By Patrick Bray
DLIFLC Public Affairs
Editor’s note: This article is a feature from the Foreign Area Officer program’s monthly officer professional development series at DLIFLC.
MONTEREY, Calif. – Dr. Christopher Darnton, an associate professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, spoke to Foreign Area Officers in language training at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Jan. 18 about the U.S. role in Latin America.
“Latin America has become a zone of peace with an asterisk,” said Darnton, summarizing the geographic region. His asterisk implies that “Latin America has had very few wars, but does not mean the hemisphere is unified.”
The U.S. is concerned with instability among other regional problems.
“We have not seen the last difficult regime change in Latin America,” said Darnton.
Darnton based his lecture on security issues defined in the U.S. Southern Command posture statement, which includes transnational organized crime; foreign terrorist fighters; Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah; regional stability; and Russia and China engagement.
The corner stone of U.S. foreign policy in Latin American, according to Darnton, is the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which in summary states that there will be no new European colonies allowed in the Caribbean and South America. For the U.S., is was all talk for a century, but more than willingly enforced by the British Navy as London and Washington were in agreement.
President Theodore Roosevelt later added a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904.
“If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States,” according to the corollary.
Whereas the U.S. views its modern foreign policy as globally strategic and beneficial to all, the southern perspective is it is a reminder of past imperialism connected with the Monroe Doctrine and the corollary, according to Darnton.
“Historical legacies run deep in Latin America,” said Darnton.
Considering countries such as Cuba, Panama and a few others, “They will not have forgotten that we have occupied their country for a number of years,” said Darnton.
Even references such as “America’s backyard” is offensive and implies imperialism, Darnton also said.
U.S. policy in the region has changed from that of intervention such as the 1983 invasion of Grenada to one of security cooperation such as Operations New Horizons, Tradewinds and PANAMAX.
The way forward, according to Darnton, is more sincere and consistent support for human rights and democracy. The lessons we have learned in Latin America will always remain important, but he also believes that external great power involvement should not be of such great concern to the U.S.
“We’re still having a hard time wrapping our heads around Latin American sovereignty,” said Darnton. “If Latin America is not a massive strategic priority for us, why should it be for Iran or Russia?”
Darnton elaborated on angles in which Russian and Chinese involvement could be great for the U.S. in that economic growth leads to stability and thus fewer problems in the region. Furthermore, he added that Russia and China expending resources in Latin America are resources they cannot divert somewhere else. “And that’s good for us,” he said.
Darnton’s teaching interests include Latin American politics, Brazil in world affairs and International conflict resolution among other. He spoke as part of the FAO program’s monthly officer professional development speaker series, which is a critical part of FAO training at DLIFLC. The monthly program is an essential addition to the biannual Joint Foreign Area Officer Course Phase I, usually held in January and June.
FAOs, who come from the four branches of the U.S. military, are regionally focused and are considered experts on political-military issues. Once their FAO training is completed, they are expected to serve as defense attachés, security cooperation officers and political-military planners worldwide.
DLIFLC provides resident instruction in 23 languages at the Presidio of Monterey, California, with the capacity to instruct another 65 languages in Washington, D.C., graduating more than 220,000 linguists since 1941.
In addition, multiple language training detachments exists at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea spanning all the U.S. geographic combatant commands in support of the total force.
Posted Date: 25 January 2017