The Longterm Fallout of COIN

This is a very insightful and neglected historical analogy, and the fact that it’s made by the former head of the U.S. Special Forces Command will hopefully pre-empt any attempts to dismiss it as America-bashing. It’s become something of a conventional wisdom that the democratization of Latin America has been a net victory for American regional interests. But as Maj. Gen. Lambert points out, the fallout from the methods used to suppress and/or eradicate a generation of Marxist revolutionaries is still being felt.

Gen. Lambert doesn’t mention the exacerbating factor of ambient anti-American sentiment that no amount of public diplomacy or democracy promotion can reverse, because it’s based on a narrative personally experienced by many Latin Americans as the truth. I happened to be in Ecuador when it was revealed that the School for the Americas — the U.S. training ground for the Latin American officer cadre — provided instruction in what at the time was called torture, but is now known as enhanced interrogation techniques.

The implications for Iraq, Afghanistan, and the broader Middle East of Latin America’s longer term shift — which ranges from America-phobic to America-neutral to America-oblivious — as the “Children of the Left” come of age can not be underestimated.