Coalition Warfare In Latin America
SUBJECT AREA National Military Strategy
Title: Coalition Warfare In Latin America
Author: Major R. A. Colbert, United States Air Force
Thesis: Coalition warfare problems in Latin America would
be different from those of the recent Gulf War because the
Gulf War was high-intensity and conflict in Latin America
would be low-intensity.
Background: Coalition warfare has been a winning way of war
since the anti-Napoleon coalition of 1813-1814 Desert Storm
and the alliance against Napoleon involved conventional
conflict. The problems associated with low-intensity
coalition warfare include those associated with conventional
coalition warfare as well as many others not common to
conventional or high-intensity coalition warfare. In Latin
America, before any successful low-intensity coalition
warfare principles can be addressed or developed,
significant socioeconomic, political, as well as military
issues must be reformed. Historically, the majority of
U.S. involvement in Latin America has been military.
Latin Americans feel the U.S. should provide more than military
support. There must also be social and economic help.
Recommendation: U.S. follow through with National Security
Strategy for the 1990's. Provide a full range of political
social economic, and military support.
COALITION WARFARE IN LATIN AMERICA
Thesis: Coalition warfare problems in Latin America would
be different from those of the recent Gulf War
because the Gulf War was high-intensity and
conflict in Latin America would be low-intensity.
I. Problems of coalition warfare
A. Successful coalition warfare
B. Problems of coalition warfare in conventional
C. Problems of coalition warfare in low-intensity
II. Future conflict in Latin America
A. Poverty the main reason
B. Changes in societies
C. Past repressions
D. Foreign debt and drug trade
III. U.S. intervnetion in Latin America
A. Past U.S. intervention
B. Latin American attitudes toward U.S. intervention
C. Future U.S. intervention
COALITION WARFARE IN LATIN AMERICA
by Major Ronald A. Colbert
United States Air Force
In 1991, during Desert Storm, the allied efforts of the
United States (U.S.) and thirty-eight other countries that
decisively ejected Iraqi forces from Kuwait provided a
successful blueprint for future U.S. conflict. This
successful blueprint of coalition warfare is woven
into U.S. policy for building the new world order.
The stable foundation or our security will continue
to be a common effort with peoples with whom we
share fundamental moral and political values and
security interests. Increasingly we may find
ourselves in situations in which our interests are
congruent with those of nations not tied to us by
formal treaties. As in the Gulf, we may be acting
in hybrid coalitions that include not only
traditional allies but also nations with whom we
do not have a mature history of diplomatic and
military cooperation or, indeed, even a common
political or moral outlook. (12:13)
Although highly successful, the Desert Storm coalition did
experience some problems that are inherent to coalition
warfare. History (besides Desert Storm) provides us with
examples of coalition warfare as well as some of the
By most accounts, Desert Storm was considered a con-
ventional war which categorizes its associated coalition
warfare problems as problems of conventional coalition
warfare. Since portions of U.S. fighting Vietnam were
conventional and unconventional or low-intensity we may be
able to identify some coalition warfare problems associated
with low-intensity conflict. By considering coalition
warfare problems associated with high and low-intensity con-
flict, we are provided an appropriate background to better
pursue the thesis of this paper. Coalition warfare problems
in Latin America would be different from those of the recent
Gulf War because the Gulf War was high-intensity and con-
flict in Latin America would be low-intensity.
High-intensity coalition warfare problems can be catego-
rized as "technical" or "perception" problems. The
"technical" problems are the obvious kind of problems one
would expect when two different units or nations attempt to
work together to achieve a common goal. If they speak
different languages then communications will be a problem.
If these units or nations have different organizational
structures then they must ensure organizatinal compati -
bility. This is true for command relationships, procedures
and equipment, cultural differences, or for any task the
coalition members accomplish together.
The "perception" problems occur in a coalition when one
member attempts to infuence another as result of political
or personal desire. Usually these "perception" problems
evolve from the higher political or military levels of the
coalition. For example, if one member of a coalition is
significantly stronger than another militarily,
economically, technologically or otherwise, the weaker
member of a coalition may perceive that the stronger member
will dominate or control the coalition. Or the stronger
member may perceive the weaker member is incapable of
performing a particular task for some unfounded reason. (2)
Since the military alliance against Napoleon (1813-
1814) , coalition warfare has become a winning way of war.
According to Dr. Gordon A. Craig, author of Problems of
Coalition Warfare, the military alliance or coalition
against Napoleon had problems establishing an effective
command strucute, reaching agreement on war aims, exercising
operational efficiency, and problems caused by improper
government control over commanders in the field. (3)
The problems with command structure, war aims, and
their effects on operational effiency are somewhat predicta-
ble owing to different national policies and interests of the
anti-Napoleon alliance. These are the "technical" type
problems. However, the problems involving improper govern-
ment control require further review. The members of the
anti-Napoleonic alliance included Russia, Prussia, Sweden,
and Austria. Since the Austrian force was the largest
single contingent, Austria would have the decisive voice to
determine the supreme commander of the coalition.
