The aftermath of September 11 brought attention to the general disarray in U.S. security arrangements in the western hemisphere, especially when Brazil and Mexico took diametrically opposed positions on the Rio Treaty, a collective-defense relic of the Cold War. Mexico unilaterally rejected it, whereas Brazil invoked it as a measure of solidarity with the United States. But in reality the treaty provides no effective avenue for military cooperation. The United States has no single military command that encompasses the Americas, only bilateral military arrangements with Mexico and Canada, relationships sustained with other Latin American governments by the U.S. Southern Command, and periodic meetings with regional defense chiefs.
Nunez, who teaches at the U.S. Army War College, proposes a radical rethinking of the hemispheric security architecture, this time under the auspices of the Organization of American States. The emergence of democratic states in the region and increasing economic integration make this an opportune moment, he argues. He sees as threats not traditional interstate wars but new transnational challenges such as natural disasters, insurgencies, drugs, and poverty. Given the enormous psychological constraints on cooperation, Nunez argues for a "soft power" framework that builds on U.S. exercise of restraint and support of confidence-building measures among its potential partners. The latter is especially important for countries such as Mexico, where there is great internal opposition within the military to greater cooperation, despite the country's new international assertiveness. He also calls for creating standing multinational units in both North and South America, looking back to the first special service force, the famous U.S.-Canadian "Devils Brigade" formed in 1942, as a model. With these steps, the United States can take the lead in expanding security cooperation in the hemisphere through a new multilateral framework acceptable to all. Political and military opposition to these ideas will be strong, and not only in Latin America. But this debate needs to begin, and Nunez has provided a provocative start.