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The Past as Prologue: A History of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy in Colombia, 1958-66

Authored by Mr. Dennis M. Rempe.

March 01, 2002

52 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The author outlines the history of U.S. counterinsurgency policy and the recommendations made by U.S. Special Survey Teams in Colombia from 1958-66. An examination of that history and the concomitant recommendations indicates that a review of that record would be in order. This monograph comes at a time when the United States is seriously considering broadening its policy toward Colombia and addressing Colombia's continuing internal war in a global and regional context. Thus, it provides a point of departure from which policymakers in the United States and Colombia can review where we have been, where we are, and where we need to go.


The author examines the history of U.S. counterinsurgency policy in Colombia from 1958-66. He points out that as early as 1958, the United States sent a Special Survey Team to Colombia to make recommendations for Colombia in dealing with its ongoing internal war. Subsequently, other teams made additional recommendations. The author concludes that strategic-level recommendations have been rejected by both Bogota and Washington. Many tactical and operational-level military recommendations have been accepted and implemented, but with limited success. Lessons learned over the past 40 years indicate that (1) solutions to the continuing violence in Colombia require a cooperative and integrated strategy that addresses the political, economic, social, as well as military dynamics of the problem; but, (2) while there is exclusively no military solution, counterinsurgency operations remain a key element to solving Colombia’s violence problems.

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