Nevertheless, the Russian Tsar attempted to influence the
section of the supreme commander to increase Russian
influence at the Supreme Headquarters. The Austrian ruler
perceived the Russian attempt to politicize the coalition
military leadership and acted to prevent it.
Although a complete historical analysis of lessons
learned for Desert Storm is currently not available, the
Marine Corps Lessons Learned (MCLLS) Data base does present
some coalition warfare situations that contribute to this
effort. For combined operations (coalition warfare), MCLLS
recommends liaison officers are needed to address
differences in language, doctrine, tactics, symbology,
capabilities, organization and structure. (6)
For Desert Storm (the thirty-nine member allied coa-
lition), MCLLS indicates at least fifty liaison officers
were required for the Marine Expeditionary Force. We don't
know how many liaison officers were required for the U.S.
Army, Navy, and Air Force. But, using the Marine Corps
liaison requirment for Desert Storm (fifty) as a guage, the
total number of liaison officers for the U.S. Army, Navy,
and air Force was considerably more than fifty. Again, the
liaison officers would resolve "technical" problems.
A high level US Marine Corps source perceived two
possible problems with operational security during Desert
Storm. One problem involved all coalition troops tele-
phoning relatives at home. The concern was that troops
could inadvertantly reveal some detail (s) of military oper-
ational plans for Desert Storm. The other problem involved
some coalition members' communications equipment. The con-
cern was whether the enemy could compromise the equipment in
question and discover coalition plans. These were
Before we look at coalition problems associated with
low-intensity conflict, defining low-intensity conflict
should prove helpful . Low -intensity conflict encompasses
such a broad range of activity or combinations of events and
circumstances that an attempt at definition is only possible
through a broad framework. According to Military Operations
In Low Intensity Conflict:
Low--intensity conflict is a political-military con-
frontation between contending states or groups below
conventional war and above the routine, peaceful
competition among states. It frequently involves
protracted struggles of competing principles and
ideologies. Low-intensity conflict ranges from
subversion to the use of armed force. It is waged
by a combination of means, employing political,
economic, informational, and military instruments.
Low-intensity conflicts are often localized generally
in the Third World, but contain regional and global
Although the war in Vietnam protrayed high and low-
intensity conflict we want to consider the low-intensity
portion. In Vietnam the coalition comprised the Republic of
South Vietnam and the U.S. Coalition warfare problems were
language/communications, cultural differences, some
Vietnamese perceptions of U.S. forces (particularly some
U.S. advisors to South Vietnamese military units),
difficulty identifying friend or foe due to the lack of
distinguishable uniforms, unpopular and corrupt government,
and masses in poverty. Before the war escalated to
increased high-intensity, the U.S. Marine Corps advisors
helped organize and train South Vietnamese Marines according
to U.S. Marine Corps organizational structures and equipment
procedures. Due to poor economic conditions, the U. S. sub-
sidized the South Vietnamese military. (10)
What is apparent from the review of problems associated
with low-intensity conflict in Vietnam is that the
"technical " and "perceived" high-intensity coalition warfare
problems are common to low-intensity coalition warfare as
well. But in the low-intensity, third world or developing
nation context, there are the additional coalition warfare
problems that do not usually exist in high-intensity
A developing nation is one which has advanced beyond
a traditional society and is struggling toward
becoming an economically and socially advanced nation
with an efficient, popularly supported government.
In order to achieve these goals, a nation must over-
come the handicaps which are characteristic of an
underdeveloped society. These are: a static
economy, limited technology, immobile social structure,
and rule by custom and traditional process. (11:1)
These coalition warfare problems which are only peculiar to
low-intensity conflict are the ones which must be dealt with
before those coalition warfare problems common to low and
high-intensity coalition warfare can be addressed.
According to Dr. Lewis B. Ware of Low-Intensity
Conflict In The Third World, "Latin America possesses
certain inherent and acquired characteristics associated
with the development and proliferation of low-intensity con-
flict " (12:81) "Professor Lars Schoultz, director of the
University of North Carolina Institute of Latin America
Studies, affirms that there is widespread agreement that
poverty underlies instability in the region [Latin America].
But he rhetorically questions why peasants, who have suffered
in silence, poverty and political repression for centuries,
have now suddenly decided to rise up in insurrection. He
tions' spurred by structural changes of the Latin
American societies, particularly changes in transportation
and communication. " (4:4.4)
The increasing awareness and political mobilization of
the peasants to improve their circumstances, too often in
the past was met with unwillingness by the governing elite
to make the social and economic changes. This unwillingness
often came in the form of brutal repression which drove many
peasants to become radicals and to join insurgencies. One
also has to factor into the socioeconomic situation the
impact of hopelessness resulting from staggering foreign
debt and the perpetuation of government corrupting encour-
aged by the drug trade. These factors contribute to a
significant likelihood for conflict in Latin America.
