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When it comes to the way the US uses its military in Latin America, the White House still struggles with the same issues that plagued the Obama administration in the last decade.
With the US now the dominant military power in the region, the question of how to best use this power on the ground has surfaced once again.
The answer often boils down to “we’re already there.”
The last administration’s Latin America strategy was, at its most fundamental level, one that simply said “we’re already there. The US is already there through its military. How else do you think we’re going to do it?”
For the time being, that’s true.
Still, the current administration needs to do some serious thinking about how to use the US military for what we might otherwise consider a marginal cause — and, increasingly, for something altogether different.
This was the thrust of a recent article on Quartz on the US military use of Latin American governments in the wake of the election of President Donald Trump. It also came at a time when US and Latin American officials were meeting in the wake of the White House announcement that it would be “reviewing and possibly terminating” a policy of “strategic patience” on the topic of Venezuela in favor of more hard-nosed policies at the regional level.
What’s particularly frustrating to me, however, is that this new strategy appears to be based in part on a desire to “unify” the US military on the region. It’s the idea that the US could find success on the ground in the region through the same framework that it used to “unite” the military in Central and South America.
That framework was not one of “cooperation” or “cooperation among equals,” but one of a massive and costly commitment of American forces in countries that were not part of the original strategic patience strategy, but were in fact countries we were supposed to be working together as equals.
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