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Outlook of the Officers: Military Thought in Chile, 1960-1990

  • Author(s): Bawden, John Richard
  • Advisor(s): Brennan, James P
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation examines the ideas, values, and intellectual formation of officers in the Chilean armed forces during the second half of the twentieth century, charting change and continuity in the outlook of men who played a central role in their nation's history. It seeks to characterize the full complexity of military thought in the postwar era, identifying the lens through which officers saw the world, their role in society, and relationship to and place in Chilean history.

The first half of the dissertation examines the nature of US military influence in Chile, military attitudes towards civilian society, and changes in military discourse after the Cuban Revolution. During the sixties officers reached a number of important conclusions about modern warfare and the world system by studying conflicts in the Third World.

With respect to the Popular Unity coalition (1970-1973) the armed forces' professionalism and apolitical tendencies proved a substantial barrier to political involvement although circumstances eventually led to a consensus that Salvador Allende's government was an existential threat to the nation and the armed forces had a patriotic duty to overthrow it.

The second half of the dissertation examines the incipient ideology of Chile's military government, its internal policy disputes, and the perspective of soldiers who, after 1974, faced military threats from Peru and Argentina and deep international isolation as a result of human rights violations. This situation fostered a siege mentality and had multiple unintended consequences. For one, the US arms embargo (1975) spurred the development of Chile's domestic arms industry and reduced Washington's political leverage in Chile.

In 1983, nationwide protests seemed to augur a quick transition to civilian rule. However, the armed forces agreed that any exit from power had to be `honorable' and consistent with their distinction as an undefeated military. Officers also drew from Chile's conservative tradition and their own intellectual culture to argue that they had a historical mandate to reorganize society after 1973 and to exercise a formal, tutelary role in the polity after 1990.

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