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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: November 2009

6 - Military Emulation in Brazil, 1870–1930


Brazil's war minister in 1894 protested that the country's military disrepair was becoming “more and more urgent with each passing day.” Nearly all departments, he said, “have antiquated organization, which are not in step with the exigencies of the advancements in military science.” His successor recommended that “we need to adopt to our conditions the principles and the perfections sanctioned by [the] experience of the more advanced nations.” Brazil's military languished, while on the other side of the Paraná River historic rival Argentina was amassing an impressive military machinery. Military weakness was not the only problem besetting the Old Republic. From the overthrow of the monarchy in 1889 to its demise in 1930, the troubled Old Republic was mired in a long cycle of political and social turmoil. Brazil was last among the three regional powers to adopt military emulation, and it emulated the least. The process of modernizing its armed forces was tortuous, replete with fits and starts. Reform plans came and went, few were implemented or allowed to root.

Brazil's military emulation is theoretically fascinating as well as challenging. The wider spectrum of its balancing behavior, including spurts of arms racing, responded to external pressures, primarily the menace of Argentine military power. Of the three cases, it represents the clearest case of switching from one model (Germany up to 1914) to another (France in 1919) midstream. It confirms our theoretical expectations that countries emulate proven success, and switch models accordingly.