic progress and political development in the nations. Dr. brill. Well there is a thought Wally that military intervention is really the symptom of the absence of political democracy rather than the cause of political disarray. Putting aside the question of democracy for the moment there is a theory that I think Dr Aguilar was certainly touching on that the military in a broad sense can be a force for modernization. This argument advanced by many political scientists and is meant to embrace areas other than Latin America. There's the argument of course that the military says essentially more modern than other institutions that it tends to compare itself to other countries in particular to the more developed ones. The comparisons which other institutions in Latin America might not make. There's the argument too that the military is cohesive that it does have a value structure and a value system which
allows it to make decisions and really carry them out. And then finally there is the argument that the military is essentially administratively oriented that it's rational that it's interested in planning in calculating events in a rather systematic fashion. The thought here then is that these traits really are right a developing country needs where other institutions political parties may not be so cohesive may not be so irrational may not be able to compare themselves to more modern structures. I think in terms of political democracy it probably really depends on one's own training one's own orientation as well as the situation I can think of military interventions where things were straying pretty wide of the mark of political democracy when the military did decide to move what their motivations were whether they said Gee I'm in or I'm intervening on the part of the political democracy is really quite difficult to say but I think some examples can history would show us that the military has played a role perhaps in moving the countries a little farther along the line that the political democracy was going to say well at one point or another might be an example of this.
Dr. Ro I think you are brushed on a matter which goes back into the history of South America which I'm going to try to phrase in this question. How how did South America get that way. Well let's look back at the movement for independence in the early 19th century. It would seem to me that a power vacuum big for many reasons which we kept going to here but the nature of mannish and even Portuguese colonial administration the high noon of the North American and the French revolutions and I really unlike much thought that went with them. There were these relatively rapidly concluded independence movements. There was the imposition by a very sophisticated elite of Republican models except in the case of Brazil these for various reasons did not
work. Constitutions are withered. The power vacuums were in the first instance Baffin times filled by the remnants of the militias that had led independence movements gradually coming under the control of local chieftains or what we call God Dios. After the round period of turbulence and oftentimes anarchy the national organization movements in various countries were in fact led by a combination of soldiers statesmen often a poet too who people of the caliber of our time a metre in Argentina so that the position of the military in politics in the middle of it was further enhanced then. Do conclude at this point the periods of
expansion economic growth under export often single commodity economies that began and these were normally under republican supposedly liberal constitutions. In many countries gave a period of stability in which the military presence was not so pronounced. But when this broke down with the depression and the turn of many of these countries to a more diversified economy it tends to industrialize these brought up a great many new actors in the political arena. And again in many cases we had the military opening the door as in the case of Brazil the military really were the main force that brought down the monarchy and. Toward the end of the century and brought in the Republican form and later unable to totally organise to take power and what is generally conceived as
a middle class revolution Chile and to a certain extent Argentina have roughly parallel movements so that these are some concrete examples of the establishment of this tradition. Dr. Drew I think one way of getting at the question in a sense just to expand Jim's remarks is to compare it with our own experience here in the US. I think it's important to keep in mind that when we became independent as a as a country we had quite a history of government we had really quite useful models in the British experience we had a local government in almost all of the colonies and we did of course have a great military leader but it wasn't a type of situation where there was a power vacuum as Mr. Roe pointed out where the military was the only cohesive force in Latin America this was the case along with the church and with the landed oligarchy. So I think rather than Latin America being unique in particular when we look now at Africa and Asia we were unique to be able to make the
transfer area with a strong civilian institutions with a rapidly developing political parties. Doctor Well I should add that this not only Asia and Africa as a matter of fact the uniforms are fashionable everywhere today. You can look at Greece or to a certain extent in Spain. Some but my my main interest is to point out that there are certain ways to look at the military regime and Dr. Brill said something that I agree in theory that is there any could be today consider as a progressive instrument that could bring about change because they all the reason that he gave are true. But my point of view is that if you if you look at history then you see that usually they fail in that great mission of bringing change to a nation because they are also a privileged class because when they are in power they offer a lot of
