national defense policies

Image: Magali Guimarães


In States governed by law, defense policies, like any other public policy, must respect constitutional principles

The horrors of the wars of the first half of the XNUMXth century, with emphasis on atomic explosions, packed the term “defense”, which does not embody the promise of aggression. War ministries were increasingly referred to as “defence ministries”.

Brazil is among the last countries to create a Ministry of Defense (1999), which brought together the former portfolios of the Army, Navy and Air Force. To create it, Fernando Henrique Cardoso gathered skill and courage.

The “National Defence” should be understood as the set of guidelines, devices and initiatives of the State aimed at protecting itself against external offenses or reacting to the curtailment of its sovereignty.

Defense ministries, formally, must prepare institutions and citizens to deter or confront hostile foreigners. Just like war, an event of the highest political concentration, Defense transcends military jurisdiction.

In the rule of law, defense policies, like any other public policy, must respect constitutional principles. His formulations require breadth of view and depth in the analysis of processes and historical trends. They demand monitoring the configurations of the international order, that is, geopolitical perception and strategic sensitivity.

National Defense policies require synchrony between state arms and society; they call for systemic arrangements and far-reaching multisectoral initiatives, always combined and complementary; they include a vast repertoire of staggered measures and do not support improvisations; they demand specialized planning and include the elimination or mitigation of vulnerabilities of the State and society.

National defense must not be left to amateurs or civil servants trained to command troops and handle weapons; it needs to be formulated and administered by a stable body of specialized servants capable of assisting the heads of state, parliaments and the judiciary. Defense servants must show the ability to dialogue with those responsible for formulating and conducting the various public policies, with the media, society and the ranks.

Subject to military determination, defense policy tends to be unsatisfactory due to corporate bias. Military corporations cannot deliberate on defense; they cannot pontificate in their formulation or manage them. This would represent the open or surreptitious militarization of the state apparatus and society. Corporations must be organized along the lines of defense.

The industrial sector of weapons and military equipment, as well as the business sectors that deal with sensitive dual technologies (civilian and military use), are part of the defense system. However, if they interfere in political decisions, there will be promiscuity between public and private interests.

The production of weapons and equipment, being in private hands, must be subject to strict monitoring by the State. Since the XNUMXth century, when the great enterprises of the war industry were consolidated, a lot of blood has been shed for the benefit of this industrial sector.

Intimacies between businessmen and the military constitute one of the most delicate problems of defense. Relationships are inevitable but dangerous. Reserve military personnel employed in the defense industry can be as harmful to the public interest as former Central Bank directors hired by private banks. This became visible with the world wars, but it is a very old problem.

Weapons manufacturers see the war as a chance for lucrative business. The expression “military-industrial complex”, coined by former US President Dwight Eisenhower, in 1961, expressed the moral dilemmas raised by the war industry, one of the most profitable branches of the industrial sector, today driven by financial speculation, which ignores ethical barriers.

Each State organizes its defense according to unique conditions. Comparisons between national-state systems are inevitable, but they are misleading. The measurement of military capabilities is always relative and imprecise, such is the number of variables to be taken into account. Listings like “most powerful armies” serve more to feed misconceptions than to support consistent analysis. Establishing relationships between military personnel and territorial, demographic or economic dimensions, for example, does not make sense. By these relations, Russia would be one of the most unimpressive military powers in the world.

States with imperial pretensions may have great military capacity, but they are never safe: they arouse distrust and enmity. They are exposed to the most varied and diffuse threats. They are obliged to maintain gigantic intelligence services on the verge of schizophrenia.

States with small territories, limited natural resources, modest productive capacity, legitimized by cohesive citizens, united by the perception of a common destiny and having solid alliances, can be unbeatable. Without such conditions, they would survive as protectorates.

In terms of defense, each State has its geographic, historical, demographic and cultural peculiarities. There are, therefore, no replicable national defense formulas. In this domain, Brazil has no examples to follow.

* 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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