ARGENTINA: A Defense with an uncertain future
(Article Written by Nicolás Zelaya)
In terms of defense, Argentina is characterized by having excellent human resources that do everything possible to keep the different resources that make it up to comply with the main mission established by the Constitution, but these efforts are insufficient because it is internationally recognized that it has a force capable of facing the demands of the modern battlefield.
CONCEPTS OF INTERNAL SECURITY and NATIONAL DEFENSE
The deterioration of the capacities needed to comply with the provisions of Defense Law No. 23,554 is the product of excessive debate, defense policies that oriented the limited capabilities to secondary functions, a poor reading of international reality, and disinterest political by allocating the necessary resources to comply with what the Law provides. Under the argument by which “the defense does not give votes”, a virtual state of the inaction of the past administrations has been justified. However, nothing is further from reality: the military vote matters, as shown by the Antarctic “thermometer” where Macri obtained 60% of the votes.
In the intelligentsia there are those who defend this situation of budgetary starvation and extension “ad eternun” of the debate protected by an immovable consensus built in the late eighties of the twentieth century, maintaining an unproductive status quo anchored in the past with a static photo, following the principle of not innovating.
That situation reveals two issues:
A) The first is that they do not trust in the political construction achieved in terms of civilian control of the Armed Forces, fearing that new functions will weaken it.
B) The second is that they are not willing to change their view of the condition of the military in the Argentine Republic, they are not a priority for public policy.
Proposal for the defenders of the status quo: if instead of discussing the Law, we eliminate the regulatory decree 727/2006 (read http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/…/115000-1…/116997/norma.htm) and we replace it with one that maintains the spirit of the Law, but that adapts to the international needs of the country in a multipolar world, we can move on to discuss functional defense policies with Argentina for the next 30 years where external pressures are going to increase over the country. Not to do so is to mortgage the wealth and welfare of the generation of Argentines that are being born today.
For this we have to remove the mentality of “recovered factories” that came to the military world from the Ministry of Defense under the “progressive” construct of the consensus intellectuals who proposed the “recovered capabilities” approach, but they never recovered functionality in the military plane, but skillfully disguised as development and defense.
THE POLICY AND THE NATIONAL DEFENSE
The current military situation gives us a unique opportunity in terms of public policy. When there is little and nothing to recover, the political leadership has the chance to build capacities and discuss their functions according to the strategic needs of the country from the end of the first half of the 21st century. In this sense, the 2030 defense begins in 2018.
There are two powerful reasons to do so from a political point of view.
A) First, this topic is a vacant space for those who decide to “do what needs to be done”. Whoever does it will ensure a legacy that will not go unnoticed. However, if the long term is not very attractive, the perspective of military professionalization and modernization can result in an interesting appeal when defining the suffrage within that broad group of citizens known as the “military vote”, which it is not captive, and it coincides with a political configuration of the country that represents a greater modernity, together with the middle sectors of society.
B) Second, every politician faces the possibility of being Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces: and as such has the responsibility of keeping our country and its interests safe in the immediate and in the future. Not allocating the necessary resources to fulfil the main mission is at some point with its performance as such and the duties that are established in the Constitution, including the one that indicates the obligation to “provide for the common defense” for us and our posterity. Subcontracting the protection of the airspace to another state actor as it may happen with the event of the G-20, even if it is a friendly State and wants to present it as a successful cooperation, reveals the absence of capacities and vulnerabilities that are unacceptable for a country of the dimensions of Argentina.
But what is the problem?. Politics has for many years been looking at the military issue as an annoying area, full of potential problems, which also almost always generate a hostile response in society. In particular, it never gives political revenue to deal with military affairs; the urgency is always covered by the needs of the present, and those of the FF. AA. are pending before the first emergency. Always arise and win the complex problems of today, whether inflation, be it citizen security or retirees, be it transportation or tariffs or any other item on the daily agenda, which end up prioritizing the issues to be addressed in the medium or long term. It is not necessary to be an expert to understand that defense is a vital issue for the Republic: this is stated in the Preamble of our Constitution and very clearly specified in the respective law.
ARGENTINA IN THE FUTURE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
In the immediate future, due to our geographical position and good neighborly relations, we do not have an external interstate threat that affects us directly, although we have accepted a certain degree of territorial reduction in the face of the occupation of our territorial space in the South Atlantic, even though We declaim our inalienable rights in all available forums, but we lack the capacity to defend them. If that is the current picture, the one that is configured in the future may be even worse.
At the end of the first half of this century, Argentina will face at least five complex defense issues.
