Document created: 5 June 06
Air & Space Power Journal - Español Segundo Trimestre 2006
Max G. Manwaring
Beginning with the election of Hugo Chávez Frias as President of Venezuela in 1998, the United States and Venezuela have exchanged a continuing series of acrimonious charges and countercharges. Each country has argued repeatedly that the other is engaged in a political-economic-military struggle for Western Hemisphere hegemony. Relatively recently, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to strengthen its Carta Democrática’s (Democratic Charter) mechanisms to deal more effectively with threats to democracy, stability, and peace in Latin America.1 In that connection, in testimony before the U.S. Congress in January 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued that President Chávez was minimizing democracy in Venezuela and destabilizing security in the Latin American region.2 Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Defense supported those arguments and added its concern regarding Venezuelan purchases of large quantities of arms. Then, in February 2005, CIA Director Porter Goss put Venezuela at the top of the list of Latin American countries described as “areas of concern,” with the potential of playing a destabilizing role in the region.3 Again, in May and June 2005, respectively, Assistant Secretary Roger Noriega and Secretary Rice proposed the creation of a mechanism in the OAS that would monitor the quality of democracy and the exercise of power in Latin America.4 And, at the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November 2005, the rhetoric was replayed—complete with violent anti-Bush and anti-American demonstrations.5
President Chávez has responded to these and similar allegations by saying, “The only destabilizing factor here [in Venezuela] is [U.S. President George W.] Bush.”6 At the Summit of the Americas in March 2005, he repeated a familiar theme that the United States intends to invade Venezuela and assassinate him, and prayed for God to “save us” from President Bush and to “save the world from the true threat [the U.S. Colossus of the North].”7 Additionally, Chávez argued that the intent of his actions was simply to defend the sovereignty and greatness of his country and the region.8 It is in the context of defending Venezuelan and Latin American sovereignty and greatness that Chávez consistently returns to the idea of a “Bolivarian Revolution” (bolivarianismo). That rhetoric is intended to spur incentive to achieve three things: 1) Simón Bolívar’s dream of South American political-economic integration and grandeza (magnificence), 2) reduce U.S. hegemony in the region, and 3) change the geopolitical map of the Western Hemisphere.9 In April 2005, The Economist reported that Chávez had met with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and, among other things, proclaimed a twenty-first century socialist “alternative” to U.S.-style capitalism in the Americas.10 In that connection, it is reported that Hugo Chavez has affirmed, one more time, his intention of implementing 21st Century Socialism.11 And, U.S.-Venezuelan verbal sparing continues unabated.
Who is this man, Hugo Chávez? How can the innumerable charges and counter-charges between the Venezuelan and U.S. governments be interpreted? What are the implications for democracy and stability in Latin America? In an attempt to answer these and related questions, we center our analysis on the contemporary geopolitical conflict context of current Venezuelan “Bolivarian” policy. To accomplish this, a basic understanding of the political, historical, and personalistic context within which Venezuelan national security policy is generated is an essential first step toward understanding the situation as a whole. The second step requires an introductory understanding of Chavez’s concept of 21st Century socialism, and the political-psychological-military ways he envisions to achieve it. Third, in this context, it is equally important to understand Chavez’s Asymmetric War concept and the resultant challenges to Hemispheric security in the 21st Century. Finally, this is the point from which we can generate strategic-level recommendations for responding to bolivarianismo’s possible threats, and maintaining and enhancing stability in Latin America.12
THE POLITICAL, HISTORICAL, AND PERSONALISTIC CONTEXT WITHIN WHICH VENEZUELAN NATIONAL SECURITY CHOICES ARE MADE AND IMPLEMENTED
Caudillos (strong men)—including “The Liberator,” Simón Bolívar, himself—dominated Venezuela in a succession of military dictatorships, from Independence in 1821 to the coup against the dictatorship of President Marcos Pérez Jiménez and the subsequent military junta in 1958. During that 137-year period, more than 20 constitutions were drafted, promulgated, and ignored. More than 50 armed revolts took their toll of life and property. Political parties meant little and political principles even less. In all, Venezuela exhibited the characteristics of a traditional authoritarian society until the oil industry began to boom after World War II.13
The Period from World War II and the Venezuelan Political Commitment to Democracy
Beginning with the elections of 1958 that followed the military junta, Venezuelans began to elect their political leadership. However, their concept of democracy was not derived from the Anglo-American tradition of limited state power and strong individual human rights. Rather, the current tradition of Venezuelan democracy has its roots firmly in the outcome of the French Revolution, and subsequent perversions of the Rousseauian concept of “total” (totalitarian) democracy, wherein the individual surrenders his rights and personal interests to the state in return for the strict enforcement of social harmony and the General Will.14 Prior to the French Revolution, Kings ruled by “Devine Right” and were sovereign. With the Revolution, however, sovereignty was shifted from the King to the nation-state. Thus, the State enjoys absolute power—through the enforcement of Rousseau’s General Will—as an essential right.15
As a result, the modern political forces set in motion by a robust oil economy produced an experiment in democracy that was tempered by a strong centralized government. That government included a corporatist executive authority and security apparatus organized to direct and control the political and economic life of the country.16 In this context, the Venezuelan political system has been built on a pact among members of the elites, under which the dominant political parties and their “caudilloistic” leaders have been the principal actors. As Robespierre did after the French Revolution, contemporary Venezuelan political actors determine what they believe is best for themselves and for all citizens (e.g., the General Will). Thus, the Venezuelan state controls the wealth produced by its petroleum and other industries, and is the principal distributor of the surpluses generated in a highly regulated and subsidized economy. In that connection, to one extent or another—and some more than others--all the people and every enterprise in Venezuela feed off what has been called the piñata (a suspended breakable pot filled with candies for children’s parties) of the state treasury.17
