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Ensayos sobre las Fuerzas Armadas de America Latina.

Ensayos sobre las Fuerzas Armadas de America Latina by Russell W. Ramsey. AuthorHouse (, 1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, Indiana 47403, 2003, 268 pages, $15.95 (softcover).

Ensayos sobre las Fuerzas Armadas de America Latina contains over 20 articles written in Spanish and published by Dr. Russell Ramsey over a 40-year period. In effect, the book represents his selected works. Most of the pieces originally appeared in military journals--especially those of the US Army, such as Military Review. Five sections ("The Region and Theory," "History," "Strategy," "Colombia," and the "Military-Democracy Fraternity") cover assorted Latin American military topics. Except for "History," which includes an analysis of a failed British amphibious invasion of Cartagena, Colombia, in 1741 and an article about Nazi activities in Latin America during World War II, the essays deal with relatively recent events. One very interesting historical article not related to Latin America offers a campaign analysis of a Spanish Civil War battle in 1937-38. The book also includes a book review written by a Colombian army general about one of Dr. Ramsey's works.

The author's long military and academic career makes him well qualified to discuss Latin American military affairs. As a US Army officer in the 1960s, he taught at the School of the Americas when it was located in Panama and served a combat tour in Vietnam. He later taught at the US Air Force's Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and continued his affiliation with the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation [WHINSEC] in 2001 and currently located at Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia). His Army viewpoint is apparent throughout the book, which offers few airpower-related insights.

Utilizing twin underlying themes--support for the professionalism of Latin American militaries and the importance of continued US military partnership with them--Ramsey consistently argues against those who brand all Latin American militaries as antidemocratic human-rights abusers. Instead he describes how these militaries have played important roles in national development, environmental protection, and defense. For example, he notes that "the record of Latin American armed forces in helping their citizens, developing their economies, and maintaining their nations' unity and territorial integrity is superior to that of the armed forces of comparable regions of the world since 1830" (p. 213). His "rule of twos" (pp. 236-37) reflects the importance of the United States' maintaining military relations with its southern neighbors. According to Dr. Ramsey, since 1830 Latin America remains the only region that has limited military expenditures to 2 percent of the gross national product and armed-forces personnel to two per 1,000 inhabitants (except for Cuba and Nicaragua). He repeatedly extols the benefits of US military schools such as the School of the Americas / WHINSEC and the Air Force's Inter-American Air Forces Academy (located at Randolph AFB, in San Antonio, Texas), which have trained many tens of thousands of Latin American military personnel since the 1940s. Ramsey concludes that although US military assistance to the region has amounted to only 2 percent of the nation's military foreign aid, it has yielded significant results.

The author wrote the articles over the course of several decades, so their timeliness varies; nevertheless, all are worth reading. His comments about counterinsurgency operations in Colombia seem a bit dated yet still offer useful insights. Remarkably, Colombia has maintained a democratic government despite decades of guerrilla warfare against communist insurgents, paramilitary groups, and drug lords. Close study of the Colombian experience may prove instructive to countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq that seek to build democratic institutions despite serious domestic discord. The articles in the "Military-Democracy Fraternity" section are particularly timely as the United States debates future national-policy options for Latin America. The historical essays offer insightful analyses of seldom-studied campaigns.

One finds many virtues but few faults in this book. Dr. Ramsey's perspective contrasts with the leftist slant detectable in other studies of Latin American militaries. Indeed, Ensayos sobre las Fuerzas Armadas de America Latina provides a useful corrective to works that paint a decidedly negative picture of these militaries and criticize US military training efforts in the region. Readers would have appreciated a few maps, especially to complement the historical campaign analyses; the editing of some of the early chapters needs work, most notably on p. 96, which includes repetition of some sentences; and information and arguments occasionally reappear in multiple essays. However, these minor distractions should not deter military professionals seeking background and insight into current Latin American military trends from reading this book.

Lt Col Paul D. Berg, USAF

Maxwell AFB, Alabama
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Author:Berg, Paul D.
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2007
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