Monday, June 17, 2019

Latin American Trust in the U.S. Military

Michael E Flynn, Carla Martinez Machain, and Alissandra T Stoyan, "Building Trust: The Effect of US Troop Deployments on Public Opinion in Peru." International Studies Quarterly (early view)


Since the 1950s, US military personnel have taken on an increasingly diverse set of responsibilities, including less traditional roles delivering disaster aid and engaging in public diplomacy. Focusing on a particular subset of deployments, humanitarian and civic-assistance deployments to Latin America, we examine the effect that a US military presence can have on public opinion in the host country. We focus on the microfoundations of popular support and use survey data and newly collected subnational data on deployments to examine the effect of these deployments on mass attitudes toward the US military and government in Peru. We find that these deployments do improve perceptions of the US military and government, and correlate with assessments of US influence that are more positive. Our findings bolster the conclusions of previous research that shows how aid can both improve public attitudes toward the donor country and address the foreign aid attribution problem.
This is all about soft power, which is generally not what we get into when discussing the role of the U.S. military in Latin America. The military provides humanitarian services all across Latin America (e.g. the USNS Comfort is right now going to Latin America to help countries who are receiving Venezuelan migrants to provide medical assistance). The idea is to foster good will, and what the authors do empirically--using the case of Peru--is to show that it works.


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