Thursday, May 03, 2012

Say Hello to My Little Friend...

Now that NATO forces are drawing down in Central Asia, Defense Secretary Panetta is giving the nod to South America as a potential ally in countering Asian-Pacific threats.  Uncertainty over North Korea and China’s growing military and economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region is the new focus of the Pentagon’s defense strategy. On the surface, it looks like the US is now welcoming the long-snubbed Latin American countries as viable and valued partners in global stability. This actually is not the case. Latin American countries have been sending ministers within their various departments and military officials to the US for years to gain a mutual understanding of US economic, political and defense strategies.

The Industrial College of the Armed Forces, part of the National Defense University, is a national war college that focuses on providing national resource and security strategy education for senior leaders. Not only US senior leaders, but many senior leaders from Latin American countries attend. It is within the walls of these war colleges that friendships and alliances are formed between senior level military leaders and government ministers.  So when Panetta turns his head to Latin America and stresses the importance as military partners, it is more a formality and an official recognition of relationships that have already been formed and working behind the scenes to make liaisons and economic and political ties between the US and Latin America a reality.

In the face of China’s growing presence in Latin America as a trading partner and developer, the US is trying to maintain its regional presence and perception as a global power by its stress on and technological skills for cybersecurity.  Colombia, Brazil and Chile all acknowledge cyberthreats as a national concern and are willing to partner with the US. As the formal ties are secured between concerned Latin American countries and the State Department and the Pentagon, these relationships that have been solidified in our national war colleges will only enhance policy negotiations. It will become increasingly important if China continues to be at the tip of the cybersecurity threat.  The US will gladly scratch Latin American backs if they scratch ours…so to speak.

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