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Volume 51 / Social Sciences

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: SOUTH AMERICA


MICHAEL J. FRANCIS, Professor of Government, University of Notre Dame

THE MOST PREVALENT WRITING ON THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS of South America is in the category of boundary disputes, with the Malvinas/Falkland controversy, not surprisingly, generating the most items.

There is surely no category of research which varies between the US and South America as much as does the literature dealing with boundary disputes. Almost all of the South American works argue a particular position from a legal point of view (references to old treaties, agreements, etc.), invariably favoring the position of the country in which the work is published. The most important of these disputes (setting aside the Malvinas/Falkland situation which is dealt with separately) have to do with: the distribution of control over the waters projecting out from the Colombian-Venezuelan border; the disputed jungle area between Peru and Ecuador; Peru and Bolivia's complaints about their loss of territory to Chile after the War of the Pacific; the now-settled (at least temporarily) dispute between Argentina and Chile over the Beagle Channel; and Venezuela's contested boundary with Guyana. The jingoistic nature of most of this literature leads one to question its reliability. Given the obvious importance of nationalism in this century, perhaps one should not be surprised, but depressingly few of these boundary studies have even the faintest hint of objectivity. Hopefully there will be more analytical work on these disputes in the future, but it must be almost of necessity by scholars outside the countries involved.

A North American scholar may be tempted to see this proliferation of one-sided analyses of obscure border disputes as a bit quaint, a sign of a kind of overly-sensitive Latin American nationalism. However, it is well to remember that today the US confronts no important boundary disputes. During the previous century, when the US did have a number of unresolved border questions, the attitude of Washington and the American people was certainly one of rampant patriotism. US libraries are full of 19th-century books which too closely resemble these 20th-century Latin American ones.

In the Malvinas/Falkland literature, quite a number of the books concentrated primarily on the military side of the conflict, including three books by men who actually fought in the conflict (items bi 88001601, bi 89000759, and bi 88001617) and another strictly military study by Ruiz Moreno (item bi 89000760). The Argentine army (item bi 88001569) has produced a useful two-volume set that is largely documents, graphs, and maps, but which will be useful to later historical studies. There is a lengthy and idiosyncratic military study that deals with the question of the possible use of nuclear weapons in conflict, although it also looks at the struggle as part of the east/west geopolitical struggle (item bi 88001616). There are also three works by military men from non-participant countries: the US (item bi 88000948), Chile (item bi 88001627), and Brazil (item bi 89000755). These studies help provide an analysis that is not obligated to defend one branch of the Argentine military or another, a problem which plagues accounts by Argentine military officials.

Virginia Gamba (item bi 89000750) provides an explanation of what caused the war by looking at the perceptions that characterized both sides, although her argument that the struggle was inevitable due to differences between First and Third World perceptions seems a bit too simple. The British press coverage of the conflict continues to be a controversial topic in England (item bi 88001638). Another article (item bi 88000392) uses legal precedents and recent historical examples to demolish the idea that London has been a champion of "self-determination" and thus had the right to protect the inhabitants of the island. Conrado provides a more general account of the problems confronting London-Buenos Aires relations from an Argentine perspective (item bi 91000709).

Bolivia's desire to regain the ocean port it lost in the War of the Pacific dominates writings from that country. By concentrating on materials in the US National Archives, one of these works has achieved some useful objectivity (item bi 88001619), but other works (items bi 88001610, bi 88001634, and bi 88001635) are polemical on the Bolivian side. Of use to those who wish to research this topic is a bibliographic guide to materials available in Peru (item bi 88001607).

Based on a recommendation from a papal representative, the longstanding dispute between Argentina and Chile seems to have been finally solved. There are three accounts of this, one by a North American (item bi 88000475), one by a Chilean legal expert (item bi 88001626), and one by an Argentine legal analyst (item bi 91000867), as well as a strong statement of opposition to the settlement by an Argentine (item bi 89000756). Emilio Luna Vegas continues a long tradition of one-sided, polemical studies of the Peru-Ecuador border problem with a pro-Peruvian piece (item bi 88001623). Two works deal with Venezuela's border problems: a study of the 1962-66 efforts to settle the border with Guyana (item bi 88001595) and a detailed discussion of the controversy over the Gulf of Venezuela and the territorial border with Colombia (item bi 88001598).