The political turmoil that has been generated in Venezuela and other parts of Latin America by recent political and economic transition that challenges comfortable “status quos,” or does not satisfy the expectations of the people, opens the way to serious stability problems. In these conditions—and given an authoritarian Latin American political tradition--ambitious political leaders find it easy to exploit popular grievances to catapult themselves into power—and stay there. The success of these leaders stems from solemn promises—made directly to the masses—to solve national and individual problems without regard to slow, obstructive, and corrupted democratic processes. Thus, through mass mobilization, supporting demonstrations, and subtle and not-so-subtle coercion, demagogic populist leaders are in a position to claim a mandate to place themselves above elections, political parties, legislatures, and courts—and govern as they see fit.18 This becomes a national and hemispheric security issue—and possible threat—when a population becomes radicalized by a leader who uses direct violence and indirect coercion to achieve his political objectives.19
The Post-1992 “Crisis of Governance” and Two Related Political-Historical Security Issues
The political-economic-social turmoil that has surrounded Chávez and his Bolivarian Revolution since his nearly successful military coup in February 1992 to the present time is instructive. The imprisonment of Lt. Colonel Chávez for his role in a 1992 coup attempt, his subsequent release, his overwhelming victory in gaining the presidency of the Republic in 1998, the riots and near overthrow of his government in 2002, the referendum of 2004 that confirmed him in office, and his expected success in the upcoming elections of 2006 dramatically illustrate a struggle for reform and an expression of popular frustration with the failures of previous “democratically elected” governments.20 Many Venezuelan and other Latin American citizens, and foreign observers, expected those governments to move toward more open systems, economic development, civil peace, and individual prosperity. Instead, those governments stagnated. They remained as closed as ever, meaningful development failed to take place, political turmoil and limited violence prevailed, and ordinary people continued to live in relative poverty. In that environment, corporatism, crony capitalism, and authoritarianism grew—along with a widespread disillusionment with “democracy.”21
The post-1992 “crisis of governance,” during which the state was unable or unwilling to provide for the legitimate needs and desires of the Venezuelan people, “opened the doors of power to the left,” and to caudilloistic populists, such as Hugo Chávez, who “reinforce their radical positions by inflaming anti-U.S. sentiment.”22 In turn, several other issues have been exposed that relate closely to hemispheric civil-military relations and regional stability. Only two of those issues will be examined here: first, the Venezuelan reaction to “globalization,” and, second, the issue of governance and the role of the armed forces.
Globalization and Fractured Society. In addition to the U.S. policy of “democratic enlargement” in Latin America, globalization is also making people focus on the concept of transparent and accountable democracy. The rapid change that has taken place in the world since the end of the Cold War has challenged traditional closed political practices, social structures, cultural mores, and business practices. As a result, global economic integration has not only fostered great wealth, but also great disruption and dislocation—and political instability within elites and the masses.23
Like all revolutions, globalization represents a shift of power from one group to another. In most countries, including Venezuela, it involves a possible power shift from the state and its bureaucrats to the private sector and its entrepreneurs. As this happens, all those who derive their income and status from positions in governing political institutions—or subsidies from the governmental piñata—have two choices. They can become winners if they take some chances in adapting to the global world, or they can become losers if they do not further entrench themselves in the highly regulated and guaranteed economy. This includes managers and cronies who have been awarded monopolies by the state, as well as ordinary people who rely on the state for cheap gas, foodstuffs, and other consumer goods.24
As a consequence, globalization also means possible fundamental change in “quality of life” for important sectors of the society and possible social disintegration, as various sectors contend with each other in the very personal struggle for survival in an unguaranteed economy. At the same time, this struggle between those sectors who would and would not take the chances involved in changing the basic economic status quo means a possible dilemma for the armed forces. This issue and the one below center on the fact that many poorer Venezuelans see President Chávez as their savior and champion in an impoverished and failing country. Other Venezuelans—especially from the middle classes—see Chávez as an altogether more sinister figure. They see him replacing democracy with autocracy and a mildly socialistic economy with something close to Marxist-Leninist communism.25
Governance and the Role of the Armed Forces. Whether or not the new globalization rules are unacceptably oppressive and socially disintegrating depends very much on how they are made and enforced. Whether or not governance generates a transparent and viable political competence that can and will manage, coordinate, and maintain social harmony, national well-being, and justice depends, again, on how the rules are made and enforced.26 This takes us to the idea of responsible governance and the role of the armed forces in Venezuelan politics.
It is important to remember that the Venezuelan armed forces governed the country during the nineteenth century and through the first half of the twentieth century. Since 1958–1959, there has been a redefinition of the role of the armed forces to the benefit of responsible democratic influences. That redefinition and transition is, of course, not yet complete. The situation is delicate, and factors that nourish political upheaval and the armed forces’ involvement in it are latent. Thus, it is possible that the military could resume a major role in the twenty-first century political process.27
In that connection, the armed forces of Venezuela have always assumed that they have an obligation to resolve various internal crises. That is, if a governing regime deviates too significantly from the general armed forces’ doctrinal concept of social harmony and good of the state, the military will step into the political situation and provide corrective action. As a result, the military institution will have a role in the political process. That role may be either positive or negative—depending on how President Chávez involves the armed forces in the security decision-making and implementing processes.28
Conclusions on the Political-Historical Context in Which Venezuela Security Policy Is Generated: The Personalistic Aspects
This takes us to two questions asked earlier. First, “Who is Hugo Chávez?” Second, “Given the political-historical context within which President Chávez is pursuing bolivarianismo, what are the implications for democracy and stability in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America?” Brazil’s former President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, draws from his personal experience and succinctly states his perspective on Hugo Chávez and the challenges to Venezuela’s and Latin America’s democracies in the following terms:
Chávez is in essence the reincarnation of the old caudillo. He is populist and salvationist. In this sense, he is very different from Lula (the current Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva). Lula is not interested in saving the world . . . [and] Lula has no revolutionary agenda for Brazil or the world. Chávez, in contrast, does have a revolutionary agenda. The problem is that he does not exactly know what it is. It exists only as a slogan called bolivarianism, which means nothing and serves only as a base to throw Venezuela’s future out the window.
