The civil-military “dialogue”

Image: Jeffry Surianto
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By MANUEL DOMINGOS NETO*

The idea of ​​“dialogue” nullifies the authority of the State. Only political power can set political guidelines

Officials react badly to the idea of ​​National Defense being formulated and conducted by political power. They consider that guidelines on this matter should be the result of civil-military “dialogue”. In this way, they reject the principle of popular sovereignty that underlies modern democracy. It is an idea that belittles the Charter and is unworkable.

To the castro what belongs to the castro, to the politician what belongs to the politician. The politician should not and cannot meddle in what is intrinsic to the corporation. A military corporation has its unique way, which needs to be respected within the limits of the law and according to the provisions of the National Defense. External interference in the barracks is deleterious and chimerical: commanders cannot abdicate their authorities and corporations do not open their black boxes under penalty of disappearing. The castro accumulates millennial experience. The most refreshing of armies incorporates Sunt Tzu, Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon…

The idea of ​​“dialogue” nullifies the authority of the State. Only political power can establish policy guidelines. The role of interlocutor is not for the military, despite being an indispensable consultant to the politician. The State must qualify itself to establish the defense policy, which implies having a specialized professional body, capable of perceiving the point of view of the barracks without being deceived with panegyric phrases and minor interests.

Generals, admirals and brigadiers are limited to formulating National Defense because it is a broad spectrum public policy. It covers the whole of the State apparatus and society. It transcends military affairs. Whoever controls the defense, controls the state and tries to impose his will on society. If the military holds the cards in defense, he embodies the discretionary power of kings and emperors who commanded troops mounted on horseback.

If he dedicates himself to an eminently political task, the military will compromise his skills in handling weapons and preparing combatants, just like the neurosurgeon who, busy planning public health policy, will lose his performance on the operating table. Exceptions confirm the rule.

Brazilian military commanders must heed the lessons of history: corporations have always focused on defense and have failed. They did not build an autonomous apparatus, but a subordinate system to the hegemonic foreign power. They left society unrelated to defense matters. Despite the large volume of public resources employed in more than a century, the Brazilian State remains incapable of denying its territorial, maritime, air and cybernetic space to the prepared challenger.

The establishment of a public policy presupposes confrontation of propositions. In military hands, the choices would be limited by the political and ideological unity of the members of the hierarchy. All went through the same sieves to move up the career ladder and, some more, others less, were contaminated by the single impoverishing thought. All assimilated history from the perspective of the barracks and repel social changes that affect organic and functional structures of their corporations.

Corporations thrive on rivalries. They fuel old feuds and dispute inches of power in the state apparatus. In the Brazilian case, for example, they postpone the inevitable: the recognition of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces as a higher military authority. Since the Armada Revolt, at the beginning of the republican regime, the strongest voice has been that of the Army commander, not because his corporation is more capable of reacting to the foreign aggressor, but because it is more capable of imposing itself internally.

Commanders are constantly competing for budgetary resources and positions in the defense system. Thus, they compromise decisions necessary for the effectiveness of the system. The lack of integration entails costs due to the overlapping of structures, particularly in the areas of education, medical assistance and the production of weapons and equipment.

The military's main allegiance is to his corporation. Bonds of camaraderie are cultivated from the beginning of the career and support the hierarchical rise. In this sense, no other corporate culture equals the military, which defends its institutions tooth and nail, as well as values ​​its expertise.

The military is a cradle egotist. The Infante says that the infantry is the eternal majesty of the combat lines. The gunner thinks that the highest value of a nation roars in the soul of the cannon. The engineer wants Engineering to shine in peace or war. The knight claims to be the guiding star on dark horizons. The aviator claims to be a daring pioneer, a knight of the steel century. The sailor thinks that his beautiful galley protects the green seas of the homeland he thinks about so much. The military is not the best fit to make decisions that directly affect their corporations and specialties.

Military egotism enshrines the civilian, but it is understandable and indispensable: the esprit de corps is imperative for candidates for the supreme gesture of slaughtering their fellow man or dying. From this stems the permanent stimulus to competition within the ranks, where each one seeks to overcome itself and be the best.

Selfishness is understandable, but, in Defense's view, it needs to be contained by the representative of popular sovereignty, who must know how to listen and build corporate arrangements aimed at the integration and effectiveness of the whole.

The military is sacrificed with the war, but it is also benefited: by showing service, it gains hierarchical promotion and glory. The military's need for recognition is displayed on the chest adorned with insignia, exploited by cartoonists. As a beneficiary of war action, the military is not the public servant appointed to decide on the use of force. The military must be heard in the formulation of defense policy, as well as the police in establishing public security and health professionals in health policy.

The memory of those who fund the ranks is not part of the corporate culture, whether civil or military. The public servant who remembers who sustains him, that is, society, is an exotic. The military does not thank the people for their earnings. “I owe what I am to the Army”, “I owe what I am to the FAB”, “I owe what I am to the Navy”, are common phrases in the military environment.

It is up to the political power to deliberate, without military pressure, on military spending. The relationship between the military and the parliamentarian who decides on budgets must be rigorously eliminated. Defense cannot be hostage to the performance of military advisors in parliament and the state apparatus. This task should be handed over to the civilian corps of the Ministry of Defense.

Defense requires the decisive participation of society. Those preparing to lead troops are not the most capable of grasping the interplay of interests that leads to bloodshed. The mobilization of society for Defense is the task of the politician, not the military.

The placement of corporate propaganda in the communication vehicles needs to end. This type of advertising confuses corporations with political parties. It doesn't benefit the defense at all. When the military addresses society directly, it dispenses with politics and the specialized bureaucratic apparatus.

Only the head of state is able to lead the defense. If he abstains, the military takes over the State and society will be subject to the corporate plan.

If the Brazilian defense persists dictated by commanders, as it always has, it will be wasteful, narrow-minded and vexatious. Democracy will be permanently at risk and sovereignty will remain a chimera.

* Manuel Domingos Neto is a retired UFC professor, former president of the Brazilian Defense Studies Association (ABED) and former vice president of CNPq.


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