Although not strictly speaking a border dispute, the possible redrafting of the agreement governing Antarctica has been controversial in a number of Latin American countries. On this topic we have a conference sponsored by the Brazilian legislature (item bi 88001630), a short review by Chilean Francisco Orrego Vicuña (item bi 88001573), a legalistic account of Peru's position (item bi 88001606), and the previously mentioned work by Argentine Conrado linking Antarctica to any settlement between London and Buenos Aires (item bi 91000709). Antarctica links the territorial waters issue with the law of the sea controversy. On the latter we have only two items: a Brazilian naval officer's discussion of the law of the sea with an emphasis on the economic importance of controlling one's territorial waters (item bi 91000964) and a detailed discussion of Peru's historical position by a Peruvian diplomat (item bi 89000751).

These national-centric works on border problems in South America should be utilized by other scholars to examine the broader question of keeping peace in the region. What encourages and discourages the peaceful settlement of such issues? Have particular policies worked in the past? Adding importance to this line of research is the fact that neo-realism would seem to suggest that in situations of declining hegemony, such as the US may be experiencing presently, the local conflicts are more likely to flare up because the hegemon is no longer there to force a settlement. Thus the question of whether we are on the brink of increased violence in South America and what can be done about it seems an important issue. The possible role of arms races between Latin American States is another topic within this category.

Of the five items that directly address the US role in South America, three of the items are extremely condemnatory (items bi 88001608, bi 88001611, and bi 88001609). Of these, the most interesting is an account of the supposed role US security doctrine toward Latin America played in bringing the Uruguayan military to power (item bi 88001609). Considerably less critical of Washington's policy is prominent North American conservative scholar Howard Wiarda (item bi 91000578), who argues that US policy toward South America has reached a state of "maturity" whereby the larger Latin American countries are treated as serious allies. There is little sign that the Latin Americans see the situation in this manner, although Wiarda makes an interesting argument that correctly emphasizes the distinction between the comparatively more powerful South American countries and the extremely vulnerable Central American countries. The final work on US-Latin American relations makes an interesting historical argument: looking at the US-Argentine controversy from 1943-48, Albert Vanucci argues that a great deal of pressure was successfully placed on Washington by Latin American governments in order to get the US to change its position (item bi 91001151). This scholarly article offers further evidence that refutes the notion that Washington simply controls all events in Latin America.

Prominent among works concerning US-Latin American relations is the growing issue of the debts owed by many Latin American States to international public and private lenders. This matter comes up in many of the foreign policy analyses of individual countries. The issue is discussed most directly in works dealing with four different Latin American countries: Peru (item bi 88002493); Paraguay (item bi 88001613); Brazil (item bi 89000758); and Argentina (item bi 88001604). North American Paul Drake offers a fascinating historical perspective on the debt by looking at the proposals of the economic team of advisors that went to Andean countries immediately before the 1930s depression and which has parallels, Drake convincingly argues, with the kind of IMF packages being pushed today (item bi 91000577).

The debt question crosses disciplinary lines between economics and political science and also within traditional political science subdisciplines. Students of international relations should be in a position to make valuable contributions to an understanding of this issue. On the one hand it is an important domestic economic and political issue for all the countries involved, but it is also an important foreign policy issue. How has debt affected US foreign policy and how has debt policy been formulated? Has the settlement of the debt issue become the focus of the foreign policies in Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela? Will the social costs connected with servicing the debt undermine democracy, or might democracies actually be more competent in facing the debt because they have better claims to legitimacy? These are all matters of concern to scholars of international politics and hopefully our interdisciplinary perspective can be helpful: this is too important an issue to be left to the economists alone.