Nothing has changed with Chávez. The country remains basically what it always has been. Venezuela continues to be ruled by a parasitic dominant class dependent on oil. The majority of the people are being fooled, but remain as excluded as ever.
Ultimately, the vitality of Latin America’s democracies will depend on . . . the willingness of those who believe in the universal values of liberty to remain vigilant and act decisively against the totalitarian temptations that continue to impoverish the quality of political life and promote the politics of false hopes. This means combating caudillismo in Venezuela . . . and political incompetence in the entire region.29
Cardozo and much of the rest of the world were probably right in characterizing Chavez as not much more than a traditional Latin American military caudillo—and maybe something of a “nut case.” Since those early evaluations, however, it has become more and more obvious that Chavez and his advisors are developing a doctrine for Bolivarian socialism and Latin American grandeza, and defining ways and means of achieving those objectives. That doctrine is not well defined or completely coherent, but it is resonating with large numbers of people, and should not be taken lightly.30 As a consequence, Cardozo’s warning remains valid—“Ultimately, the vitality of Latin American democracies will depend on…combating caudillismo in Venezuela…and political incompetence in the entire region.”31
This is the political and historical basis, and the reality, of Hugo Chavez’s challenge to the Western Hemisphere. It is the starting point from which to understand specific instances and to develop strategies and principles of action that would either support or attempt to counter bolivarianismo—it is two sides of the same proverbial coin.
Socialism for the 21st Century and the expected regional integration it would engender (bolivarianismo) begins with a premise that traditional post-World War II socialist and Marxist-Leninist political-economic models made mistakes, but the theory remains totally valid. The idea is that representative democracy and the U.S.-dominated capitalism of the new global era are total failures. Representative democracy and capitalism serve only elites—not people. These failures must now be replaced by “participatory democracy,” “direct democracy”, or what detractors have called radical populism. In these terms, Chavez is re-elaborating the concept of democracy and promoting a socialist economic system as two parts of an over-arching political model for the Latin American region.32 As a precautionary note, it must be remembered that the key concepts and the various implementing programs of this model are works in progress and without established time-lines.
Key Concepts of the “New” Socialism
According to President Chavez and his advisors, in order to make the Bolivarian project work, it is necessary to implement diverse policies beginning with a “system of power.” That system is intended to ensure internal peace and societal harmony in Venezuela that will—in time—provide the foundations for a Latin American-wide Regional Power Bloc (BRP), and economic and political integration.33
The system of power upon which internal and external Bolivarian objectives will be achieved is based on the concept of direct democracy. Importantly, the main tenets dictate that: 1) the new authority in the State must be a leader who communicates directly with the people, interprets their needs, and emphasizes “social expenditure” to guarantee the legitimate needs and desires of the people; 2) elections, Congress, and the courts will provide formal democracy and international legitimacy, but will have no real role in governance or the economy; 3) the State will continue to own or control the major means of national production and distribution; and 4) the national and regional political-economic integration function will be performed by the leader by means of his financial, material, and political-military support of people’s movements.34
This takes us to Chavez’s notion of “Guerra de todo el pueblo” (war of all the people, or people’s war)—interchangeably called asymmetric, fourth-generation, or irregular conflict.35 Lacking the conventional power to challenge the United States or any of Venezuela’s immediate neighbors, President Chavez seems to have decided that asymmetric conflict is a logical means of expression and self-assertion. It is a concept as old as war itself. This is the methodology of the weak against the strong. The primary characteristic is the use of disparity between the contending parties to gain advantage. Strategic asymmetry has been defined as “acting, organizing, and thinking differently than opponents in order to maximize one’s own advantages, exploit an opponent’s weaknesses, attain the initiative, or gain greater freedom of action. It can have both psychological and physical dimensions.”36 That is, Chavez’s concept of asymmetric conflict involves the organized application of coercive military or nonmilitary, lethal or non-lethal, direct or indirect, or a mix of various unconventional or irregular methods. This would be a “Super Insurgency” that integrates the fundamental instruments of political, economic, social-moral, informational, and military power. And, like all others, this insurgency is intended to resist, oppose, gain control of, or overthrow an existing government or symbol of power—and bring about fundamental political change.37
To further elaborate, this kind of holistic conflict is based primarily on words, images, and ideas. Secondarily, it may be based on more traditional military means. More than anything, this kind of asymmetric conflict is about perceptions, beliefs, expectations, legitimacy, and the political will to attempt such an ill-defined revolutionary vision as bolivarianismo. And, the more messianic the vision, the more likely the leader and his followers will remain committed to the use of these political-psychological means to achieve their ends. Thus, this type of asymmetric conflict is not won by seizing specific territory militarily or destroying specific buildings, cities, or industrial capability. It is won by altering the political-psychological factors that are most relevant in a targeted culture.38
Major Implementing Programs for the “New” Socialism
As might be expected of a caudillo with limited political experience, programs to implement this vision are numerous, ambitious, vast, and still incomplete. They include, however, three general social, communications, and military/security schemes.
