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The Latin American Military Establishment: Some Thoughts on the Origins of its Socio-Political Role and an Illustrative Bibliographical Essay*

  • Frederick M. Nunn (a1)

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Historians from the United States have studied the Latin American military using two principal approaches: in broad, topical studies dealing with the socio-political role of the military, i.e. armies, from colonial times to the present and in monographic works dealing thematically with the political role of the military in a specific country during a specific time. Neither approach boasts a defintive work. Certainly not the former, for the role of the Latin American military is simply too big to be dealt with between the covers of a single volume; nor the latter, because of the necessary exclusivism inherent in dealing with one nation-one period. A third approach, the multinational treatment of the military in Latin America during a fixed period exists, but to date few such works are in print.

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Research for this essay was made possible by a grant from the American Philosophical Society. A revised version was presented at the Conference on the Latin American Military, sponsored by the Latin American Research Program, University of California, Riverside, April 25, 1970.

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1 I think first of Lieuwen, Edwin, Arms and Politics in Latin America, rev. ed. (New York, 1961); and Johnson, John J., The Military and Society in Latin America, (Stanford, Calif., 1964).

2 See the pioneer effort by McAlister, Lyle N., The “Fuero Militar” in New Spain, 1764–1800, (Gainesville, Fla., 1957).

See also Potash, Robert A., The Army and Politics in Argentina, 1928–1945: Yrigoyen to Perón (Stanford, Calif., 1969); Hahner, June E., Civilian-Military Relations in Brazil, 1889–1898 (Columbia, S.C., 1969); Lieuwen, Edwin, Militarism in Mexico: The Political Rise and Fall of the Revolutionary Army, (1910–1940) (Albuquerque, N.M., 1968); and my Chilean Politics, 1920–1931: The Honorable Mission of the Armed Forces (Albuquerque, N. M., 1970).

3 See Lieuwen, Edwin, Generals vs. Presidents: Neo-Militarism in Latin America (New York, 1964).

4 (Library of Congress, 1941). A recent joint effort, McAlister, Lyle N., Maingot, Anthony P. and Potash, Robert A., The Military in Latin American Socio-political Evolution, Four Case Studies (Washington, D.C., 1970), provides an introduction to the main subject of this essay.

5 See for example, Janowitz, Morris, The Military in the Political Development of New Nations: An Essay in Comparative Analysis (Chicago, 1964); and essays in Johnson, John J., ed., The Role of the Military in Underdeveloped Countries (Princeton, N.J., 1962).

6 See North, Liisa, Civil-Military Relations in Argentina, Chile, and Peru (Berkeley, 1966); and Goldwert, Marvin, “The Rise of Modern Militarism in Argentina,” Hispanic American Historical Review, 48, No. 2 (May, 1968). 189205 ; and my “Military Rule in Chile: The Revolutions of September 5, 1924 and January 23, 1925,” HAHR, XLVII, No. 1 (February, 1967), 1–21.

7 In this context modern implies emulation of, or being patterned after the most up to date or successful military organizations of a given period. Thus the Imperial German Army became the object of admiration by many Latin American military men after 1871, the French Army after 1918, and the United States Army as of 1945. Professional implies (at the very least) expertise, responsibility and corporateness, as discussed in Huntington, Samuel P., The Soldier and the State: The Theory of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, Mass., 1947), 818.

8 I refer to conclusions made in McAlister’s, Lyle N.Recent Research and Writing on the Role of the Military in Latin America.” Latin American Research Review, 2, No. 1 (Fall, 1966), 537.

9 La cité antique (Paris, 1864), 327.

10 España invertebrada, 11th ed., (Madrid, 1959), 36–58.

11 (Lt.) Estigarribia, José F., “Nuestro problema militar,” Revista de la Escuela Militar (Asunción, Par.) 1, (May, 1917), 17.

12 von Seeckt, Hans, Gedanken eines Soldaten, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1935), 92.

13 These have been used in my “ Emil Körner and the Prussianization of the Chilean Army: Origins, Process and Consequences, 1885–1920,” HAHR, L, No. 2 (May, 1970), 300–322.

14 See Einaudi, Luigi and Goldhammer, Herbert, “An Annotated Bibliography of Latin American Military Journals,” LARR, 2, No. 2 (Spring, 1967). A new publication published since 1969 by the Instituto Argentino de Estudios Estratégicos y de las Relaciones Internacionales (Buenos Aires) containing much on the extra-military role of the armed forces is the bi-monthly Estrategia.

15 On the eve of the Revolution the Mexican General Bernardo Reyes was in France for the offical purpose of studying French military organization and armament. His correspondence, housed in the Reyes family archives in Mexico, shows him to have been strongly committed to a military mission program for Mexico. Had the Porfirian army been “modern” and “professional,” could the Revolution have had a different history?

* Research for this essay was made possible by a grant from the American Philosophical Society. A revised version was presented at the Conference on the Latin American Military, sponsored by the Latin American Research Program, University of California, Riverside, April 25, 1970.

The Latin American Military Establishment: Some Thoughts on the Origins of its Socio-Political Role and an Illustrative Bibliographical Essay*

  • Frederick M. Nunn (a1)

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