Monday, June 05, 2006

Civil-military relations in Argentina

In Argentina, President Kirchner has been very active in pursuing military officers associated with the Dirty War. The NYT has an interesting article about military resentment. The concern is partly about retired officers going on trial. But there is also another dynamic of younger officers angry that everyone is seen as tainted because of events that took place decades ago, before they even entered the service.

I think this latter issue is extremely important. Establishing civilian supremacy over the armed forces in Latin America requires—among many other things--a strong working relationship and mutual trust, both of which are normally absent. There is no threat of a coup, but if Kirchner (and his successors) are seen simply as punishers, then there can be long-term consequences, as generations of officers are socialized in an anti-civilian (and as Brian Loveman has put it so well, an “anti-political”) atmosphere. The better strategy is to punish those responsible for human rights abuses while making clear to everyone else that if you respect democracy, the government is willing and able to work with you to create a comprehensive and viable defense policy.


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