Social Programs. To strengthen his personal position and internal power base, President Chavez is spending large amounts of Venezuela’s oil income on an amorphous Plan Bolívar 2000 that builds and renovates schools, clinics, day nurseries, roads, and housing for the poor. Additionally, Chávez is developing education and literacy outreach programs, agrarian reform programs, and workers’ cooperatives. At the same time, he has established MERCAL, a state company that provides subsidized staple foodstuffs to the poor, and is reorganizing the banking system to be more responsive to small entrepreneurs.39 Chávez also has imported 16,000 Cuban doctors to help take care of the medical needs of the Venezuelan under-classes. Clearly, these programs offer tangible benefits to the mass of Venezuelans who were generally neglected by previous governments.40
Communications. The intent, in this effort, is to fabricate mass consensus. Bolivarianismo will require maximum media (radio, TV, and newspapers/magazines) support to purvey ideas, develop public opinion, and generate electoral successes. Ample evidence exists that Chavez-controlled media are using emotional arguments to gain attention, exploit real and imagined fears of the population and create outside enemies as scapegoats for internal failings, and to inculcate the notion that opposition to the regime equates to betrayal of the country. And, to help ensure the “irreversability” of the process for re-establishing Socialism for the 21st century, the Venezuelan penal code has been changed to include criminal penalties for “lack of [regime] respect” and “provoking fear or anxiety in the public.” President Chavez’s personal involvement in the communications effort is also clear and strong. Reportedly, statements, speeches, and interviews of Chavez are being broadcast throughout Venezuela and the Caribbean Basin at least 4 hours a day every day on Television del Sur.41
The Security Scheme. First, the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 provides political and institutional autonomy for the armed forces, under the centralized control of the president and commander-in-chief. President Chávez has also created an independent National Police Force outside the traditional control of the armed forces, which is responsible to the president. At the same time, efforts have gone forward to establish a 1.5 million-person military reserve and two additional paramilitary organizations—the Frente Bolivariano de Liberación (Bolivarian Liberation Front) and the Ejército del Pueblo en Armas (Army of the People in Arms). The armed forces and the police perform traditional national defense and internal security missions, within the context of preparing for what Chavez calls fourth-generation, asymmetric, irregular conflict, or war of all the people. The military reserve and the paramilitary are charged to (1) protect the country from a U.S. and/or Colombian invasion or resist such an invasion with an Iraqi-style insurgency and (2) act as armed, anti-opposition forces.42 The institutional separation of the various security organizations ensures that no one institution can control the others, but the centralization of those institutions under the President ensures his absolute control of security and “social harmony” in Venezuela.43
Conclusions Regarding Chavez’s Model for the Achievement of a “New” Socialism
What President Chávez has achieved by improving the physical well-being of many poor Venezuelans, and by continually verbalizing these successes on television and in the press, is the formation of a large popular base of support not only in Venezuela, but also throughout Latin America. What he has accomplished by reorganizing the security apparatus of the Venezuelan State is to gain complete control of that apparatus, preclude any political independence, influence, or power it may have had, and give the President instruments of power that he can wield along with others that can make Venezuela a regional power. With this, the full political-military-economic-social-informational power of the Venezuelan state is unified in the singular pursuit of Lt. Colonel Chavez’s strategic objectives.
At a minimum, then, Venezuela may be becoming capable of helping to destabilize large parts of Latin America. The political purpose of any given destabilization effort would simply be to prepare the way to force a radical restructuring of a targeted country or region, and its governance.44 Venezuelan money, technology, and arms could easily be provided to radical movements and insurgent groups throughout Central and South America. Consider the example of contemporary Bolivia. Over the past five years, that country has experienced a series of political-psychological crises in which three presidents have been undemocratically forced to leave office. Most recently, former President Carlos Mesa resigned to defuse large-scale protests, organized by powerful populist groups, and to avert what he saw as a possible civil war. Nevertheless, opposition leaders refused to allow the next two constitutionally designated individuals to assume the presidency. Agreement was finally reached when the third-in-line for the presidency—President of the Supreme Court Eduardo Rodriguez—agreed to call quick elections.45 If Evo Morales, backed by his Movement to Socialism, happens to win that election (as expected)—or, if he follows the pattern of imposición used to determine President Mesa’s replacement, and imposes a new president of his choice—what a coup that would be for his newest best friend, Hugo Chávez!
This is the basis of the contemporary U.S.-Venezuelan diplomatic charge and countercharge syndrome and the answer to the question of democracy within the context of bolivarianismo. It is the starting point from which to understand where Lt. Colonel Chávez may be going and how he expects to get there. And, it is the starting point from which to understand the side effects that will shape the security environment for now and the future in which Latin America and the rest of the hemisphere must struggle and survive. It is, also, the starting point from which to develop the strategic vision to counter radical populism and caudillismo, as well as the instability and chaos they engender. Thus, Roger Noriega may well have been right when he argued that the diverse, myriad, nontraditional threats [that Chávez appears to be gravitating toward] can “challenge our democracies and undermine the security and prosperity of our citizens in too many of our states.”46
Hugo Chavez may be a military caudillo, but he is no “nut case.” He is, in fact, what Ralph Peters calls a “wise competitor.”47 He will not even attempt to defeat his enemies on their terms. Rather, he will seek to shift the playing field away from conventional military confrontations and turn to nontraditional forms of assault on a nation’s stability and integrity. Thus, it appears that that astute warrior is prepared to destabilize, to facilitate the processes of State failure, and, thus, to “destroy in order to rebuild” in true revolutionary fashion.48 As a consequence, it is important to understand that Chavez considers four issues to be key to success (or failure) in contemporary asymmetric conflict. They are closely related to his security scheme, social programs, and communications efforts. First, he understands the sophistication and complexity of war as a whole. Second, he understands the “full spectrum of threats” inherent in contemporary conflict. He also understands the value of facilitating the processes of State failure to achieve the objectives of bolivarianismo. Fourth, Lt. Colonel Chavez understands the centrality of relative moral legitimacy in conflict—and the critical importance of creating popular perceptions that his cause is morally correct, and will lead to a better life. These are the bases of power—all else, to him, is illusion.
