Tuesday, September 10, 2013

40 Years After Coup, Chile's Military Vastly Changed

1973: Hawker Hunters hit their target
Sept. 11 marks the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought the military junta to power in Chile. The military that ousted then-President Salvador Allende has changed dramatically since then, both in terms of its role in society and the way it is structured. The army of the 1973 coup was essentially a World War II force, with Sherman tanks and an infantry mainly equipped with M1 Garand rifles. Throughout the 17 years of military rule, it remained much that way. An arms embargo made it difficult to upgrade weapons, but gave rise to a small domestic arms industry. A modernization finally started taking place when democratic rule returned in the 1990s. The three branches downsized sharply in personnel, but acquired newer tanks, jet fighters and warships. The Army has undergone a major restructuring, organizing itself into self-contained brigades and eliminating a system of stand-alone regiments spread along the country. The Air Force has standardized its front-line squadrons with the F-16. The Navy went with sleek frigates and has been building up its marines. Conscription essentially has ended, and professional soldiers have become part of the military's reforms. Today, Chile's military is part of the social safety net, and is active in peacekeeping missions. More important have been the institutional changes. When Pinochet ceded power, the constitution left the military with substantial power. But civilian administrations have chipped away at it. More and more, the armed forces have acquiesced to civilian rulers, and Chileans now pretty much dismiss the chance of another coup. The military, however, is still trying to put the Pinochet years behind, and the 40th anniversary is fraught with an aura of recrimination over the regime's human rights abuses. A must-read on the military's social changes is the brilliant analysis by strategist Armen Kouyoumdjian in one of the last papers he wrote before his death.


Tim Johnson said...

Armen was a true Chilean. I always enjoyed his insights even if i disagreed with some of them. Thanks for the link.

J.C. Arancibia said...

I wish I had corresponded with Mr. Kouyoumdjian when I had a chance. I always thought his observations were insightful.