Argentina: "a relatively primitive, peripheral country" –FIU-SOUTHCOM

In the following days and weeks, I’ll be sharing here some choice selections from FIU-SOUTHCOM’s "Strategic Culture" country reports, evidence of just how seriously FIU-SOUTHCOM takes its claim of academic rigueur, and proving once again that the U.S. military uses anthropology like drunks use lamp posts: for support, not for illumination. These quotes on Argentina were culled by Jenny Grubbs, another amazing AU PhD student.

Argentina Strategic Culture Report-April 2010 (Click for pdf version of full report), by Félix E. Martín and Marvin L. Astrada

The State is weak in all its capacities, be it coercive, extractive, developmental, regulatory, and/or distributive. The important implication of this fact for Strategic Culture is that, especially in the recent decade, Argentina does not have much of a systematic, stable foreign policy; all policy is domestically-orientated. (Page 5)

First, in terms of its economy, Argentina is a relatively primitive, peripheral country, a status that government policy seeks to redress. (page 5)

(With regard to their "dilapidated" military) In the meantime, Argentina continues to live in a state of perennial national melancholy. (page 6)

The sense of improvised policy and the absence of serious consideration of possible consequences of actions taken are evident in the cynical manipulation of foreign policy for personal gain by Foreign Minister Carlos Saavedra Lamas, who meddled in the war of the Chaco on his own authority to broker a peace. (page 14)

In the meantime, however, the current Kirschner government has returned Argentine foreign policy to being an instrument of domestic policy, and has plunged the country back into a state of irrelevance in the international community.14 (page 17)

The state is weak in all its capacities, be it coercive, extractive, developmental, regulatory, and distributive. (page 19)

The important implication of this fact for Strategic Culture is that, especially in the recent decade, Argentina does not have much of a systematic, continuous foreign policy.17 What Henry Kissinger famously said about Israel in the 1970s ("It does not have a foreign policy: [a]ll its policy is domestic") applies to Argentina.18 (page 19)

First, in terms of its economy, Argentina is a relatively backward, peripheral country, a status that government policy may redress. (appears again on page 21)

As far as the first proposition is concerned, one extreme interpretation of backwardness, that is, "emerging market," holds that the main obstacles to the country’s prosperity are internal (weakness of property rights and the rule of law, protectionist and statist economic policies, inadequate levels of education, etc.), and that through the correction of these deficiencies and an open economy, that is, engagement in international trade and investment, Argentina would be able to join the club of rich countries. (page 22)

Within the region, some forms of intervention may be necessary in order to preserve Latin American independence or institutions. Thus, the current Argentine government has condemned Colombia’s military agreement with the U.S. (because this agreement gives American troops access to Colombian military bases), has broken diplomatic relations with Honduras following the overthrow of President Zelaya, and has not recognized Lobo’s successor’s administration. (page 23)

In the final analysis, the process of state-building and consolidation of Argentine territory and national integrity over the last two centuries since independence in 1810 benefited from the same strategic tools that the Spanish Empire utilized to reassert its presence and control over the same geographical region since 1516, namely: negotiation, pressure, deterrence, containment, and ultimately war. (page 30)

The decline of Argentina has been the result of the difficulty in designing a successful national reinsertion into the international market. Also, it is due to the twin failures to understand the crucial role of scientific and technological innovations, on the one hand, and the evolution of an industrial entrepreneur class capable of reviving economic growth on the other hand. Since the 1930 economic crisis, Argentina has had difficulty in successfully interpreting the opportunities and risks involved in the international arena. (page 31)

The deadlock between the opposing agricultural export sector model and the import substitution industrialization approach prevented Argentine society in general from comprehending the root causes of Argentina’s lack of sustained economic growth and, consequently, the place of the country in the international system (page 32)

Yet, in the past two decades, Argentina ceased to be a regional power and, instead, has projected the image of a distant and isolated country that lacks a strategic projection. Perhaps it is necessary in the near future to open a public debate to recapture the image of the country representative of the majority of Argentines (page 34)