In this context, it is important to note that, at a Forum on Fourth-Generation of Warfare and Asymmetric War, held in Caracas, Venezuela in early 2004, President Chávez directed the armed forces to develop a new military doctrine for contemporary conflict: “I call upon everybody to start an . . . effort to apprehend . . . the ideas, concepts, and doctrine of asymmetric war.”49 This move has provided the conceptual basis upon which Venezuela might use all available networks—political, economic, social, informational, and military—to convince a targeted government’s decision-makers and population that their present political situation is not legitimate and is hopeless. The development of doctrine for conduct of contemporary asymmetric war—and the accompanying publicity--was also intended to be a clear signal to the rest of Latin America and the United States that it would be only a matter of time before the Bolivarian Revolution (bolivarianismo) prevails.50
The Sophistication and Complexity of War as a Whole
Chavez understands that contemporary nontraditional war is not a kind of appendage (a lesser or limited thing) to the more comfortable conventional military attrition and maneuver warfare paradigms. It is a great deal more. Again, it may be military or nonmilitary, lethal or non-lethal, or a mix of everything within a State’s or a coalition of States’ array of instruments of power. As such, it may be a zero-sum game in which there is only one winner or, in a worst-case scenario, no winner. It is, thus, total. That is to say, the “battlefield” is extended to everyone, everything, and everywhere.51
To give the mind as much room as possible to contemplate the sophistication and complexity—and the totality--of contemporary conflict, two Chinese colonels, Liang and Xiangsui, have provided a scenario that instructive and sobering:
If the attacking side secretly
musters large amounts of capital without the enemy nation being
aware of this, and launches a sneak attack against its financial
markets, then after causing a financial crisis, buries a computer
virus and hacker detachment in the opponent’s computer system
in advance, while at the same time carrying out a network attack
against the enemy so that the civilian electricity network,
traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone
communications network, and mass media network are completely
paralyzed, this will cause the enemy nation to fall into social panic, street
riots, and a political crisis. There is finally the forceful
bearing down by the army, and military means are utilized in gradual
stages until the enemy is forced to sign a dishonorable
Chavez understands all this. He understands that war is no longer limited to using military violence to bring about desired political change. Rather, all means that can be brought to bear on a given situation must be used to compel a targeted government to do one’s will. This caudillo will tailor his campaign to his adversaries’ political and economic vulnerabilities, and to their psychological precepts. And, this is the basis of Chavez’s instruction to the Venezuelan armed forces (at the “1st Military Forum on Fourth Generation War and Asymmetric War” in 2004) to develop a doctrinal paradigm change from conventional to people’s war.53
The “Full Spectrum” of Threats Inherent in 21st Century Asymmetric War
Lt. Colonel Chavez understands that every player in the international community from small powers to the U.S. super power must cope simultaneously with four separate and potentially grave types of contemporary threat. These threats include, first, conventional interstate war, traditional and lingering boundary and territorial disputes, as well as balance of power (U.S. hegemony) concerns. Second, each protagonist must deal with the very real possibility that trans-national and internal non-state actors can be used by one nation-State to play serious roles in destabilizing and taking down another. Additionally, destabilizing nontraditional internal public and personal security threats can been seen all over the Hemisphere in ungoverned territories, urban criminal gangs, more conventional terrorism and insurgency. At the same time, there are real threats to effective sovereignty stemming from chronic poverty, disease, and other “root causes” of conflict.
Accordingly, all the above types of threats are seen as methods of choice—or areas for exploitation—for various commercial (narco-traffickers and organized criminals), ideological (insurgencies such as Peru’s Sendero Luminoso) movements, and caudillos like Hugo Chaves that are completely and ruthlessly dedicated to achieving control or radical change in a given nation-state or a geographic region. Nevertheless, rather than considering each level of conflict as an independent form of warfare, Chavez finds that it is more useful to think of them as parts within his concept of asymmetric or fourth-generation war, total war, a people’s war, or a super insurgency.54
The Issue of State Failure
President Chavez also understands that the process leading to state failure is the most dangerous long-term security challenge facing the global community today. The argument in general is that failing and failed state status is the breeding ground for instability, criminality, insurgency, regional conflict, and terrorism. These conditions breed massive humanitarian disasters and major refugee flows. They can host “evil” networks of all kinds, whether they involve criminal business enterprise, narco-trafficking, or some form of ideological crusade such as Bolivarianismo. More specifically, these conditions spawn all kinds of things people in general do not like such as murder, kidnapping, corruption, intimidation, and destruction of infrastructure. These means of coercion and persuasion can further spawn human rights violations, torture, poverty, starvation, disease, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, trafficking in women and body parts, trafficking and proliferation of conventional weapons systems and weapons of mass destruction (WMD), genocide, ethnic cleansing, warlordism, and criminal anarchy. At the same time, these actions are usually unconfined and spill-over into regional syndromes of poverty, destabilization, and conflict.55
Peru’s Sendero Luminoso calls violent and destructive activities that facilitate the processes of state failure “armed propaganda.” Drug cartels operating throughout the Andean Ridge of South America and elsewhere call these activities “business incentives.” Hugo Chavez considers these actions to be steps that must be taken to bring about the revolutionary political conditions necessary to establish Latin American Socialism for the 21st Century.56 Thus, in addition to helping to provide wider latitude to further their tactical and operational objectives, State and non-state actors’ strategic efforts are aimed at progressively lessening a targeted regime’s credibility and capability in terms of its ability and willingness to govern and develop its national territory and society. Chavez’s intent is to focus his primary attack politically and psychologically on selected Latin American governments’ ability and right to govern. In that context, he understands that popular perceptions of corruption, disenfranchisement, poverty, and lack of upward mobility limit the right and the ability of a given regime to conduct the business of the State. Until a given populace generally perceives that its government is dealing with these and other basic issues of political, economic, and social injustice fairly and effectively, instability and the threat of subverting or destroying such a government are real.57
But, failing and failed States simply do not go away. Virtually anyone can take advantage of such an unstable situation. The tendency is that the best motivated and best armed organization on the scene will control that instability. As a consequence, failing and failed States become dysfunctional states, rogue states, criminal states, narco-States, or new people’s democracies. In connection with the creation of new people’s democracies, one can rest assured that Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian populist allies will be available to provide money, arms, and leadership at any given opportunity. And, of course, the longer dysfunctional, rogue, criminal, and narco-States and people’s democracies persist, the more they and their associated problems endanger global security, peace, and prosperity.58
The Centrality of Moral Legitimacy in Contemporary Conflict
