In the 2016 U.S. presidential debates, as on other occasions, the theme of Latin America and the Caribbean was remarkably absent. Important events in the region occasionally insert themselves into the U.S. consciousness through the mainstream media, including: the arrival of thousands of Central American child refugees at the U.S. border; the U.S. reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba; the impending collapse of Venezuela; and the Colombian public’s rejection, on October 2, 2016, of the agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Yet even with its geographic connectedness to the United States, and although Latin America eclipses even China and Asia as the U.S. principal foreign trading partner, and despite the fact that more U.S. residents have family in the region than any other part of the world, Latin America, and the Caribbean continue to be remarkably absent from the U.S. strategic and foreign policy discourse.
Part of the job of the U.S. Army War College is to educate future military leaders and prepare them for higher command, including thinking about the global strategic environment within which U.S. forces operate and how that environment is evolving. A range of security-related issues compete for the attention of U.S. leaders, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and instability in the Middle East, to the nuclear and ballistic missile threat from North Korea, to Russian belligerence toward the West in the Ukraine and elsewhere, to a recalcitrant Iran now re-connected with global financial and commercial markets, to the ever greater presence of the People’s Republic of China in world trade and its increasing willingness to assert its interests, to non-traditional threats, including the Zika virus and other emergent diseases, cyberthreats, potentially disruptive new technologies, and even the emergence of space as a theater in which multiple U.S. rivals now operate.
To be frank, the space that Latin America occupies in the agenda of senior U.S. military leaders is limited at best. Within the U.S. Army, there are talented people who serve in Latin America-focused assignments in the Pentagon, U.S. Army South, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Special Operations Command 7th Group, National Guard State Partner Programs (SPPs), and within the individual security cooperation offices (SCOs) of the U.S. embassies in Latin America, among others. However, the number of Latin America focused U.S. Army personnel is small compared to the number of personnel focused on other areas, such as the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and, of course, the U.S. homeland.
To read more, visit IndraStra.