AN ARGUMENT FOR QUALITY AND APPROPRIATE

QUANTITY OF ASSISTANCE FOR FOREIGN ANTI-DRUG FORCES

 

FORWARD

United States military equipment, training, and intelligence sharing, has been generally predicated on imperfect reasoning going back to Vietnam; however, most recently it is reflected in our support of El Salvador between '82-'91. Then, the general premise was to "dump" appropriate levels of outdated military supplies, give only semi-sophisticated military education, and limit intelligence to our allies. Clearly, as America heads dangerously into the 21st Century, we need to reassess this flawed policy.

DISCUSSION

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, the world has seen an increase in conflict. Approximately 67 conflicts were recorded by the National Defense Council Foundation multi-source count in 1997 alone. Most were "Multiple Regional Conflicts"(MRC's) or Low Intensity Conflicts(LIC's). Ironically, hundreds of millions of lives are affected in socio-economic, political, and security ways because of this turmoil. In turn, this impacts on America's ability to conduct our business in the 190 plus community of nations. Our own demographics, business interests, and security dictate that we engage proactively in world affairs. Now, as America is temporarily the clear leader, we must support a network of entities throughout the planet for dual purposes, i.e. to keep America moving forward, and to pull more nations with us in accomplishing democratic and "light-side" capitalistic objectives (Light-side capitalism is capitalism which is legal, has positive effects on communities and individuals, enhances democratic institutions, is non-monopolistic, and provides hope and security. This, vs. "dark side" capitalism, which is illegal, narcissistic, anti-democratic, dictatorial, and designed for immediate use. This bifurcation of Capitalism is necessary to define problems specifically related to Narco activities.)

Clearly, America has several tools in doing this. For instance, leading by example in all facets of our own conduct is one. Exacting direct and indirect pressure is another (high-lighting Human Rights concerns). Offering assistance is yet a further option. To stay in a preeminent leadership position world-wide, we must maximize our ability to do all simultaneously, in the best way possible.

In regard to the latter option, offering assistance is the least expensive means to further future goals. America should update its system on how one should assist. During the Cold War, our allies were for the most part sub-divided into categories by their abilities to read/write, speak English and flourish within our organizational structure. The less they could do this, the more inferior equipment and training they received. Attempts were made to "up-grade" certain elements, however, generally speaking, everything was "dumbed down" to push people through courses. This or, they were provided equipment "an ape could handle". When circumstances warranted it, we would provide contractors (some from companies from which the equipment came, or some from independent companies). The classic case here is the Vinelle Corporation that assisted the Saudis, who were not detail oriented, a U.S. company which has since been used extensively in other places.

In the 80's, particularly with our Spanish-speaking allies, there was a trend to train foreign military students in a more user friendly way. Texts, instruction, and demonstration were conducted in native languages while more and better computers fueled the quality of learning. This was particularly stressed in Aviation, Special Operation and Intelligence fields. Now, with a more erudite allied constituency, their appetite for more sophisticated equipment insued as they mastered the obsolete items that they had been provided. In the case of wealthy or politically powerful countries, limited lending, conditional sale, or sale of "stripped down" advanced models was extended. However, in this time frame, caution was the operative word. This, as to not aggravate certain balance of power issues and in some cases start accelerated arms races. Again, most of this was in a "bi-polar" context of the Soviet Union versus the US in a pre-1991 setting.

In 1998 conditions have changed across the board. This has impacted on a host of decisions and approaches to our nation's security. One question is, what is an allies' real-priority for support? Then how to configure our network with them to insure mutual safety and future stability? What level of quality and quantity to provide? How to support it appropriately, and could the ally support our support? In that regard, a more current definition will lead to every limited U.S. dollar spent having meaning to America's security and future prosperity.

Having discussed this, the current situations of support are mostly convoluted, haphazard, and without clear priority. Some make sense, like helping Israel and select Middle Eastern countries in a delicate "balance of power" scenario to contain rogue elements and insure trade. However, some situations of support like in Africa, Bosnia, and Asia have incomplete rationale mainly shaped by CNN or politics. This, while neglecting our own backyard/neighbors, i.e. our own hemisphere.