North American and other Western observers attempting to assess and prescribe the best for a government or a people often fail to understand that their perception of freedom, equality, or economic viability may differ significantly from the perceptions of people living in other cultures. Chavez, however, understands that recognizing this essential difference in perceptions is central to the capability of assessing and developing strategies for contemporary asymmetric conflict. Thus, as noted above, the umbrella concept of bolivarianismo centers on the challenge to a government’s moral right to govern. The basis for this challenge is rooted in the belief that the current governmental system is not providing, and cannot or will not provide, the necessary balance between equality, freedom, security, and prosperity for the people, and that the challenger’s political philosophy and system are the truly representative. Chavez’s direct democracy is the philosophy and method that will provide that balance.59
Chavez’s bolivarianismo also includes the concept that people’s perception of good and bad and right and wrong is the hub of all movement and power on which virtually everything depends. That is, moral legitimacy is the primary center of gravity in Latin America. Following the logic of the former leader of Peru’s Sendero Luminoso, Abmael Guzman, Hugo Chavez has identified the lack of legitimacy of all governments since the Spanish conquest as the center of gravity in the ongoing conflict in Latin America.60 The strategic objective, then, must be to break the power of the foreign-dominated and undemocratic governing oligarchy, and to form a new legitimately democratic political entity. In this context, all past and present regimes are judged to be the equivalent of “occupying powers.” Bolivarianismo is considered to be a kind of “resistance movement” that will conduct a true people’s war to replace the illegitimate occupying regime, and liberate the country. In these terms, protagonists can and must persuade, coerce, and demonstrate the people into supportive actions.61
Importantly and interestingly, in bolivarianismo (Socialism for the 21st Century), there is a closely related Marxist-Leninist notion that all means justify the socialist end. As such, elimination or neutralization of anyone and everything opposing that ultimate objective can be rationalized as legitimate.62 This is a very convenient philosophy for someone like Hugo Chavez to adopt. He can garner outside support, while at the same time pursuing all means from propaganda to terrorism to drug trafficking to total destruction of a targeted society to accomplish his goals. The problem is to convince the people that the use of coercion and violence is necessary—and, thus, morally correct. Thus, he is engaged, through his communications program, in a full-scale “propaganda war” aimed directly at people in the streets of Caracas, Quito, Lima, La Paz, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and elsewhere. The intent is to persuade as many people as possible that the use of coercion and violence to replace illegitimate occupying regimes is necessary to establish morally correct Latin American democracy and grandeza. And, Chavez expects that this campaign will be decisive in determining the long-term outcome of the overall campaign to establish his model of Socialism for the 21st Century throughout the Latin American region.63
Lt. Colonel Hugo Chavez understands contemporary asymmetric warfare. He understands that in this type of conflict requires more than weaponry and technology. It requires lucid and incisive thinking, resourcefulness, determination, imagination, and a certain disregard for convention. The promulgation of such a concept requires a somewhat different approach to conflict than that generally used by the United States over the past several years. That is, Chavez’s strategic paradigm outlined above acknowledges the fact that the ultimate outcome of any asymmetric war is not primarily determined by the skillful manipulation of violence in the many military battles that take place once a war of this nature is recognized to have begun. Rather, control of the situation and ultimate success is determined by 1) the sophisticated political-psychological application of all the instruments of power; 2) the skillful exploitation of the processes of state failure to bring about the political conditions necessary to establish Socialism for the 21st Century; and 3) the level of moral legitimacy the communications/propaganda campaign generates. To the extent that these factors are strongly present in any given strategy, they favor success. To the extent that any one component of the model is absent, or only present in a weak form, the probability of success is minimal.
The above outline takes us back to where we began. It provides the basis for the understanding and judgment that civilian and military leaders must have to be clear on what the situation is in Venezuela and what it is not. The hard evidence over time underscores the wisdom of Clausewitz’s dictum, “The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish…the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.”64 Chavez’s asymmetric war challenge is, thus, straight-forward. Colonel Thomas X. Hammes reminds us that this kind of war is the only kind of war the United States has ever lost.65
Asymmetric and irregular opponents are not invincible. They can be brought under control and defeated, but only by coherent, patient action that encompasses all agencies of a targeted government and its international allies. That kind of action would include the fields of politics, diplomacy, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and economic and social development. These efforts must be organized as a network rather than in the traditional vertical, top-down bureaucracies of most governments. Accomplishing such efforts will require fundamental changes in how governmental leaders and personnel at all levels are trained, developed, promoted, deployed, and employed. Additionally, this interagency and multilateral process must exert its collective influence for the entire duration of the conflict—from initial planning to the final achievement of a sustainable peace.66
The primary challenge, then, is to come to terms with the fact that there is a pressing need to shift from a singular military-police approach to a multidimensional and multinational paradigm for contemporary asymmetric conflict. That, in turn, requires a strategic-level conceptual framework and a supporting organizational structure to promulgate unified civil-military planning and the implementation of transnational responses to transnational threats. Given today’s realities, failure to prepare adequately for present and future asymmetric contingencies is unconscionable. At least five fundamental educational and organizational imperatives are needed to implement the challenges noted above:
· Civilian and military leaders at all levels must learn the fundamental nature of subversion and insurgency, with particular reference to the way in which military and nonmilitary, lethal and nonlethal, and direct and indirect force can be employed to achieve political ends. Leaders must also understand the ways in which political-psychological considerations affect the use of force—and the ways in which force affects political-psychological efforts.
· Civilian and military personnel are expected to be able to operate effectively and collegially in coalitions or multinational contingents. They must also acquire the ability to deal collegially with civilian populations and local and global media. As a consequence, efforts that enhance interagency as well as international cultural awareness—such as civilian and military exchange programs, language and cultural training programs, and combined (multinational) exercises—must be revitalized and expanded.
· Leaders must learn that an intelligence capability several steps beyond the present norm is required for irregular and asymmetric wars. This capability also must include active utilization of intelligence operations as a dominant element of both strategy and tactics.
· Nonstate political actors in any kind of intrastate conflict are likely to have at their disposal an awesome array of conventional and unconventional technology and weaponry. The “savage wars of peace” have placed and will continue to place military forces and civilian support contingents into harm’s way. Thus, leadership development programs must prepare “peacekeepers” to be effective war fighters.