The many and long civil wars in Latin America prevented these ideas from permeating governing function in these countries. Nonetheless, many of these ideas found their way to the mid-nineteenth century Argentine Constitution. This document established the notions of free trade, private property, free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press and expression, a system of checks and balances, and federalism. Particularly, this Constitution promoted confidence in the international integration of Argentina, migration and unfettered capital movements. These measures brought prosperity to Argentina. (page 35)

The economic dimension of the Strategic Culture of Argentina, as with much of its political and social dimensions, is overwhelmingly dominated by the inheritance of Perónism. Perónism, which has been the overall umbrella ideology of the country, is a combination of populism, nationalism, and Latin fascism. (page 36)

These political outcomes came about because, as we have seen in the U.S. and elsewhere in the developed world, there is a tendency for different groups and sectors of society to attempt to use the state to redistribute income. For Argentina, given its rapid development, it came earlier than the rest of the continent. (page 38)

Overall, the military has clearly lost its authority and leadership within Argentina. Historical experience, international developments, and government policies have diminished the legitimacy of military involvement in politics and contributed to the overall deterioration of the military’s public image. No longer is the military the primary "keeper of Strategic Culture" in Argentina. (page 43)

Second, the country has lived in a nostalgic mood for most of the last seven decades. (page 44)

Finally, it was established that the country remains polarized and seriously weakened by poor economic performance and a serious political impasse between populist and economic nationalist ideals of the present ruling elite and the agro-exporter sector. (page 45)

The use of force, as one of Argentina’s tools of statecraft, appears to be a thing of the past. And it is highly unlikely it will be a significant and effective tool in the next decade. In the meantime, Argentina continues to live in a state of perennial national melancholy. (page 45)

Comments

A few reactions (reviewed and reposted)

"[...]especially in the recent decade, Argentina does not have much of a systematic, stable foreign policy; all policy is domestically-orientated. (Page 5)"

"[............]the current Kirschner (SIC -interesting alcoholic reference!) government has returned Argentine foreign policy to being an instrument of domestic policy, and has plunged the country back into a state of irrelevance in the international community.14 (page 17)"

Wow, looks like someone's missed Argentina's -like Brazil's- own push for South-South relations and its crucial role in strengthening Latin American unity over the last few years, namely but not exclusively by building up inter-American institutions such as Mercosur and UNASUR, and Argentina's position with regards to Iran and Israel, and in warning Greece against taking on an IMF loan, its reconfigured relationship with the US, it's consistent (a rare thing) stance on human rights etc., etc. [...]

Argentina has an excellent foreign policy.

Perhaps if the "International Community" is reduced to the US and Northern Europe then most of that is insignificant.
If so, the problem with the country having supposedly "returned Argentine foreign policy to being an instrument of domestic policy" may mean Argentina should not be letting its internal interests guide its foreign policy, but should revert instead to being a reliable instrument of United States policy (joining in the 1991 Gulf War, obediently condemning Cuba in the UN, etc, which past glories evidently tickle the authors' "nostalgia".)
Being part of the military presence in Haiti would thus be a welcome exception.

"The state is weak in all its capacities, be it coercive, extractive, developmental, regulatory, and distributive. (page 19)"

WAS weak when it followed the Washington Consensus. Has (other than in the coercive and extractive perhaps) been markedly gathering strength since.

"[...] the main obstacles to the country’s prosperity are internal [...]protectionist and statist economic policies"

Following the logic here, I guess a "statist" policy is pretty ineffective if the state is "weak".

Otherwise we are talking about those policies that have kept Argentina growing while Europe and the US crash...

"the current Argentine government has condemned Colombia’s military agreement with the U.S. (because this agreement gives American troops access to Colombian military bases),"

Or maybe because it gives "American" troops "access to the entire continent, except the Cape Horn region" -same difference. Somewhere abroad.

"The use of force, as one of Argentina’s tools of statecraft, appears to be a thing of the past. And it is highly unlikely it will be a significant and effective tool in the next decade."

Thank &*#@! for that too. That would be an excellent example for Southcom to learn from!