A tale of misunderstanding and myth-making: peace operations and Brazilian grand strategy, by João Paulo Alsina

The article Grand Strategy and Peace Operations: the Brazilian Case, published in the special issue of Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional entitled International Security and Defense – Taking stock of Brazil’s changes (Volume 60 – N. 2, 2017), intends to answer the following question: how does the participation in UN peace operations (POs) is inserted in Brazil´s grand strategy? Given the inherent contradictions of the state apparatus in Brazil, the implementation of a less problematic grand strategy is a fortiori crucial. For its restricted scope, an issue such as participation in POs cannot occupy a central place in the grand strategy of Brazil. This, however, does not mean that its importance should be considered negligible. POs may be useful as conduits for raising the nation’s international profile.

Realistically, engaging in POs will not result in the inclusion of Brazil as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Nor will it serve to ensure the comprehensive modernization of the armed forces or significantly increase the professionalism of officers and soldiers. Still, it is possible to imagine a scenario where the POs could contribute to the efforts aimed at raising the country’s strategic profile; modernizing the Navy, Army and Air Force; and increasing the professionalism of the military – all grand strategic objectives laid out in 2012’s White Paper.

If there were to be a true national strategy, then basic questions must be answered: what are the political, economic and military objectives to be achieved? How much is the government willing to invest in such participation? What are the profiles of the missions that will be accepted and rejected? What kind of contribution would be most appropriate? What is the time scope of prospective contributions?

The article tackles several questions in its sections: 21st. century UN Peace Operations and their political and military implications, motivations behind countries´ participation in peace operations, Brazilian participation in POs in historical perspective, Brazil´s foreign policy and POs, Brazil´s defense policy and POs, contradictions between foreign and defense policies, goals to be reached by the national participation in POs and criteria for participation, and the place of POs in a Brazilian grand strategy.

The paper concludes by stating that the frailty of the national defense apparatus generates two simultaneous problems with respect to the POs: 1) the worse the budgetary situation of the armed forces, the greater the incentive to participate in POs in order to minimize the shortage of resources and maintain some motivation in the military ranks; 2) the greater the incentive to view POs as a lifeline, the more intense will be the corporate pressure of the military in order to participate in peace operations of dubious utility to the national grand strategy. This scenario suggests that the use of POs as a useful tool in the broader context of a national grand strategy will be conditioned not by the further deterioration of the country’s meager defense capabilities, but by the gradual overcoming of the deficiencies found in this area. In other words, POs cannot be seen as a kind of crutch by the armed forces.

Finally, the author suggests that the consequent use of POs depends on the overcoming of traditional concepts, which have as their backdrop the implicit notion of a Brazilian exceptionalism almost symmetrical to the North American. While the latter views the values of liberal democracy, and the United States’ leading position as the largest power in the world, as a moral justification for the episodic circumvention of international norms, the former hypostasizes the mythology on facets of the national character (bonhomie, pacifism, cordiality etc.) and lends sociological varnish to the pragmatic adherence to multilateralism – since the absence of power assets does not allow for another alternative. As such, Brazilian exceptionalism reinforces the permanent emptying of defense’s value in Brazil, since it removes moral consistency of claims in favor of the build-up of national military capabilities.

Read the article

Alsina Júnior, João Paulo S.. (2017). Grand Strategy and Peace Operations: the Brazilian Case. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 60(2), e004. Epub November 09, 2017.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201700204

About the author

João Paulo S. Alsina Jr. is diplomat, PhD in International Relations, and author of three books on the articulation of foreign and defense policies in Brazil.

How to cite this note

aclessa, "A tale of misunderstanding and myth-making: peace operations and Brazilian grand strategy, by João Paulo Alsina," in Instituto Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais, 15/11/2017, http://www.ibri-rbpi.org/?p=16199.

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