· Governments and international organizations (for example, the Organization of American States) must restructure themselves to the extent necessary to establish the appropriate political mechanisms to achieve an effective unity of effort. The intent is to ensure that the application of the various civil-military instruments of power directly contributes to a mutually agreed-upon political end-state.
These conceptual and organizational challenges and tasks are the basic realities of twenty-first-century conflict. Long lists of additional recommendations will be irrelevant if the strategic-level foundational requirements listed above are not implemented first. One of Carl von Clausewitz’s translators, Michael Howard, warned years ago: “If [the political-psychological struggle] is not conducted with skill and based on realistic analysis . . . no amount of operational expertise, logistical back-up, or technical know-how could possibly help.”67 The consequences of failing to take the strategic political-psychological effort seriously are clear. Unless thinking, actions, and organization are reoriented at the highest levels to deal with asymmetric knowledge-based information and technology realities, the problems of global, regional, and subregional stability and security will resolve themselves—and not likely for the better.
1. Roger F. Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, “Remarks to the Inter-American Defense College,” Washington, D.C., 28 October 2004.
2. “Transcript: Day Two of Rice Testimony,” Washington Post 19 January 2005, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21135-2005Jan19.html.
3. Author interview with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Roger Pardo-Maurer, in Washington, D.C., 2 February 2004; and Radio Nacional de Venezuela, 17 February 2005.
4. Joel Brinkley, “U.S. Proposal in the O.A.S. Draws Fire as an Attack on Venezuela,” New York Times, 22 May 2005; and Secretary Condoleezza Rice, “Remarks to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States,” Department of State, Washington, D.C., 5 June 2005.
5. Carlos Alberto Montaner, “Anti-Americanism has become Ideology in Latin America,” The Miami Herald, 8 November 2005. Also see: Larry Rohter and Elisabeth Bumiller, “Hemisphere Summit Marred by Violent Anti-Bush Protests, New York Times, November 5, 2005.
6. El Universal, 25 February 2005; and U.S. Department of State, “Venezuela Playing ‘Destabilizing Role’ in Latin America,” 31 March 2005.
7. Rohter and Bumiller; and Daily Times, 14 March 2005.
8. Europa Press, 3 April 2005, the European Union’s online press service.
9. Radio Nacional de Venezuela, 27 September 2004, and 28 September 2004; and El Universal, 8 April 2005.
10. “Special Report: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela,” The Economist, May 14–20, 2005, p. 25.
11. Rohter and Bumiller.
12. arilee S. Grindle and John W. Thomas, Public Choices and Policy Change (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991).
13. Hubert Herring, A History of Latin America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972), pp. 513–514. Also see Winfield J. Burggraff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, 1935–1959 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1972).
14. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America [ca. 1820–1840], eds. J.P. Mayer and Max Lerner (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1966), pp. 213–226. Also see Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract , trans. by G.D.H. Cole (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.), 1952; John Locke, Of Civil Government, Second Treatise of Civil Government  (New York: Gateway), n.d.; and Jacques Maritain, Man and the State (Chicago, University of Chicago Press), 1951.
15. Thus, some States became totalitarian democracies even before Hegel began to write on the totalitarian State. See: Maritain, pp. 13-27; 192.
16. For excellent discussions of general Latin American and specific Venezuelan corporate traditions, see Howard J. Wiarda, ed., Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004); David J. Meyers, “Venezuela’s Punto Fijo Party System,” in Wiarda, pp. 141–172; and John V. Lombardi, Venezuela: The Search for Order, the Dream of Progress (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1982).
17. Carlos Gueron, “Introduction,” in Venezuela in the Wake of Radical Reform, ed. Joseph S. Tulchin (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1993), pp. 1–3.
18. These points are well documented in Francisco Rojas Aravena, “Nuevo contexto de seguridad internacional: nuevos desafios, nuevas oportunidades?” in La seguridad en America Latina pos 11 Septiembre, (Flaxo-Chile), 2003, pp. 23-43; and Felipe Agüero and Jeffrey Stark, Fault Lines of Democracy in Post-Transition Latin America (Miami, FL: North-South Center press, 1998), pp. 103-104; 109, and 216.
19. Ibid. Also see: testimony before the U.S. Congress on March 24, 2004 by General James T. Hill, U.S. Army, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, reported by Rudi Williams in American Forces Information Service, News Articles, March 31, 2004; Steve C. Ropp, The Strategic Implications of the Rise of Populism in Europe and South America (Carlisle Bks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute) 2005; and Andres Benavente Urbina and Julio Alberto Cirino, “El populismo Chavista en Venezuela,” in La democracia defraudada (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Grito Sagrado, 2005), pp. 115-139.
20. Ibid. Also see Steve Ellner, “Revolutionary and Non-Revolutionary Paths of Radical Populism: Directions of the Chávez Movement in Venezuela,” Science and Society (April 2005), pp. 160–190.
21. Ibid. Also see Francisco Rojas Aravena, “Una comunidad de seguridad en Las Américas: Una mirada a la Conferencia Especial de Seguridad,” Foro (noviembre 2003), pp. 10–15; ;and “The Latinobarometro Poll: Democracy’s Ten-Year Rut,” The Economist, October 29, 2005, pp. 39-40.
22. Alvaro Vargas Llosa, “The Return of Latin America’s Left,” New York Times, 22 March 2005. Also see comments attributed to General James T. Hill, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, in Rudi Williams, “SOUTHCOM Faces Threats to Peace in Latin America, Caribbean,” American Forces Press Service, 31 March 2004.
23. Tom Friedman has written extensively and eloquently on globalization and its implications. See, for example, Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (New York: Anchor Books, 1999). Also see Alvin Toffler, Power Shift (New York: Bantam Books, 1990).
25. “Special Report: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela,” The Economist, May 14–20, 2005, pp. 23–24.
26. See as examples; De Tocqueville, Locke, Rousseau, and Maritain.
27. Author interviews with nonattribution in Miami, 10 March 2005.
29. Paulo Sotereo, of the Brazilian daily, O Estado de São Paulo, quoting from an interview with former President Cardozo, in an interview with the author in Washington, D.C., 17 February 2005.