The hope for decreasing the possibilities of conflict
in Latin America rests, in part, with
. . . such reform-minded leaders as Argentina's
Carlos Menem, Brazil`s Fernando Collor de Mello,
Peru's Alberto Fujimori, Mexico's Carlos Salina
de Gotari and Venezuela's Carlos Andres Perez have
spent the past several years trying to halt
inflation, cut government spending, sell money-
losing state enterprises and generally remake their'
nations' economies. (8:24)
Although these and other Latin American leaders are making
noteworthy progress, it is very difficult to determine if
the general public attitudes of distrust and lack of confi-
dence regarding the governments persist or are changing.
The reason these attitudes are so difficult to change is:
Attitudes the first colonists here [Latin America]
bought from Span, such as acceptance of centralized
authority and established procedures, a certain fatalism
in the face of obstacles and such love of slathering
official papers with seals and stamps that even the
simplest of documents . . . end up looking like a
petition to the royal court in Madrid. (8:24)
Even the tendency for military coups is traced to the pro-
pensity to look for easy, one-shot solutions to difficult
Historically it would appear that U.S. involvement in
Latin America has been of a one-sided, military nature. From the
Spanish-American War of 1812 to the Panama invasion, history
indicates that U.S. intervention in Latin America was either
direct military or military related involvement. but during
this same period, the U.S. attempted to promote democracy
and economic reform and discourage corrupt government.
Latin American believe most U.S. officials consider
force the appropriate response to Latin American problems.
Major Eduardo Aldunate of the Chilean army says:
Many U.S. observers, especially military professionals,
believe that the problems of subversion and drug
trafficking in Latin America have military solutions
or that using force should be the primary means of
dealing with these problems. Also, it seems that the
leaders of more developed countries think they can
`advise' the military of developing countries within
the framework of an established doctrine of low-
intensity conflict. This idea apparently is based on
the conviction that the military institutions of these
countries are not doing their job well and that
little advice could help solve the region's
enormous problems (1:80)
Three prominent Honduran Interviewed during U. S. involve-
ment with the Nicaraguan Contras support U.S. military
intervention the region but, they also say U.S. support for
political, social, economic and judicial reforms are
necessary for regional stability in Latin America. (9:31,54)
political , socioeconomic, military as well as efforts to
understand Latin American culture by the international
community will ensure successful reform in the region.
The U.S. recognizes Latin American efforts at reform
with the resurgence of democracy--Nicaragua, Haiti, Panama,
and the desire to build strong economic markets in the
region. This recognition of reform is reflected in current
U.S. policy for Latin America. In terms of military support,
the U.S. will continue to promote professionalism, civilian rule
over military rule, and respect for human rights. A
major effort to support both democratic and economic reforms
is the new Enterprise for the Americas Initiative.
This initiative ... sets out a vision of hemispheric
prosperity achieved through expanded trade, increased
investment, reduced debt burdens and important support
for protection of the hemishpere's vital national
heritage. In addition ... [the U.S.] proposed a
specific trade preference system to help Andean
countries break out of their dependence on illegal
drug crops. (13:8)
Naturally these assistance programs require the coordination
and support of regional organizations like the Organization
Of American States (OAS). (The OAS is the oldest interna-
tional regional organization in the world. It provides a
forum for political , economic, social , and cultural coopera-
tion among the member states of the Western Hemisphere. (7)
By encouraging and supporting reform in Latin America,
the U.S. efforts go a long way toward deepening the sense of
partnership, common interest and trust. These ingredients
help eliminate the factors and conditions that prevent
the establishment and growth of alliances, and provide for
successful coalitions like the United Nations coalition of
Desert Storm and the alliance against Napoleon.
1. Aldunate, Major Eduardo. "Observations On The Theory of Low-Intensity
Conflict and Violence In Latin America." Military Review June 91:80.
2. Colbert, Ronald A., Major, United States Air Force, Quantico, Virginia.
Paper about problems of coalition warfare, November 25, 1991.
3. Craig, Gordon A. Problems of Coalition Warfare. Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Government Printing Office,1988.
4. Gosnell, Colonel Wayne P. "A Time To Build: U.S. Policy For Latin
America and The Caribbean." Military Review June 91:44.
5. Headquarters Departments of The Army And The Air Force. "Military Operations
In Low-Intensity Conflict." Washington, D.C., 1990.
6. Marine Corps Lessons Learned Data Base. Information about coalition warfare. Quantico, Virginia.
7. Organization of American States, Washington, D.C. Letter about the Organization of American States, March 3, 1992.
8. Robinson, Eugene "The Battle For The Soul of Latin America," Washington Post, November 3, 1991, Section A.,p. 24.
9. Rondfeldt, David. U.S. Involvement In Central America Three Views From
Honduras. Santa Monica, California: National Defense Research Institute, 1989.
10. U.S. Advisors To The Vietnamese Marine Corps During The Easter Offensive-
COVANS. Personal interviews about relations with Vietnamese Marines. Quantico,
Virginia, March 27, 1992.
11. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Schools. Marine Corps Educational Center.
Counterinsurgency Operations FMFM 8-2. Quantico, 1980.
12. Ware, Lewis B. Low-Intensity Conflict In The Third World. Maxwell Air Force Base: Air University Press,1988.
13. White House. National Security Strategy of The United States, August 1991.
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