1) The interstate territorial repositioning in relation to Antarctica and the resources present there.
2) The ability to nullify the infrastructure considered strategic through the use of cyberspace.
3) The effects of climate change on the national territory and on other actors, which can lead to territorial redistributions unthinkable at the time, and an eventual increase in international tensions.
4) The weight of urban scenarios in stabilization and peacekeeping missions.
5) A conflagration in the RIMPAC with military consequences on the country as a result of the existence of dual infrastructure part of the military missile complex of a foreign power (China).
These scenarios can be fully present in just three presidential terms.
NATIONAL INTEGRAL DEFENSE
In the short term, we need to do institutional re-engineering in order to have a military instrument that fulfils the main function in the long term. With the northern flank covered, relatively stable territorially and without expecting any aggression in the south, part of the existing human capacity in the Army could be transferred to the Gendarmerie in order to fulfil the mission that concerns a significant portion of the country while protecting their border and territorial integrity. Currently, this force is the first line of defense in our country. In a sense, gendarmes see “more action” than any current military unit. How much more secure would our borders be if we passed part of the 42,000 men of the Argentine Army to a force of 18,000 that needs reinforcements, not recruits? Discussing this is a bit more operational than the well-known division between security and defense.
Now, the remaining components must be trained in two central functions:
A) The first defense of the territory under extremely adverse climatic conditions providing them with the necessary capacities to perform adequately.
B) Second, it is necessary to prepare the different components of the special operations forces for multiple scenarios, among them to deal with situations where interests or con-nationals may be affected overseas and keep in mind that we are once again contributing to peace operations. They will be developed in densely populated urban environments, as the United Nations reports indicate. Urban dynamics should be a focus of our future ground force.
Immediately the country is literally open on two fronts: the sea and the air.
Both spaces, together with the outer space, are central to the future functionality of the country. There it would have to generate what is called anti-access ability and area denial. Knowing who flies over us (radars), having some interdiction capacity when hostile irruptions appear, fully complying with the logistics of broad-spectrum tasks such as natural disasters that will require the recomposition of transport aviation, and the capacity of heavy helicopters, which will allow mobilizing resources from one point to another in the country is a priority. This should be built in a staggered manner, but with the aim of closing the vulnerability gaps that are shaping the interests of the country. the denial of maritime space, both on the surface and underwater, is vital and the Navy must protect the lines of naval communication and defend territorial integrity at a distance, maintaining connectivity with the Isla Grande of Tierra del Fuego and with our bases in Antarctica. 10 years without Admiral Irizar demonstrated to the opposing wills that we have no real interest in retaining our Antarctic sovereignty, it is a convenient situation to reverse.
Finally, an effective cybercommand is needed that can conduct operations both of intrusion into systems of potential opponents and defend oneself from those who want to affect ours. Cyber defense will be another component of cybersecurity in the country. In the immediate term, we must study how we will connect our weapons systems in order to start preparing for the so-called “multidomain battle”.
There is a lot to do in this field. The decisions we make today in this public policy will help to safeguard the well-being and security of Argentines in the coming years. Failure to discuss the obvious has become a necessity for a country with scarce resources, but with broad responsibilities such as those listed.
THE ESSENTIAL DISCUSSION
The degree of defenselessness we have reached is unprecedented among the important countries of the world, and Argentina is, as it occupies the eighth largest territorial space on the planet with 2.8 million km2, to which are added almost 1 million of the Antarctic sector and 3.8 million of its maritime spaces. No one is oblivious to the assignment of responsibilities to this situation that we have reached. With the advent of democracy there was an important effort to dismantle the military power, weaken its incidence in public affairs, and for this, several efficient measures were carried out, such as the dismantling of the military industry, the abrupt fall of wages, the adjustment and closing of units and, most importantly, a social exhaustion that affects the mood for decades and, in many cases, the permanence of the cadres within the FF. AA. Unlike other countries in the region, 35 years after the return of the welcome democracy, these preventions are still present, and many leaders have echoed them for decades in their relationship with this fundamental sector of the Republic. Many times, from the ideological and from the political convenience, the discourse, the pressure and the apathy were maintained, and nothing was done to achieve a preparatory action. The military became accustomed, in some way, to be second-class citizens, unable to act, to give their opinion and to have the minimum resources necessary to fulfil their specific missions. This state of affairs was maintained for years, which generated a constant internal tension, which, although it has been partially overcome, keeps the military structures on alert, waiting for serious and definitive answers to their problems.
