Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The military as entrepreneur

Kristina Mani, "Military Entrepreneurs: Patterns in Latin America." Latin American Politics and Society 53, 3 (Fall 2011): 25-55. Gated.


Despite the recent shift to democratic regimes and market-based economies, in many Latin American countries the military retains important economic roles as owner, manager, and stakeholder in economic enterprises. Such military entrepreneurship poses a challenge to the development of democratic civil-military relations and, by extension, to the development of liberal democracy in the region. While scholars have noted this situation with concern, they have given little attention to distinguishing the different types of military entrepreneurship, which reflect distinct historical patterns and implications. This article identifies two major types of military entrepreneurs in Latin America: industrializers, determined to build national defense capabilities and compete for international prestige; and nation builders, seeking to promote economic development that can foster social development and cohesion. Case studies of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Ecuador demonstrate important differences between these two types in their origins, paths, and political consequences.

The transitions to democracy have tended to make the study of the armed forces less sexy.  What too many people seem to think is that the military disappears politically in a democratic context.  As a result, when civilian-military conflict (even if mild) pops up, then it seems surprising when it shouldn't.  What Mani does is focus on a specific way the military remains relevant, which is in economic terms.

Her basic argument is that militaries focused on defense/industrialization can benefit the country and work closely with other state actors, thus fostering cooperation.  Further, she argues that interdependence mean that such a focus can lead to improved relations with neighboring countries.  On the other hand militaries that have a strong role in nation building can be more problematic, as they generate their own independent bases of political support and become more autonomous.


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