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Home » Democracy with Guns: Human Rights and the War on Terror

Repression, Human Rights, and US Training of Military Forces from the South

October 1, 2006 No Comment

By Ruth Joanna Blakeley, Department of Politics, University of Bristol, October 2006

In order to understand whether US training of military forces from the South has resulted in the use of repression or improvements in human rights, we need to situate the training within the broader context of US foreign policy objectives and strategies. The main aims of US foreign policy are to maintain its dominant global position and to ensure control of resources and markets in the South. These objectives are being pursued through an emerging, US led transnational state, using the instruments of legitimation at least as much as repression. This contrasts with the Cold War, during which US foreign policy strategy towards the South emphasised repression. US training of military forces from the South during the Cold War played a key role in a US-led network of terror, through which many states in the South were connected to the US and each other by cooperation between their militaries, police and intelligence services. The training was dominated by a particular form of counterinsurgency instruction which advocated repression of groups that might potentially threaten US control of Southern economies and assets. This contributed to widespread human rights violations, particularly in Latin America. Following the end of the Cold War, reliance on the network of terror diminished, and it was subsumed within the emergent transnational state. In line with this shift in US foreign policy strategy in the South, some aspects of the training began to be characterised by the promotion of legitimation. In the wake of 9/11, the US has intensified both its legitimation efforts and its use of repression, and the training continues to play a significant role in the service of US foreign policy objectives.

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