From the widespread erosion of the available means and the absence of logistical systems for adequate maintenance, it is not necessary only a minimum look to pity those who must manage these devastated resources. Much of the materials, weapons and vehicles of the Army and the Air Force date from the Second World War or were developed in the 50s. If they manage to maintain them, it is due to the skill and hard work of great professionals, but their obsolescence is known by all. The Navy had a better luck since after the Malvinas conflict it had a major renovation, but it has 30 years of very low levels of maintenance and operability and poor and ineffective training. We should all be honest and ask ourselves if having these obsolete elements really serves to protect our Nation. We could also ask ourselves if, in the case of a child’s illness, we would be willing to use the elements of surgery and pharmacology of 80 years ago. That single comparison would give us an answer.
As if this were not enough, the human factor is the most delicate and complex to recover. The military has not achieved minimum professional integration by the standards of the countries of the region. The FF. AA. They have made enormous efforts to join the role that corresponds to them in democracy, but they maintain the stigma of vast social sectors, product of the devastating decade of the 70, that even today, 36 years later, is a pending account to be debated before any action develop. The gradual and constant loss of the FF cadres. AA., Many of them demoralized by the absence of means to train and by the minimum social consideration, to which the lowest salaries of all the administration are added, has taken to the sector to a state of decay seldom seen. We can consider, as an example, that there is not anywhere in America that accepts even the idea of “double employment”, almost common in the Armed Forces. in Argentina, which allows us to see how far the seriousness of the situation arose. It could be added to this pessimistic diagnosis that we lack reserves, essential to any conflict and that the basic conditions must still be created to be able to join the FF. AA. in an effective joint action, a topic that was discussed more than 30 years ago, but which requires more than energy and voluntarism to be put into practice.
While we are going through these decades with the situation posed, many brainy intellectuals and prominent progressives pose, from the naivete or from the fallacious discourse, the question about the need to have or not FF. AA. through disquisitions that stir the past and leave in the hands of magic and luck the future that as a country we will bequeath to the generations to come. In this regard, it is common to mention Costa Rica and some other country that suppressed its FF. AA. to ramble on such a delicate issue for a country like Argentina that, because of its size and wealth, can not conceive of a serious development without an appropriate security stage that ensures it. One might then wonder why the vast majority of countries in the world have FF. AA. We could ask, more precisely, why Canada has FF. AA. efficient and equipped, being allied and sharing a border with EE. UU Everything would indicate that it could well rest in the country with the largest budget in defense of the world since any conflict that affected Canada would involve the American backs. Surely it applies here that your friends help you and accompany you but “only to the cemetery door” and, if necessary, “do not bury yourself with you”. To continue discussing these truisms of Perogrullo is sad, but unfortunately, they are not absent from the national collective unconscious.
What to do? How to solve a crisis that is no longer such, but has become a “state of affairs” that goes through many decades? How to recompose a sector that is essential in the medium and long-term, but that inevitably requires acting well today if we want to ensure that it will continue to be a valid instrument in the future?
Nobody in their right mind could think that it is impossible that within 15 or 20 years Argentina is involved in a conflict. It is the great debt of the now, while we are consumed by the vicissitudes of the intense daily life of our country. We live in a world that grows demographically and that requires more water, more food, more energy and more unoccupied space. It seems that our territory is, in fact, an attractive destination for international needs. We must remember that at some time in the past there were leaders who spoke of “absence of conflict hypothesis” invites us to think of a suicidal autism that may involve the destiny of our future generations.
The responsibility of the State is evident and inescapable. We Argentines have travelled the exact opposite way to the many achievements we knew in the past. A little more than a century ago, we disputed the hegemony of all America; today the defense budget of Argentina is of 2900 million dollars and that represents 0.45% of the budget of EE. UU (639,100 million dollars). Fifty years ago, we looked with disdain at the Brazilian systems that today aim to be a world power, and whose defense system is progressing day by day in a hegemonic effort that exceeds the continent itself.
In the decisions to come there should be no half measures and, before the eminent series of measures to be adopted after the crisis of the ARA San Juan, there are expectations and hopes of returning to an essential path for the Nation. The military subordinates wait for the answers that were absent for decades to arrive. Paraphrasing in some way the old saying: “The defense is too important to leave it in the hands of the uninformed”, it is then the time of politics, a serious and responsible response. Go a strong recognition to the FF. AA. and its commanders, who work as they can, silently, in a constant temporal endemic deficiency. There are also some heartfelt prayers for the sailors lost on the high seas and a deep desire that I hope they are the last martyrs of this unfortunate situation. May the Republic hopefully recover real control of its skies, sea and land, before it is definitely late.