Feb. 19, 2019

The Strategic Price of Neglect

Latin America is a good mirror of our times; an apt measurement of the zeitgeist of doubt. Having cemented its democracies and reformed its economies, some of America’s closest Latin American friends are reassessing their options and realigning their interests away from the United States. Our closest regional friends are realizing that the United States may no longer be the fulcrum of Latin America’s future. While America’s soft power—its culture, innovation, and ethos—are still highly attractive, the fact is Europe, Asia, and China are capturing much of the region’s political imagination and economic attention. At a time of fast change, it is hard to think strategically. Yet, strategy is what will be needed to re-prioritize Latin America within U.S. foreign policy.

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

Soldiers, Politicians, and Civilians: Reforming Civil-Military Relations in Democratic Latin America

David Pion-Berlin and Rafael Martínez have collaborated to co-author an important contribution to the rich literature of civil-military relations in Latin America. Both are well-known scholars in this specific field: Their partnership in this project adds another contribution with an emphasis on what they term “a multidimensional approach” to “examining what is a complex set of relations between soldiers, politicians, and civilians.” As they acknowledge at the outset of the book, the civil-military relations field is extensive, and is pursued from a number of angles, “perhaps too many.”That said, the net takeaway of the Pion-Berlin and Martínez project is a well-researched, thoughtfully constructed, highly informative, and most readable contribution to the extensive civil military relations literature. Any student or scholar interested in the ongoing discussion of the role of the armed forces in Latin America should have this volume on their bookshelf.

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.

Feb. 11, 2019

Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms

China’s current military reforms are unprecedented in their ambition and in the scale and scope of the organizational changes. Virtually every part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) now reports to different leaders, has had its mission and responsibilities changed, has lost or gained subordinate units, or has undergone a major internal reorganization.

Feb. 8, 2019

Introduction Appendix: Central Military Commission Reforms

This appendix analyzes the organizational logic behind the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) shift from a system centered on a small Central Military Commission (CMC) staff and the four general departments to a much larger post-reform CMC staff that incorporates many of the functions of the former general departments. It also describes the functions of the 15 new CMC departments, commissions, and offices that were announced on January 11, 2016.

Feb. 5, 2019

About the Contributors

About the Contributors from the new NDU Press book "Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms."

Feb. 5, 2019

Conclusion: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms

China’s military reforms are driven by Xi Jinping’s ambition to reshape the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to improve its ability to win informationized wars and to ensure that it remains loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There is broad political support within the party for Xi’s goal of building a stronger military. The outline of the current military reform agenda was endorsed at the third plenum of the 18th Party Congress in November 2013, and Xi played a central role in working with PLA leaders to develop detailed reorganization plans and implement the reform agenda. At the first meeting of the new leading group on military reform in early 2014, Xi declared that the overriding goal was to produce a military that can “fight and win battles.” The 19th Party Congress work report in October 2017 advanced the timeline for Chinese military modernization, calling for achieving mechanization and making strides on informationization and building strategic capabilities by 2020 and building “world-class forces” [shijie yiliu jun, 世界一流军] by mid-century.

Feb. 5, 2019

System Overload? The 2015 PLA Force Reduction, Military-Locality Relations, and the Potential for Social Instability

Like his predecessors, Xi Jinping has sought to improve the PLA by trimming its size and adjusting its outdated force structure. In their chapter in the new NDU Press book, "Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms," Taiwan National Defense University Professor Ma Chengkun and John Chen describe the regulations in place to handle demobilized PLA soldiers. They assess that relocation problems will be reduced by the ability of local governments to provide educational benefits for ex-PLA members and an anti-corruption campaign that has made some former soldiers ineligible for support.

Feb. 5, 2019

Civil-Military Integrations and PLA Reforms

In his chapter in the new NDU Press book, "Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms," PLA specialist Brian Lafferty provides a comprehensive overview of China’s attempt to close the civilian-military gap, concluding that the “track record suggests that even positive returns will involve a longer and more difficult process than the Party currently acknowledges.”