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Brazil Part 1: Do You Know What CIOpPaz Is?

This week we have two posts, one on Brazil--the country--and another one on Brazil--the Terry Gilliam movie. They are completely unrelated, except that both posts have the word “Brazil” in the title.

To the question of the day: I’ll be honest, before I read this Economist article about Brazil’s peacekeeping mission last September, I hadn’t heard of CIOpPaz. That’s a shame because more officers in the U.S. Army should know what it is.

Opened in 2005, the Centro de Instrucao de Operacoes de Paz, Brazil’s “peacekeeping school”, teaches its officers to conduct Chapter Six (Peacekeeping) UN missions around the globe (different from “peace enforcement” or Chapter Seven missions that Brazil tends to avoid). This schools institutionalizes the Brazilian philosophy of overseas intervention, which leads to some of the crazy ideas the school either teaches or helps to reinforce. Consider these quotes I pulled from the article:

“Brazil’s elite thinks peacekeeping is part of the price you have to pay to be among the nations who make the rules.”

“We’ve shifted from teaching purely military aspects to teaching how to align military and civilian goals.”

“There may be some synergy between peacekeeping and security in favelas (slums).”

“”Brazil’s peacekeepers conduct joint exercises with police in favelas, while the director of Viva Rio, an NOG that works in some of Rio de Janerio’s toughest slums, teaches at CIOpPaz.”

I agree with all those ideas about military force. I also agree with their international outlook, a view that subtly clashes with American ideas about using force. It seems like Americans have been wary of peace enforcement since Somalia.

Brazil, on the other hand, embraces peacekeeping. It took over the 13,000 strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti mission in 2004. It opened CIOpPaz because since 1949, it has participated in half of the UN-supported peacekeeping missions. As an added benefit, their military has learned to help in Brazil’s amazingly violent favelas. Thus Brazil has subtly created an international profile as one of benevolence, not war-mongering.

So what does this mean for the United States? First, the United States just doesn’t have a school like this, and we need one. (I don’t count the School of the Americas.) Second, as I wrote before, the U.S. military should embrace peacekeeping missions. By definition a peacekeeping mission requires the consent of the nation the peacekeepers go to. Instead of disdaining these missions, the U.S. should embrace them, and go even further by not charging the U.N. for our services. This way we could still partner with countries like Brazil or Pakistan--that need the U.N. money for peacekeepers--but still have a good presence.

As I said when I wrote this before, I’m not optimistic that the U.S. will ever embrace an expansive foreign policy that tries to prevent global conflict, instead of just reacting to it.

eight comments

Yeah, this just makes me sad and angry. Sigh.

I stumbled across this article on the New Yorker’s website the other day and it got me thinking about the morality of intervention in global conflicts, both from a humanitarian and from a peacekeeping perspective (which to my mind are intertwined in many ways). I certainly still feel that intervention in regional conflicts by outside powers such as the UN is morally justified and indeed necessary when acts of genocide and the like are occurring, but I admit that a reasonable argument to the contrary can be made. I’d be interested to hear your take, Michael, since you appear to support the idea of preventative intervention at least.

I definitely see a role for humanitarian intervention. My main argument on. This site, though is that intervention is a tool of last resort. It’s also an attitude thing, we shouldn’t fight wars or intervene to stay safe in the moment. We should intervene to make things better in the long run.

“instead of just reacting to it.”

Or starting it.

Another interesting Brazilian thing right now is UPP, Pacifying Police Unit. It’s their current effort in regaining control of the favela’s. They go in with BOPE, their elite police force, to clear the favela and then under the command of BOPE they establish a local police and try to introduce basic services and needs as the bandits controlled almost every facet of life before. I got the chance to talk to the BOPE PR Officer a bit asking him whether or not he thought the approach is similar to COIN. I don’t remember exactly what he replied then, my recording was cut off.

Still Brazilian methods and policy are very interesting. They come from a century old tradition of non-interventionism, but still have a lot of external and internal problems they need to deal with.

@Jan- Obviously, Brazil is far from perfect. I just read an article in Fortune about the rampant corruption there, like in all of the BRIC. But they have some intriguing ideas we could embrace, and we haven’t done it.

@Gajinass- An earlier version of the post had more mocking language concerning past U.S. interventions, but we toned it down. Obviously the elephant in the American foreign policy room is Iraq, the most clear “war of choice” since the Spanish-American war. Whether or not we won, whether or not the surge worked, and for what reasons, Iraq was an incredibly costly venture with unclear benefits to America’s long term aims in the world.

There is a balance the US must reach. On Monday, the Daily Show featured a young woman, Gigi Ibrahim, who participated in the recent protests in Egypt. It was her opinion, and by extension suggested the opinion of many in the region, that America’s foreign policy represents self interest. My immediate reaction was to think that that’s exactly what foreign policy is; representing one’s nation internationally. The problem is not that we represent our own interests, more that we represent our interests in the short term. We are reactionary as Michael stated, often imposing rather than working in cooperation.

Matt the problem is the difference between our professed values and our self-interest. Our values are universal, our personal security and our financial gain, are self-interest. I think most people around the world just believe our values are trending in the wrong way.