On Thursday, November 3rd, the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS) hosted a half-day symposium for the benefit of members of the National Defense University (NDU) Foundation. A selection of CHDS subject experts participated in two panels of discussion, moderated by CHDS Dean Michael Gold-Biss, in which a lively and informative discourse educated all participants on several timely and strategic issues facing the Western Hemisphere.
CHDS Director Dr. Richard Downie welcomed all attendees and introduced the morning’s first speaker, Ambassador Cresencio Arcos, former Ambassador to Honduras and current Political Advisor to the Director of CHDS. Ambassador Arcos explained US attitudes toward Latin America in the post-9/11 period, highlighting how the ebbs and flows of our country’s foreign policy to the region have evolved since our earliest relations as independent nations. Arcos concluded that, despite present fixations with the Middle East and China, our own hemisphere continues to be extremely interdependent, both economically and politically, and relationships with our closest neighbors cannot be discounted in importance to general US foreign policy goals.
Following the remarks from Ambassador Arcos, the first panel addressed challenges to the state in Latin America. The panel comprised two brief lectures from CHDS professors. Professor Patricia Escamilla-Hamm discussed Mexico and the war against transnational organized crime, certainly an issue high on the list of priorities for not only foreign policy makers, but also defense and homeland security in the United States. Second, Professor Boris Saavedra explained the emergence of Populist governments in South America and the challenges that Populism poses to regional stability.
The second panel addressed the roles of regional and external powers, beginning with CHDS Professor Scott Tollefson’s discussion of rising regional power Brazil and that country’s defense posture. CHDS Professor Evan Ellis then addressed the roles of China, Iran, and Russia in the region. Ultimately, both the address from AMB Arcos and the panels guided a frank and insightful dialogue on the enduring relevance of the Western Hemisphere to US defense and foreign policy strategy.