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A 21st Century Security Architecture for the Americas: Multilateral Cooperation, Liberal Peace, and Soft Power

Authored by Colonel Joseph R. Nunez.

August 01, 2002

57 Pages

Brief Synopsis

This monograph is a constructive response to the question of "How can the United States best develop security cooperation within the Americas?" The author develops the necessary background to make the persuasive argument that it is time for the United States to employ strategic restraint and reassurance of allies to develop a new security architecture that is effective and efficient, not to mention reflective of our values and interests. The threats and challenges articulated are no longer state versus state on a path to eventual war, but more internal, where weak institutions struggle to deal with terrorism, natural disasters, governmental corruption, insurgency, crime, and narcotrafficking. Further complicating matters is that many of these problems transcend borders. The author argues that the United States is the only country that can provide the new direction for security cooperation, but must rely upon Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile to develop the consensus for change and materially contribute to the creation of standing multinational units. Issues such as state sovereignty and the role of the Organization- of American States must figure significantly in the overarching security structure, and that these new brigade-sized units must be able to rapidly deploy to handle missions immediately, not after the fact in an ad hoc and disorganized manner.


The main focus of this monograph is on security cooperation within the Americas. Essentially, much emphasis has been placed on economic cooperation (free trade agreements), but little thought has been given to security cooperation. Existing collective defense systems (Rio Treaty of the Organization of American States [OAS]) are a relic of the Cold War and not sufficient for the challenges and threats of today.

The Americas are evidence of liberal or democratic peace. States do not war against each other because values and trade discourage major conflicts. The greater challenge to the state is internal, particularly given the problems of natural disasters, insurgency, drugs, violent crime, poverty, and other problems. Because of spillover effects, domestic issues often become transnational, such as with the drugs, weapons, and people that move across borders. Add to these the problems of natural disasters, and one can see that major changes are needed to the security architecture of the Western Hemisphere.

The United States has leadership responsibilities but must exercise them within a soft power framework that reflects strategic restraint and reassurance. Without a win-win strategy (we gain—they gain) for the states that constitute the OAS, the future does not look bright for promotion of U.S. interests and values. Key to successful U.S. leadership is the recognition of certain sub-regional leaders—Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile—that can add significant legitimacy to a new security architecture, along with the component forces to create standing multinational units. These units would constitute the reactivation of the First Special Service Force (FSSF), a famous Canadian-American brigade-size unit from World War II. The United States, Canada, and Mexico would form the First Special Service Force—North or FSSF(N) and Brazil, Argentina, and Chile would form the First Special Service Force—South or FSSF(S).

These units are under the control of the OAS through a newly created security council comprised of the FSSF states. Such forces are organized to be deployable rapidly to handle missions that include humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and small-scale contingencies. An FSSF can only be deployed if member countries approve the mission, which works to respect the sovereignty of individual states and increases the scope of input in the decisionmaking process.

This is obviously an ambitious and radical agenda of change. Yet given current opportunities (free trade) and challenges (democratic backsliding), a new security system that promotes better cooperation, coordination, and results is certainly warranted. An incipient economic community (Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA in 2005]) within an existing democratic community requires a new security structure that can support and defend it, now and in the future.

Access Full Report [PDF]: A 21st Century Security Architecture for the Americas: Multilateral Cooperation, Liberal Peace, and Soft Power

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