Spirit of subservience – II

Dora Longo Bahia, The police come, the police go, 2018 Acrylic on cracked laminated glass 50 x 80 cm


The vassalage contract and the strategic blindness of the military

“In fact, it is the generalized and growing insecurity in which today's humanity struggles, anguished, the poisonous opium that creates and feeds these horrid visions, capable, however, of becoming a monstrous reality” (Golbery do Couto e Silva) .

There was never an ideological consensus within the Brazilian Armed Forces, and there have always been military personnel who were democrats, nationalists and communists. Perhaps the most famous was Captain Luiz Carlos Prestes, who participated in the “Lieutenant movement” of the 1920s and in the “Revolta dos 18 do Forte” in Copacabana, and later led – alongside Major Miguel Costa – the famous Column that marched for Brazil, for 2 years and 5 months, before being defeated, defending social justice, the universalization of free education and the adoption of the secret ballot in the Brazilian elections.

And even after the Second World War, there were many who opposed the coups d'état of 1954, 55, 61 and 64, and who played an important role in the fight for the state oil monopoly and the creation of Petrobras. More than that, there have always been soldiers who defended the centrality of the State in economic development and the fight against social inequality in Brazil.

Even so, there is no doubt that the vast majority of Brazilian officers, especially after the Second World War, were always conservative and right-wing, coup supporters and supporters of Brazil's military submission to the United States. And it was this majority and conservative tendency that always won and prevailed, inside and outside the FFAA, in all the crucial moments of the Brazilian political history of the last 80 years. And now again, they were the ones who won with the 2016 coup d'état and the installation of the current government; and it was they who re-established Brazil's military allegiance to the Armed Forces and US foreign policy. Therefore, it is worth asking: what exactly does “modern vassalage” between sovereign national states consist of? What is the bet or expectation of the Brazilian military, deposited in this type of relationship with the United States, and more recently, also in relation to Israel? And above all, what are the short- and long-term consequences of this vassalage relationship for the State and Brazilian society?

From a strictly contractual point of view, the modern agreements of military vassalage guarantee the “Vassal State” the sale of more sophisticated weapons and ammunition, and some “cutting-edge technologies” controlled by the “Suzerain State”, in exchange for resources and strategic minerals from the vassal country, and the assignment of its troops to the dominant power's wars. And in many cases, this contract also involves – as in Colombia – the assignment of territory for the installation of US soldiers and military bases. During the Cold War period, these weapons were delivered to the Brazilian Army to fight the “communist countries”. But today it is not clear who the Brazilian enemy is, and what its Armed Forces intend to do with this more sophisticated and destructive weapon that they will receive from the United States. Who are they going to use them against? If it goes against the Great Powers, they will be useless because they have the atomic power that Brazil does not have, but if it goes against its South American neighbors, this will end up provoking an arms race in the continent, since it cannot be assumed that the other do not do the same as in Brazil. And who stands to gain from the transformation of South America into a major arms buyer? And what is the cost of this madness for a continent that is already poor and will emerge even poorer from the current coronavirus pandemic? In this sense, it is worth asking the Brazilian military if they have already made this calculation, and if they have a clear legacy that they will leave for their children and grandchildren, and above all for the vast majority of Brazilians who are not military and who have nothing to do with those weapons that will be financed and favored for them in exchange for their vassalage?

But beyond that, the expectation of every “vassal state” is also to obtain economic advantages from its vassalage, in the form of free access to the markets and investments of the “sovereign power”. This was how, in fact, during the Cold War, particularly between 1950 and 1980, Brazilian vassalage was compensated by US support for the developmental project of the Brazilian military at that time. And in this sense it can even be said that the so-called “economic miracle” of the military dictatorship” was a kind of Latin replica of the “invited development” of Korea, Taiwan, Japan or even Germany, and of almost all of Europe that was favored by the Marshall Plan. This situation, however, was not repeated anywhere in the world after the 80s, when the United States abandoned its post-Second World War international economic strategy inaugurated by the Bretton Woods agreements of 1944, and adopted its new strategy of deregulation and savage liberalization of its peripheral markets, which was experienced after the Chilean military coup in 1973, but which only reached Brazil in the 90s. And now, more recently, the expectation that the United States can help the economic development of its “vassals”, already in the third decade of the XNUMXst century, have no head or tail. At this moment, the American economy is being run over by the “epidemic crisis”, but even before that, the Donald Trump administration had already adopted a “nationalist type” economic policy, with the protection of its internal market and its industry, and with the uncompromising defense of its grain and food producers, who compete directly with the agri-business Brazilian.

