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Our maxim: “understanding before action”
Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

viernes, 7 de noviembre de 2014

La ayuda militar norteamericana y los golpes de estado.

Burkina Faso Coup Puts Spotlight on U.S.-Trained Military Leaders.

By Column

Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida at a press briefing, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 3, 2014 (AP photo by Theo Renaut).

Last week, opponents of Blaise Compaore, the long-serving de facto dictator of Burkina Faso, launched a series of demonstrations that have quickly led to a new government headed by Lt. Col. Isaac Zida. While this was a somewhat softer military coup than old-fashioned ones where officers marched civilian leaders out and shot them, it was a coup nonetheless. Washington is now scrambling to make sense of it.

While Compaore’s ouster might send a useful signal to other de facto dictators who have clung to power for decades, the way it happened did not bode well for Africa’s fragile grasp on democracy. Burkina Faso’s proximity to the home turf of two of the world’s nastiest extremist movements—Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)—makes it even more troubling.

But the coup is also raising eyebrows because Zida attended counterterrorism and intelligence courses run by the United States, including one at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Thus it has become emblematic, reviving old questions about the participation of foreign officers in the American professional military educational system.

This issue has a long and emotional history. During the Cold War, American military and political leaders normally took the position that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This sometimes meant overlooking the flaws of friendly foreign officers, whether a disregard for human rights, a propensity for corruption or a willingness to intervene in politics. As a result, some nasty foreign students passed through the U.S. professional military education system.

The end of the Cold War changed this. Many more nations sent students to American military schools, whether to short courses focused on a particular skill or yearlong staff and war colleges. But because the global security environment seemed more benign, there was no need to include abusive or repressive officers. Those who were invited got a heavy dose of the Western notion of military professionalism, including respect for human rights, civilian control of the military, high standards of integrity and staying out of the political process.

In principle, this made perfect sense. As the world’s only remaining superpower, the U.S. no longer felt compelled to compromise its values to build military partnerships. Yet some of the foreign students at American military schools took the Western notion of military professionalism with a grain of salt, considering it context-specific rather than universal. It worked, they thought, because the U.S. and other Western nations paid their officers well and, even more important, had competent civilian leaders who operated under the rule of law.

Many foreign officers believed that in their parts of the world, incompetent or venal civilian politicians sometimes politicized the military and often did not pay officers a professional-level salary. There were occasions, they believed, when removing bad civilian leaders was necessary to save the nation and preserve the military’s professionalism. And some foreign officers in American military schools came from places where personal loyalties to a region, ethnic group, co-religionists or the like superseded loyalty to the nation. If forced to choose between the two, some officers went with their region or immediate affiliates over the nation writ large.

During the Cold War, the problem of friendly foreign militaries disregarding human rights or intervening in politics was most prevalent in Latin America and Asia. Now it has shifted to the parts of the world facing Islamic extremism. But while the geography has changed, the political and ethical issues are much the same.

This, then, is the choice American military and political leaders now face: Should they set the bar high and reject students from foreign militaries with flawed human rights records, a tradition of corruption or a propensity to intervene in politics? Allowing them to attend courses in the U.S. could be seen as rewarding injurious and immoral behavior. On the other hand, refusing to deal with them diminishes U.S. leverage. That many of Egypt’s senior leaders, including current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, attended U.S. military schools did not prevent them from intervening in politics, but it may have tempered their actions during the transition. Conversely, years of refusing to allow Pakistani officers to participate in the American professional military education system created rifts between the armed forces of the two nations that have not yet fully healed.

Should every instance of bad behavior by an officer or noncommissioned officer educated by the U.S. be considered a condemnation of the program? Lt. Col. Zida did not attend an American staff or war college, where there would have been time to stress human rights and military professionalism, but rather two short courses focused on applied skills in intelligence and counterterrorism. Do his actions suggest that the U.S. should or can be more selective in building military partnerships with other nations?

During the Cold War, the U.S. swallowed its principles and educated even flawed friendly militaries. In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, the U.S. had the luxury of refusing to do so. Which pattern should apply today? Does extremism in the Islamic world mean the U.S. must, however reluctantly, work with flawed partners, whether military officers or friendly dictators? Or can the U.S. reject partners that do not meet reasonable standards of professionalism?

Unfortunately, transnational extremism, the inability or unwillingness of the U.S. to engage extremists directly and the interconnectedness of the world may mean that the Cold War precedent is more relevant. However tragic, dealing with less than perfect democrats who can prevent disintegration and chaos in their nations is looking more and more like today’s necessary evil.

Steven Metz is director of research at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute and the author of “Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy.” His weekly WPR column, Strategic Horizons, appears every Friday. You can follow him on Twitter @steven_metz. All ideas in this essay are strictly his own and do not represent the official position of the U.S. Army or U.S. Army War College.

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