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Category: PRISM Articles

Feb. 25, 2019

The Venezuelan Crisis and Salvador Allende's Glasses

The situation in Venezuela is deeply worrisome, and the countries of the hemisphere have an important responsibility to the Venezuelan people. It is also in the national interest of the United States for Venezuela to prosper as a nation, while seeking to pursue policies supported by its people through a stable and fair democratic process. There is a serious lack of meaningful and productive dialogue between the Venezuelan government and its own people at a time when the country’s economy is in crisis. The United States can and should lead, but it should follow the lead of the Venezuelan opposition, and avoid reverting to the Cold War-era unilateral action that until recently defined much of our foreign policy toward the region. Such an approach will not usher Venezuela back to its place as one of the most economically and politically consequential countries in Latin America. At least that is what Allende’s glasses seem to say.

Feb. 19, 2019

The Evolution of the Most Lethal Criminal Organization in Brazil—the PCC

After more than a decade of denying its existence, Brazilian authorities have finally recognized the PCC—referring to Primeiro Comando da Capital, or First Capital Command—as a criminal organization that is a significant threat to public security, whose capacity to threaten democracy and the state can no longer be ignored. Formed in prison, PCC emerged and grew in the dark, ignored by the authorities. Its top leaders are already behind bars yet PCC is the leading criminal organization in Brazil and indeed in South America, benefiting both from the silence of the authorities and from the lack of an approach that acknowledges PCC as a transnational criminal organization that commits crimes from north to south across the length of South America.

Feb. 19, 2019

The U.S. Military in Support of Strategic Objectives in Latin America and the Caribbean

This article examines the role that the U.S. military plays, and can play, in advancing U.S. strategic objectives in Latin America, with a focus on security cooperation and administration of security assistance efforts, as part of coordinated whole-of-government approach. It argues for greater U.S. military attention to the development and application of strategic concepts built around strengthening governance, as the approach that is both appropriate to sensitivities and limitations regarding the employment of U.S. armed forces in Latin America, and as an effective bulwark against the cycle of criminality, corruption, and populism that opens the door for significant strategic threats against the United States. These include authoritarian anti–U.S. governments that serve as enablers for widespread criminality, terrorist threat networks, and collaboration with hostile extra-hemispheric state actors such as Russia and the People's Republic of China.

Feb. 19, 2019

Defending Democracy and Human Rights in the Western Hemisphere

One glimpse at the covers of the main news and political magazines in recent years is often enough to discern a common theme. These publications often display fatalist titles such as “Democracy in Demise,” “Democracy in Crisis,” “Democracy in Peril,” or maybe the alternative favorite, “Authoritarianism on the Rise.” First the 2008 financial crisis, then the results of certain elections worldwide led many to question the future of liberal democracy. In Latin America, an additional series of events such as the “Operacão Lava Jato” (Operation Car Wash) corruption scandal that put many high-level elected and public officials in jail, paved the way for fed-up citizens to rebel against their governments in the streets and in the polls, ousting traditional parties and political elites from power. Despite the bad news, and the serious backsliding in some specific cases and notorious exceptions (e.g. Cuba and Venezuela), I argue that democracy is not dying. For better or worse, it is moving forward. Recent events do not necessarily mean that democracy is on the brink of extinction; rather, they show that there are challenges inherent to democratic life. If anything, the heated public debates confirm that democracy is a living process, which requires constant maintenance and strengthening

Feb. 19, 2019

China’s Strategic Partnerships in Latin America: Case Studies of China’s Oil Diplomacy in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela 1991–2015

China’s gains in Latin America achieved through strategic partnerships and oil diplomacy are probably an inevitable result of the country’s unprecedented economic growth and need for commodities. However, the relative reduction in U.S. influence is largely a a result of inattention and the lack of a coherent strategy for the Western Hemisphere within the U.S. official strategic community. Yanran Xu’s book, "China's Strategic Partnerships in Latin America," unsurprisingly demonstrates that the Government of China takes a longer view on these issues showing a willingness to accept short-term difficulties in the name of longer-term objectives.

Nov. 8, 2018

The Fight So Far

Achieving significantly greater strategic success against terrorism remains within America’s grasp, but only if we are willing to be as adaptive and flexible—indeed more so—than our terrorist adversaries have proven to be. Achieving this will require us to make investments, adopt practices, and make choices we previously have not. Although the U.S. Government (USG) has frequently claimed to take a whole-of-government approach in utilizing all elements of national power to fight terrorism, our struggle against the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has demonstrated that we must strengthen our emphasis and resourcing of non-kinetic counterterrorism (CT) efforts to match the strengths that we and our allies have developed since 9/11 in kinetic efforts.

Nov. 8, 2018

NATO's Adaptation in an Age of Complexity

Successful and lasting organizations must adapt quickly, and militaries are not exempt from that requirement—even less so than their civilian counterparts, because preparing for past wars generally has dire consequences for them, and for their countries. NATO, as the hub for transatlantic and European security it has strived to be for the past 70 years, is undergoing a significant structural upheaval, as it wishes to stay relevant to contemporary threats and challenges, while putting itself in a position to keep an edge on any potential opponent in the foreseeable future.

Nov. 8, 2018

Examining Complex Forms of Conflict: Gray Zone and Hybrid Challenges

The Joint Force, and the national security community as a whole, must be ready and able to respond to numerous challenges across the full spectrum of conflict including complex operations during peacetime and war. However, this presupposes a general acceptance of a well understood taxonomy describing the elements that constitute the “continuum of conflict.” The U.S. security community lacks this taxonomy, despite its engagement in a spate of diverse conflicts around the globe from the South China Sea, to Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and beyond. Partially as a result of this conceptual challenge, we are falling behind in our readiness for the future. Understanding our future security challenges demands that we reflect and interpret the past, understand the present, and think rigorously about what lies over the horizon in order to adapt to the changing character of conflict. This requires keeping an open and informed mind about the breadth of the various modes of conflict that exist. The wars of the 21st century may take many forms. As conflict reflects a greater degree of convergence and complexity, so must our mental models and frameworks.

Nov. 8, 2018

The Mandate to Innovate

Delivering decision advantage to a policymaker or situational awareness to a warfighter is becoming a more competitive challenge. As geospatial and AAA technologies increase in capability and availability—both within the United States and allied GEOINT enterprise as well as for our adversaries—the complexity of that mission increases. Empowering rapid experimentation and innovation, adapting new business models (particularly those that have proven successful to the business world), and applying the breadth of the means availability to us to acquire new capabilities are ways for us to continuously replenish the nation's GEOINT advantage.

Nov. 8, 2018

Economic and Financial Sanctions in U.S. National Security Strategy

The U.S. Government (USG) has increased the use of economic and financial sanctions against other states and non-state actors in the post–Cold War era, refining their design to improve precision. Achieving desired effects with sanctions, however, requires careful assessment of target vulnerabilities, available U.S. leverage, orchestration with other policy tools, and potential obstacles and risks.