Even so, it is impossible to imagine a government that is more subservient and bootlicker to Donald Trump than the current Brazilian government. However, in the last two years, Brazil has not reached any significant trade agreement with the United States and has not obtained any special advantage or favor from the US government. On the contrary, Brazil has already been the object of several retaliations and economic humiliations by the Trump administration, without having said a single word of protest or defense of its own national interests. And in addition to the United States, the European Parliament recently rejected the trade agreement that had begun to be processed, between the European Union and Mercosur, as a form of explicit retaliation against the government of Mr. Bolsonaro. And to top it off, in the last 12 months, the flight of foreign private investors from Brazil has more than doubled, with no expectation of a reversal of this trend which, on the contrary, should get even worse. Therefore, until now, Brazil's new military vassalage has not brought any economic advantage, neither from open markets nor from investments.

The buffoons of the current government don't understand anything about economics, nor do they know what capitalism is. But the most serious thing is that its military also fails to understand that its new economic allies – unlike the Cold War period – are financiers; and that, in contemporary capitalism, financiers do not need economic GDP growth to increase their profits and accumulate their private wealth. Suffice it to say that in the last five months that the coronavirus pandemic has wracked the world economy, the world's financial wealth has grown by 25% to over US$10 trillion, and the wealth of Brazil's 42 biggest billionaires, almost all of them financiers, has grown by US$34. billion. And while the government's military do not understand this apparent capitalist paradox, nor manage to perceive that their contemporary vassalage will not bring them economic advantages, they will continue struggling to control this government” that they helped to create, which manages to have, at the same time, a chancellor who attacks China and economic globalization, while his economy minister bets all his chips on China and globalization.

Finally, the modern “vasalage relationship” also involves commitments and strategic consequences that are not made explicit in military agreements. For example, after World War II, the Brazilian FFAA no longer had to choose their “external enemy”, which came to be defined directly by the United States. And throughout the Cold War, that “enemy” was the Soviet Union, which had neither the slightest interest nor the slightest possibility of attacking Brazil, a country that was entirely outside the “game” of the great powers. In addition, this strange condition of “enemy of the enemy of others” created a permanent distortion in the behavior of the Brazilian Army, which became a police specialized in combating “internal traitors”, that is, to begin with, all those who disagreed with the position American and Brazilian military vassalage. This is how the figure of the “internal enemy” was born, created by the National Security Doctrine formulated in the 50s by the Escola Superior de Guerra, immediately after the signing of the Brazil-United States Military Agreement in 1952. And it was thanks to this true "functional somersault" that the FFAA began to spy on their own people, in the constant and obsessive search for "poisonous opium" and the "horrid visions" that would be threatening the internal peace of society and the Brazilian state, according to the words of General Golbery of the Couto e Silva, cited in the epigraph of this text. And this is how the direct relationship between Brazil’s “international vassalage” and the “national authoritarianism” of its Armed Forces was born and historically consolidated, which began to denounce as “enemies” of the State all those who disagreed with their own ideological positions. , and its strategic blindness.

This distortion of the Armed Forces explains why after the Cold War, and during the period of American uni-polarity, the Brazilian military lost its compass and was without clear enemies for almost twenty years. And when they tried to define an “external enemy” on their own, they chose France.[1], which is little short of ridiculous, given that it is now just a declining intermediate power, barely able to exert any influence in North Africa and which, on top of that, is an opponent of the Venezuelan government that the Brazilian military hates so much. And as a consequence, in order to recreate their “punch doll” or “internal enemy”, they had to resort to an odd invention of the American ultra-right: a so-called “cultural Marxism”, which neither I nor anyone else knows what it is, but which served for the Brazilian military to demonize all “identity movements” and “politically correct”, and in particular, a former President of the Republic, his party and its militants, despite them being an essential part of any and all games democratic.

This confusion remains until today, but the picture changed radically when President Donald Trump elected the new external enemy of the United States, in 2019, by declaring his commercial and technological war against China, and by trying to polarize the world around its dispute with the Chinese. The problem, however, is that by the time Donald Trump changed his foreign policy, Brazil had already been transformed into a primary-export economy dependent on Chinese markets and investments, and it is increasingly difficult to transform it into a strategic enemy of Brazil, the country that is precisely its main economic partner. Furthermore, as the Chinese are pragmatic and do not intend to convert anyone, it is even more difficult to transform China's admirers into “internal enemies” of the Brazilian state, as happened with the communists during the Cold War.

In the midst of this ideological and political “mess”, and the economic chaos that is accentuated with each passing moment, the common man wonders what, after all, the Brazilian military has to say and propose in relation to the millions of Brazilians who today vegetate in misery and in the hunger in the countryside and in the country's big cities, who complain and protest because they are hungry, but are not “enemies” of the Brazilian State, much less of its Armed Forces?

And by the way, who gave these gentlemen the right, and where does their arrogance in wanting to judge and decide who are the good and who are the bad Brazilians?

* Jose Luis Fiori Professor at the Graduate Program in International Political Economy at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Brazil in space (Voices).

To read the first part go to https://aterraeredonda.com.br/espirito-de-subserviencia/


[1] “Brazilian military elite sees France as an enemy in the next 20 years”, Folha de São Paulo, 10/02/2020

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