Chile: A crossbred wild and aboriginal "military race" -SOUTHCOM-FIU

Chilean Strategic Culture-April 2010 (Click for pdf version of full report), by Félix E. Martín
Quotes culled by Jenny Grubbs

The Report elucidates the use of force in Chile’s external relations and internal affairs. It starts from the assumption that countries interact in a highly competitive environment where other state-actors, with their respective utility functions, rationally plan for ways to advance and protect their national interests. P. 8

Accordingly, one of the most publicized elements contributing to the formation of the Chilean "character" is the crossbreeding between wild and aboriginal warriors, who fought a long struggle, and a type of Spanish conquistador, who knowingly came to Chile to face a formidable enemy. Hence, it is the origin of the assertion that Chile is comprised of a people with an aptitude or predisposition for war. p. 12

In fact, several Chilean as well as international scholars identified the prevalence of a "military race" in Chile. As mentioned above, this argument maintains that Chile’s strong militaristic tradition and martial national character were partially influenced by the pre- independence struggle, dating back to the first battles against the Arauca native people in 1543. P. 12

Throughout most of the 20th century the logic of interstate rivalry was deeply ingrained in the national strategic culture of Chile. This thinking was institutionalized in a network of bilateral treaties with Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. P. 14

In sum, from independence to the beginning of the 20th century, Chile became a regional actor in a sub-regional system that was defined by two axis of “perpendicular tensions” between the main regional countries (Chile-Peru in the Pacific and Argentina-Brazil in the Atlantic), and later as two rival “diagonal alliances” (that is, Chile-Brazil and Argentina-Peru) that structured a continental system of balance of power, defining the modern Southern American security dilemmas. It originated a stable but precarious regime of negative peace, based on military domination and deterrence as well as on general agreements and an increasingly sophisticated culture of alternative mechanisms of mediation and arbitration to settle disputes. P. 16

In short, Chile appears to have abandoned its traditional insular, garrison-mentality of yesteryear and appears to be moving steadily towards an internationalist stance in world politics. Furthermore, democratic consolidation and rapid economic modernization have displaced the formulation and implementation of the national strategy from a purely diplomatic-military elite to a more open and inclusive national debate regarding public policy choices. P. 18

It is clear that the democratic transition emphasized the reopening of Chile to the world and the region. Nonetheless, Chile has learned, particularly since 1984, that Argentina is no longer its enemy and, more importantly, Argentina must have realized by now, given the decrepit state of its armed forces, that Chile does not harbor any expansionistic designs along their common boundaries or at the southern-most border area. P. 19

Chile’s armed forces, both army and navy, were frequently used for domestic security purposes in breaking strikes, controlling social disorder, or dissolving protests that could not be handled by the country’s ineffective municipal police forces, often leading to a very large loss of life. Ironically, in what was considered among the most stable and democratic countries in Latin America, the armed forces found themselves serving a domestic security function, popular with most elite groups but increasingly called into question by the country’s growing leftist political movements among the middle and working classes. P. 24

Finally, Chile’s respect for self-determination and non-intervention, as an inalienable right, has characterized the prudent approach to foreign policy that separates the country from other more “populist” and abrasive styles throughout the region, for example, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez. P. 25

It is instructive to compare the growth of Chile’s economy with that of Mexico after the 1981 recession since both countries suffered from financial crisis and major recessions. Chile enacted the policy of letting the inefficient and unproductive firms, including banks and other financial institutions perish, leading to a more efficient transfer of capital to the more productive elements of the economy. Mexico, on the other hand, did not make the adjustments and only after the crisis of 1995 did it begin to privatize the banking system. P. 33

Like the Argentine armed forces, the Chilean military has been relatively isolated from civilian society, functioning much as a total institution. Military officers often distrust civilians, perceiving themselves as morally superior. The military also tends to perceive itself—and to be perceived by the public—as highly professional, disciplined and obedient. p. 35

Through most of its modern history, these characteristics allowed Chile to approximate Huntington’s model of "objective civilian control," in which professionalism serves as the basis for a division of labor between policy-making political leaders and a military that is both competent and relatively autonomous. p. 35

For example, the Declaration on Security in the Americas, adopted at the third plenary session, held on October 28 2003, identified the "new threats" faced by the entire continent, without prejudice to the existence of traditional threats. Terrorism, transnational organized crime, the world illicit drug problem, corruption, money laundering, illicit trafficking of weapons and the connections between them, the extreme poverty and social exclusion of broad sectors of the population, which also affect stability and democracy: extreme poverty erodes social cohesion and undermines the security of states, natural disasters and human-induced, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, other health risks and environmental degradation, human trafficking, the cyber security attacks, the possibility of damage that may result in the case of an accident or incident during the maritime transport of hazardous materials, including oil and radioactive materials and toxic wastes and the possibility of access, possession and use of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery by terrorists. P. 40