There was surprisingly little coverage of nuclear proliferation in Latin America. Only two works (items bi 89000758 and bi 88001616), one Brazilian and one Argentine, seriously discussed the issue. This diminished interest presumably reflects the fact that both Brazil and Argentina have tried to reassure each other that they do not intend to develop the bomb.

Although South American geopoliticians' work occasionally makes its way into foreign policy analyses of individual countries, there are only four mainline works on geopolitics this biennium a rather dramatic drop, the importance of which is difficult to judge. These works are: a book that provides a straight geopolitical analysis of Peru's situation (item bi 88001602), a short article on Brazilian geopolitical thinking (item bi 91000966), an excellent collection of the writings of South American geopolitical writers collected by two North American scholars (item bi 91000864), and a good discussion of South American geopolitical thinking by Jack Child (item bi 91000863).

To the uninitiated, the field of geopolitics can be difficult to describe. At its most elementary it is an attempt to relate politics (both domestic and international) to geographic factors in a systematic or theoretical manner. The bulk of this literature comes from military men or analysts connected with military affairs. Usually based on the assumption that the State must expand and project outward in order to be viable, the focus can be simply on internal plans to settle and develop geographical areas of the nation which might be vulnerable to outside encroachment or which are important to the economic growth of the country. This type of geopolitical literature is rather benign, but the other form it takes is the external projection of power through pressuring other States for protection or concessions or by stressing the importance of favorable settlement of boundary disputes. In fact, the extensive boundary dispute literature referred to previously is full of geopolitical cliches which frequently boil down to why a contested area in a remote region is invaluable to the strength of the nation. For example, the long-simmering Beagle Channel dispute saw geopoliticans in both Argentina and Chile elaborating explanations as to how the control of the three islands in question had a fundamental impact on the naval and military power of each State. In the case of the Gulf of Venezuela or the Malvinas dispute, the importance of the real or imagined mineral or animal life to the economic development of the country is an argument that is emphasized. In this latter category, the many books may well serve mischievous and destabilizing ends to the extent they encourage conflicts between States. Reading discussions of the importance of Antarctica and other areas from a geopolitical standpoint causes the observer to wonder how such issues will ever be settled if such geopolitical perspectives are treated seriously.

Most of these writings by military men assume that their country's security is more important than the security of their neighbors, introducing an ethnocentric and volatile aspect into the literature. An additional unsettling aspect is the seeming willingness of these military leaders to take worst-case scenarios seriously in the sense of assuming expansionistic motives on the part of neighbors, motives that can be preempted by aggressive/imperialistic actions. It also is fair to question whether most geopolitical writing represents research and/or scholarship or whether it represents the undisciplined musing of individuals with a militaristic bent to their thinking. Even Jack Child and Philip Kelly, who have done much to bring the work of South American geopoliticians to those who do not read Spanish or Portuguese (item bi 91000864), admit that the work is conceptually and theoretically vague.

Another standard genre of writing on the international relations of South America is foreign policy studies of individual countries. The form of analysis in much of the foreign policy writing is historical and legalistic in nature, and only recently has there been an increase in "foreign policy analysis" based more on political factors and less on formalisms. The rising tide of serious, non-partisan political analysis among South Americans writing on foreign policy seems to have been stimulated by a large number of younger scholars in South America who did their graduate studies in the US and England, where policy analysis, at least since World War II, is not generally legalistic.

As one would expect, the largest number of foreign policy studies deals with Brazil. The work most closely resembling a general survey of contemporary Brazilian foreign policy emerged from the legislature (item bi 89000758). Other works dealt with more specific topics such as Antarctica (item bi 88001630), Argentina (item bi 91000765), the US (item bi 89000749), Angola (item bi 91000969), the second Vargas government (item bi 91000974), the period between the Vargas governments (item bi 91000967), Brazilian-German relations immediately after World War II (item bi 91000965), and the River Plate region though the War of the Triple Alliance (item bi 88001624). The three best items on contemporary Brazilian foreign policy are a theoretical discussion emphasizing international economic forces by Gerson Moura (item bi 91000968), Wayne Selcher's look at Brazil's relations with other Latin American countries (item bi 91000970), and an impressively researched account of the role of transnational capitalist interest groups in Brazil and the rest of Latin America (item bi 88001596). This last study makes a genuine contribution to an area often dominated by polemics: the role of US business in Latin America.