programs of nationalism and economic progress but usually they do not tolerate criticism. And slowly criticism or opposition brings a more repressive attitude toward those forces. And at the end of a long period of military regime provoke only a decline in political life in the nation while at the same time there their lack of flexibility to hear criticism art and to to work in favor of other classes to stop their economic program of their social program. I would certainly agree with the doctor argue law wrong on his last point. I think the last the most recent coups and Argentina and Brazil 66 in 66 and 64 respectively are good cases in point. Nice race for us a number of interesting questions and I think there's one very basic one which sometimes we forget that men who live in community will be governed
one way or another. I think laughter Lippman said that if anything it was essential to men who do live in community. It's that they have some kind of government self government of possible good government if they're lucky but some kind of government they will have not a situation as existed in Brazil unlike 963 in early 1960s it was not some matter of a class struggle. How are the idiology. At least in my view but that the basic functions of government were simply breaking down and an intervention of some kind and I had to take place. Now there have been other situations in Latin America which presumably other social forces again acting with violence and acting directly rather than through political institutions have tended to
shape the political life of their countries but they have lacked the it is because Europe capabilities that military have for simply taking power I think it was Hobbes who said when nothing else turns up grabs or drops and students may riot priests may demonstrate and labor may strike but none of these have had that peculiar combination of organization communications. And weapons that have made it so much easier for the military to take over when everything else simply breaks down that this does not say very much about what it can do over the long range to faster either economic or political development. In a sense then we have the problem if we are going to assess the military a logical problem that we
don't know what would have happened if the military had not moved so we were sort of left with our own. Imagination but at least in one case the case of Bolivia that I looked at quite carefully in 1064 I think it's fair to say that if the military had not moved there probably would have been a great deal of political violence. The miners were separated from the main political party. Now the chances are you had a very brutal civilian kind of civil war which is the most difficult to to control. And then in the background of all this I think perhaps you human share my sadness in bewilderment there is the thought that the military in some mysterious way is a force for modernization it does have tremendous resources and what goes wrong. I mean why can't a military assistance or other forms of U.S. assistance mobilize this huge institution which is the most cohesive and the best armed the best trained the most intelligent probably in a technical a technocratic sense. And what goes wrong why can't we why can't I play more of a force for for
modernization I don't know do you share my concern about this or are you just prepared to to really look at the military in. Well with less of bewilderment or puzzlement than that I might share. No I agree with you on Iran but that's what I make the distinction between theory and practice. I also said there are exceptions and will leave us probably one exception in the role of the military but the problem is why they don't do the anything that they could do. Well the problem is a very old one. The dream of many on the developed nations is a good dictator a nondrinker that controls and becomes a good man a man that works for the poor people to make that social transformation. But the problem is that when you have absolute power you begin to lose contact with the masses than with the reality and you are surrounded by the start of school and by the economic forces and even with the best intentions usually after one year or two years the man in power or the
strongman or they come to you. Is there no other instrument of this type to school where the most reactionary force is only a man who simply cannot accept criticism. And I put it in that category of that that economic or social intellectual process from Castro in Cuba to own guns in Argentina. That is a man in with absolute power or with a tremendous amount of power usually becomes the be instrument of a minority that is surrounding him and its controlling power with him. And I d n in the in the long run in the short run he brought order he open hopes of transformation and the long run he usually bring about more chaos than when he stopped when he arrived to power. But I'm bothered a little bit your thought about absolute power seems to suggest that the military is really oppressive. Maybe maybe you don't mean this by Isn't it true that civilian revolutions are far more likely to resort to violence to enforce order and control than
military regimes. I mean maybe the military is as bad as anyone would be in that situation just because some of the political and social infrastructure is lacking in other words there isn't consensus and there is no basic agreement about the ends and goals of society the army doesn't have to be oppressive it's not oppressive always but there is no doubt they call on the generals are usually not Boy Scouts in power that is any any type of opposition that is going on or is becoming a little bit Daniel is going to be there with him never in a military way in the military way so usually not an easy way so they don't have to be repressive. The problem is that as soon as there is an economic problem in the nation or a student revolt they become a lot more of their power. And if they could rule without military Reema without repressive measure that would be perfect but they usually have to appeal to reparation to go on ruling.