30. Montaner, “Anti-Americanism.”
32. Consensus statement from a conference on “Southern Cone Security,” sponsored by the Office of External Research, Bureau of Intelligence & Research (INR), U.S. Department of State, in Washington, DC, July 8, 2005. Also see: Julio A. Cirino, “La Revolucion Mundial pasa por Hugo Chavez” (Part 1), in Panorama, April 20, 2004, and Part 2, April 27, 2005; and “Chvez le mete mass presion a Latinamerica (y a USA),” Urgente 24, August 11, 2005.
33. Ibid. Also see: The Economist (May 14-20, 2005), Financial Times, El Universal, and La Voz.
35. hese are terms Chavez has used interchangeably.
36. Steven Metz and Douglas V. Johnson II, Asymmetry and U.S. Military Strategy: Definition, Background, and Strategic Concepts (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: Strategic Studies Institute, 2001), pp. 5–6.
37. Consensus statement from July 2005 conference in Washington, DC. Also see: Max G. Manwaring, Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2005), p. 8.
38. Steven Metz, “Relearning Counterinsurgency,” a panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute, 10 January 2005. Also see Paul E. Smith, On Political War (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1989).
39. Juan Forero, “Chavez Restyles Venezuela with ‘21st Century Socialism,’” New York Times, October 30, 2005, p. 3.
40. Interviews and The Economist, May 14–20, 2005.
41. Ibid. Also see: Financial Times, El Universal, La Voz, and Stephen Johnson, “South America’s Mad-TV: Hugo Chavez Makes Broadcasting a Battleground,” The Heritage Foundation Policy Research & Analysis, August 10, 2005.
42. Ibid. and El Universal, 5 January 2005; El Universal, 8 March 2005; Europa Press, 3 April 2005; La Voz, 3 April 2005; El Universal, 8 April 2005.
43. Consensus statement from March 2005 conference, Coral Gables, FL.
44. For a good discussion of this set of points, see Thomas A. Marks, “Ideology of Insurgency: New Ethnic Focus or Old Cold War Distortions?” Small Wars & Insurgencies, Spring 2004, pp. 107-109.
45. Juan Dorero, “No. 1 Quits in Bolivia, and Protesters Scorn Nos. 2 and 3,” New York Times, 9 June 2005; and “New Bolivia Leader Promises Early Election,” Global Security News & Reports, 10 June 2005.
46. “Remarks,” 28 October 2004.
48. Consensus statement from March 2005 conference in Coral Gables, Fla.
49. This charge to the National Armed Force (FAN) was made before an audience gathered in the Military Academy auditorium for the 1st Military Forum on Fourth Generation War and Asymmetric War, Caracas, reported in El Universal, 8 April 2005.
50. In January 2005, General Melvin Lopez Hidalgo, Secretary of the Venezuelan Defense Council, stated publicly that Venezuela was changing its security doctrine in order to better confront “la amenaza permanente de los Estados Uniidos” and that a document entitled Pueblo en Armas had been published that confirmed the primary military principals of President Chavez, noted above. Reported in Panorama, April 27, 2005.
51. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare, (Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House, 1999), p. 109.
52. Ibid., p. 123.
53. Author interviews with nonattribution in Miami, FL, March 10, 2005, and a consensus statement from the conference on July 8, 2005. Hereafter noted as Author interviews.
54. This concept is not new. Mao Tse-tung and General Vo Nguyen Giap put it to good use in China and Vietnam, and General Sir Frank Kitson developed the idea a bit further in his Warfare as a Whole (London: Faber and Faber, 1987).
55. Chester A. Crocker, “Engaging Failed States,” Foreign Affairs (September-October 2003), pp. 32-44.
56. Author interviews.
58. Ibid., and Crocker. Also see: Robert H. Dorff, “Strategy, Grand Strategy, and the Search for Security,” in Max G. Manwaring, Edwin G. Corr, and Robert H. Dorff, The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the 21st Century (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003), pp. 127-140. Also see: David C. Jordan, Drug Politics: Dirty Money and Democracies (Norman: OK: University of Oklahoma Press) 1999; and Eduardo Pizarro and Ana Maria Bejarano, “Colombia: A Failing State?” ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America (Spring 2003), pp. 1-6.
59. Author interviews.
60. Ibid. Also see: Abimael Guzman, “El Discurso del Dr. Guzman,” in Los partidos politicos en el Peru, Rogger U. Mercado, ed., (Lima: Ediciones Latinamericanos, 1985), pp. 85-90; Comité Central del partido Comunista del Peru, Desarrollar la guerra popular sirviendo a la revolucion mundial, (Lima: Comité Central del Partido Comunista del Peru, 1986), pp. 82-88.
64. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Michael Howard and Peter Paret, ed. and trans., (Pinceton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), pp. 88.
65. Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, USMC, “4th Generation Warfare,” Armed Forces Journal (November 2004), pp. 40-44.
66. Rice, “Remarks.”
67. Michael Howard, The Causes of Wars, 2nd ed., (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 109.
|Dr. Max G. Manwaring holds the General Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research, is Professor of Military Strategy at the U.S. Army War College, and is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Dickinson College. He is a retired U.S. Army colonel and has served in various military and civilian positions, including the U.S. Army War College, the United States Southern Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the University of Memphis. Dr. Manwaring holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Illinois and is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. He is the author and co-author of several articles, chapters, and reports dealing with political-military affairs, and global and regional security concerns. He is the editor or coeditor of, inter alia, El Salvador at War, 1988; Gray Area Phenomena: Confronting the New World Disorder,1993; Managing Contemporary Conflict: Pillars of Success, 1996; Beyond Declaring Victory and Coming Home: The Challenges of Peace and Stability Operations, 2000; and The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century, 2003; and co-author, with John T. Fishel, of Uncomfortable Wars Revisited, University of Oklahoma Press, 2006.|
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University
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