translated from Spanish: The conduct of defense and the trap of numerical gaze

In the debate on Defence and Armed Forces agitated about the constituent process – an otherwise necessary and timely discussion – numerical arguments have been made with some persistence on both issues as their last ratio. Combining a certain candor with a more marked dogmatism, an economicist perspective has been raised, on the one hand, as a dominant factor of defence followed, secondly, by minimalist proposals with regard to the Armed Forces and thirdly, but closely associated, a reduction of the country’s strategic problem to an almost merely arithmetic issue.
It is right to recognise that in the past approaches of this nature – especially economicists – were stirred intermittently in the Defence Community, and with a certain political transversality. However, due to their lack of absences, they appeared to have been quietly extinguished a few years ago. Now, despite their nature, <>, considering the present moment it is appropriate to re-examine these ideas and weigh their consequences.
Defence is a complex public function that always rests on political elements – domestic and international – strategic, historical, technological and social. However, it contains an area of singular specificity: its financing. This importance is justified; almost every form of military might is costly, and on the other hand, the Defense must compete with the other public functions that are the responsibility of the state, many of which have more social rebuke and greater apparent political constraints.
However, this vision contains a risk: to focus the conduct of defence only on its financial variables, with the dispensing of the political and strategic elements that constitute its essence. Of course, this approach is seemingly attractive especially because it usually has assured media impact. In addition, under certain circumstances, it facilitates the reaffirmation of civilian leadership before the Castrense state. On the merits of such seduction, in the systems compared and also in Chile it is possible to find several examples of this approach, historical and current, and in all of them the result has been invariably questionable and, on too often, decidedly counterproductive to the efficiency objectives pursued. More seriously, in some cases they have jeopardized the security of the countries involved. It also occurred in Chile at various periods of the twentieth century.
A second approach, usually a consequence of the economic and financial approach, is the trend towards sub-investment in Defence, motivated by the desire to make obtuse savings in military spending, without regard to its strategic and political realities. Again here it is possible to find numerous examples, historical and current, that profile their risks and lacks. Perhaps if the most recent is the so-called «Peace Dividend» which consisted of the massive, and yet excessive, reduction of military spending in Western European countries after the end of the Cold War. This process led to a drastic decline in their military capabilities that are now rushing to reverse in the face of increased military spending and strategic capabilities in Russia and China and also by the overall deterioration of international security. Thus, the «Peace Dividend», which has been used in the Chilean debate, is possibly one of the most characterized examples of what should not be done in the conduct of the Defense.
Thirdly, there is the reduction in arithmetic terms of the country’s strategic problem. Again here the numerical factor has some value but in no way can it be the determining factor in the definition of the Defence Policy. Quantitative methods are certainly applicable to research in the field of political science (although this has led to angry debates in the comparative chair) but in no way can the entire strategic perspective of a country, any country, focus on a mere exercise of addition and subtraction. This issue has been discussed extensively in the field of Strategic Studies and the conclusions have always been unanimous: the exclusive or predominantly quantitative views are insufficient and certainly dangerous to support the capabilities of military forces and the political and strategic definitions of a State. It should be added that this also applies to the fundamental definitions of the Great Pforeign policy of a country, especially its strategic stature.
In the field of defence and external security, numerical approximations in its three components have many elements of a trap: under a seductive exterior, attractive, sometimes almost irresistible to the public and part of the political state, considerable risks to the conduct and direction of the Defence Function at political headquarters are hidden. Paradoxically, this does not always seem to be fully understood by its own worshippers but, of course, that does not reduce the risks implied in these approaches when they are carried out in an absolutist sense.
Thus, in chile’s current debate on defense and armed forces, economic and quantitative gazes must be weighed in their right dimension, in line and in order with the political, strategic, historical and technological components that traditionally inform the definition of a Defence Policy. A balanced vision, of all its elements, in turn, will support a more realistic and objective debate and with an indispensable vision for the future on the Defence Function, indispensable at the present constitutional moment.
The content poured into this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.

Original source in Spanish

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