But from your knowledge of history and say particular Cuba you know a country in which you're an expert. Do you think that the military has engaged in more violence on the part of the state to enforce its willed and civilian leaders I mean look at the roadmaster or even look at processed and zero in the M and R I mean isn't that a characteristic of a military junta to set up secret police. No no no because the we you have mentioned there quite a different case. The difference is that there are people who confuse Castro with military dictators and that enemy Castro is that totalitarian regime. Right he's not a guy different that's quite different that's another much more dangerous government. He different between But this time catalyst that. But this I didn't bother you as nobody didn't criticize him you could do anything you want in Cuba. Not but not interfering with politics with gas or you have to do everything he wants you to do. From religion to music to painting anything. So is that a Taliban type of reading. Of course the revolution bring violence. But what I what I said is that a military
regime basically moved to wherever oppressive makes you as soon as there is a shallow thinking in the horizon of their political power they have to Mr Rove. Well to get back to Bill's question as to the military potential and why this is not realized I think we have to be fair here or have some perspective on it and look at the post-war world or other parts of the world. We see that in Turkey but in Pakistan and in Korea too Larry type military regimes were capable of creating some kind of political institutions and gradually shifting the focus in fact to keeping those early pre-dawn. Promises when the original coup was made to restore the government to civilian control with more effective
political institutions Now why has this not taken place in Latin America. I think one reason is that this sort of strategy works better in the more primitive the society. And after all Argentina Brazil and the rest many of these are highly complex societies where social forces are much better articulated. The job in fact is much more difficult. Nonetheless there are some indications at any rate that various aspects although not all of them of development are being fairly conscientiously pursued in some of the countries that presently find them under themselves under military rule. Well I would like to add something. To be fair with the military when we say they don't solve the problem of Latin America we must ask ourselves the question. Those problems
have easy solution and this is not a problem of a general didn't solve the the problem of northeast Brazil with the basic question is who could solve the problem. It is not fair to to accuse a military regime in Argentina or even Brazil of not creating better stability or more economic development. If we don't begin by I'm asking ourselves the question who could do it that is a president couldn't do it because perhaps and that's another quite a vast question but I would like to point it out to be fair with them that perhaps some of the problems of Latin America at least in the economic sense are out of reach by their own government. My point is that no matter who's ruling Cuba Castro or about this. If the price of chukar goes down in the international art market there is a crisis in Cuba with Castro or with but the same thing with copper. The same thing in other nations so we must be careful in not Georgian too harshly. The military without
considering that economic Yale of the Latin American nation. Well I would like to ask you gentlemen if you're able at this time we're nearing the end of the program to take a country by country and to give us an idea of whether you believe that military represent a good or a bad influence in the countries with anyone like that I want that's an awful big reason why frankly I'd rather I'd rather duck it and ask my colleagues how from their vantage point some of the theories that have been advanced about military invention sound one theory is and I'm thinking about the military's decision to move there is a theory I'm sure you're aware of it that the military moves under the threat of status deprivation that there's some threat to their basic value system and that this prompts them to to move. Does this make any sense Jim and I'm sure they're not. Instances that back this up the corporate interest of the military definitely plays a part I
think anybody would be you know behind it who did not see this in it as a matter of fact I think it's playing an even more important role right now. But to say that is the only reason or even the main reason that they move is surely in my mind missing the mark on at least half a dozen of the coups in Brazil in its modern history and several of the other important coups the corporate interest the declining their relative income for example of the Brazilian officer class has definitely played a part in my mind in the hardening. Of the military and the ethos of the military subculture since the 1964 coup. But I do not consider this is a prime cause of these essentially.
The interventions that are very closely allied to the problems of the middle class. Well now we have historically looked with some suspicion and mistrust upon military coups and the emergence of dictators and one thing or another. How it how is our view likely to change in the in the present situation with regard to South American countries. Right can we really do. Well we want to know why donation to that question is that I don't think that the United States is always look we distrust the military but military you may not in America. That's my only adhesions truth to the question. Yeah I think there are number of examples aren't there where it would seem that the that the U.S. looked rather favorably on the political adventures of the military perhaps on the short range and within within the government itself.
But I think this is less significant than the overall broad notion of our society including most of the. Representatives in our government that the military is in essence a noxious thing and that it has automatically to be related to reactionary political forces to repression and to stagnation. This is the prevailing view in our society. And this is one which in the Latin American context in order if you will to know better what our position should be in any operational situation we should perhaps give a closer look to when to have a continuous reexamination. Thank you very much gentlemen for your discussion of Latin America the role of the military. Join us next week on the Georgetown University former firm when we will discuss developing the diplomat this program has been presented in the interest of public
- Georgetown forum
- Latin America: Military's role
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- Georgetown University
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- This program features James W. Rose, Brookings Institution; Dr. Luis E. Aguilar, Georgetown University; and Dr. William H. Brill, Georgetown University.
- Moderated by Wallace Fanning, this series presents a panel of guests discussing a variety of topics. The radio series launched in 1946. It also later aired on WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C. These programs aired 1968-69.
- Global Affairs
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Guest: Rose, James W.
Guest: Aguilar, Luis E.
Guest: Brill, William H.
Moderator: Fanning, Wallace
Producing Organization: Georgetown University
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University of Maryland
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- Chicago: “Georgetown forum; Latin America: Military's role,” 1969-02-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 14, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t14tp43m.
- MLA: “Georgetown forum; Latin America: Military's role.” 1969-02-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 14, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t14tp43m>.
- APA: Georgetown forum; Latin America: Military's role. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t14tp43m