Tuesday, January 18, 2011

James Stavridis' Partnership for the Americas

Admiral James Stavridis wrote a book, Partnership for the Americas: Western Hemisphere Strategy and U.S. Southern Command, about his time as head of the U.S. Southern Command, which is available  free of charge as a PDF.  I would not say it is earth shattering, but it is well worth checking out, if for no other reason than to get a sense of how a high level military official views Latin America.  It shows clear knowledge of the region (not something we can take for granted) and avoids exaggeration of security threats (Hugo Chávez's name does not even appear, for example).  I also like the fact that even the Latino population in the U.S. comes into the equation to explain Latin America's importance:

Continuing with this human metaphor, one might argue that the most important linkage between a nation and the nations around it and around the world is demographics. According to the August 2008 U.S. Census Bureau report, about 15 percent of us—just over 46 million—are of Hispanic descent. When undocumented Spanish-speaking workers are added to the count, it is fair to assume that the United States is now the second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world, only after Mexico. For added perspective, more Hispanics live in the United States today than there are Canadians in Canada or Spaniards in Spain. Meanwhile, the purchasing power of our burgeoning Hispanic population is pushing toward 1 trillion dollars, annually (p. 3).

Other themes include rejecting the notion that Latin America is just a "backyard," that drug demand needs to be taken into consideration along with supply, that the deep historical roots of poverty need to be acknowledged, and that using the military in drug operations is not desirable.  He even notes how Daniel Ortega was glad to see the USNS Comfort (p. 60).

I disagree with the notion that Islamic terrorism is a growing threat--we've been hearing that since about September 12, 2001 and have precious little evidence.  Vigilance is fine, but it is overblown.  Also, I don't think you will find many people who agree that Plan Colombia is "a relatively modest program" (p. 17) and he mentions the displaced only in passing despite the fact that it is a massive humanitarian disaster.

Agree or disagree with his various points, though, it is nice to see someone at that level write a book like this.


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