Besides the Malvinas/Falkland controversy, there was a broader set of studies of Argentina's current policy: Aldo Ferrer (item bi 88001604) has taken a wide-ranging look at Argentina's current policy and examines possibilities for the future; Marcelo Aftalión attacks the non-aligned aspects of the Alfonsín foreign policy (item bi 91000580); and an interesting set of essays argues that the Argentine "national security doctrine" has really stood in the way of an effective foreign policy (item bi 88001625). There is also an historical analysis of Argentine commercial relations with Russia to 1955 (item bi 91000865), an interesting topic because of the high level of trade that has persisted even during fanatical anti-communist military governments in Buenos Aires.

Analyses of Chilean foreign policy have been extremely sophisticated over the years: this biennium includes an excellent set of articles on contemporary Chilean foreign policy by Heraldo Muñoz (item bi 88001597), a talented and thoughtful young scholar. Trying to understand the Allende government and its foreign policy is a task of some importance. Three good new works address this matter: Isabel Turrent (item bi 88001618) and Joaquín Fermandois (item bi 88001621) give much detail on the Allende/Moscow relationship (the latter is more comprehensive and useful) and William Joseph provides a look at China's policy toward Chile during the 1970-73 period (item bi 88003039). Besides Francisco Orrego's short explanation of Chile's position on territorial waters and Antarctica (item bi 88001573), works on Chilean foreign policy include a long study of British-Chilean relations during and immediately after World War II (item bi 88001633); the memoirs of a Chilean diplomat from 1957-65 (item bi 88001640); and an official publication of the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Relations, a mixture of documents and historical articles designed to give background to that country's diplomats (item bi 88001615).

In recent years there has been a surprisingly large number of works on Peruvian foreign policy. The best of these is a collection based on a Nov. 1985 conference sponsored by the Centro Peruano de Estudios Internacionales (item bi 88001636) which includes competent discussions on a wide range of topics. Part of the fascination with Peruvian foreign policy originated in the high expectations for the Alan García government. In that category we have: a set of speeches by the new president's OAS representative trying to define a distinctly Peruvian approach (item bi 88001641); a thorough analysis of the foreign policy of the first 20 months of the García government (item bi 88002493); and another work from the Centro Peruano de Estudios Internacionales which includes a García press conference followed by a roundtable of academic experts (item bi 88001632). Besides discussions of Peru's territorial water position (item bi 89000751) and Antarctic interests (item bi 88001606), the literature includes a typical example of geopolitics from the Peruvian perspective (item bi 88001602) and a set of laws and rules governing Peruvian diplomatic practice published by the Ministry of Foreign Relations (item bi 88001570).

The single new general study of Venezuelan foreign policy is a broad and sometimes theoretical work by Alfredo Toro Hardy (item bi 89000757). Venezuela's relations with Brazil are synthesized in a work by Julio Portillo which includes 140 pages of documents (item bi 88001631). A collection of United Nations speeches (to 1985) by Venezuelan presidents and diplomats (item bi 88001622) and a semi-official EEC discussion of Venezuela's links to western Europe (item bi 88001614) complete the items on Venezuela's foreign relations.

The other two works on the foreign policies of individual South American countries deal with Colombia and Paraguay: Bruce Michael Bagley and Juan Gabriel Tokatlian discuss Colombian foreign policy in the 1980s (item bi 88000473) with an excellent mixture of theory, current events, and policy analysis, and essays from a Sept. 1985 conference cosponsored by the Instituto Paraguayo de Estudios Geopolíticos e Internacionales and a foreign foundation provide a good look at Paraguay's extremely vulnerable international economic situation (item bi 88001613).

One final excellent piece of scholarship on an important topic should be mentioned: Emanuel Adler (item bi 88001603) has produced a fine study of the problems facing Third World countries in their attempts to overcome the technological advantages of other States using Argentina and Brazil as examples.


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