SPECIFICS

In the case of aid to Colombia for anti-drug activities, a central theme emerges that reflects America's lack of resolve and thoughtfulness...that being the key issue of mobility support essential to reducing conflict. It centers around the choice of helicopters to be provided. Clearly, the rational person/authority on our side should be demanding first-line quality equipment, and at appropriate levels. However, the sad fact is that the Executive Branch (both US Department of State [DOS], Office of National Drug Control Policy [ONDCP]) and fractious groups within the Legislative Branch, have impeded these actions. This, ostensibly because either it would contribute to "human rights violations, raise violence, or is not necessary because of adequate performance of obsolete equipment."

To dissect these three main arguments is an imperative. First, a confident army or police engenders fewer, "human rights violations." Especially, one where their training, support, and even leadership has been influenced by American learned experiences in this area. The primary juxtaposing examples are El Salvador's Army & Police in 1979-83, when American influence in this area was at an all time low, and later from 1984-91, when the combined policies of the social-political, economic, and military plan shaped by both Ambassadors Dean Hinton and Thomas Pickering (which stressed human rights, economic and social-justice, and security) started working. It was "turn on the tap", but only allow the flow to grow stronger with acceptance of guidance related to said plan, but "turn on the damn tap!" The commitment and beginning of consistency was a confidence builder which was reflected in a more relatively professional army and police. Second, this "professionalization" wound up reducing both direct and collateral combat casualties and put the enemy Salvadorian FMLN guerillas in a situation whereby battlefield combat proved fruitless and was displaced by meaningful negotiation. The end result was a gradual secession of hostilities and a measure of power sharing (which is still in place 7 years later). Thirdly, the last argument is a rationalization based on lack of experience and knowledge in Low Intensity Conflicts (LIC's) by bureaucrats and politicians. The poorer the support, the longer and more costly it will take to get to a conclusion either way. The resulting consequence is more people on both sides are killed. It seems the valuable lessons on the conflict in El Salvador have been forgotten, dooming us to repeat mistakes. Furthermore, in the case of Colombia, as the conflict continues, it means more drug volume is generated by the narco-guerillas to offset their costs for the advantage as they move towards Phase 3 Narco-Guerrilla war (see appendix 6 for explanation of Phases). Later, the more "volume" coming into points like American markets means more consumer use. Then, high levels of volume become the norm, causing a quantum expansion in the cost in lives and money in both America and Colombia. Simply put, the investment of appropriate first line training, equipment, and intelligence at the front-end, means substantially reduced costs at the back-end because of a limiting of collateral damage to the respective societies, i.e. American and Colombian neighborhoods. Additionally, it will shape a compression in time, preventing the situation from being dragged out. As an example, the case of El Salvador lacked part of this equation (that being complete adherence to 1st line-support [like better helicopters, both utility and combat], which caused the war there to be drawn-out probably a year or two longer escalating costs.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Clearly, America should support the anti-drug forces of countries like Colombia as they have earned our support. The test case identified by both Congressmen Ben Gilman (R-NY) and Dan Burton (R-IN) is centered around the mobility issue. This, because the narco-guerrilla conflict over the vast expanses of Colombia, demands it. Accordingly, the poor choices offered currently (the MI-17's, UH-IH, Super Huey, and Bell 212's Helicopters) are inadequate to thwart drugs and reduce combat. Now is the perfect time to provide safer and more capable utility helicopters UH-60L models to illustrate a new philosophy in support (see appendices 1-5). This conclusion is based on NDCF's 20 fact finding missions to Colombia since 1985. Additionally, NDCF feels that 1) the CNP can support these more advanced type aircraft, 2) they have the capable pilots to fly them and 3) they have the will to employ them effectively. Among the many advantages outlined in the appendices, the most glaring is that the UH-60L's would also allow eradication of heroin at the over 8000 foot plus level in a more cost effective manner. This will help substantially in reducing this expanding threat.

After this test issue has been resolved, other type equipment, training and intelligence, which correctively "tunes" the capability and professionalism of both the Army and Police, should quickly follow. Appropriate advisory efforts should be reinstituted. Now, this does not mean we should jump in the 82nd Airborne...but have a well selected /heeled/ capped advisory effort with a very limited logistical support element. The basic parameters of the El Salvador effort are adequate in terms of the capping at 55 times 8 (440 military advisors) 100 times 8 (800 or medical personnel) and other type personnel times 8...which hypothetically compensates for the size and population of Colombia vs. El Salvador. DEA and FBI support levels should be relative to task. Keeping in mind, that underlining this whole effort should be the commitment of an assistance formula (which must be determined by Congress) like the 3/4 Economic Aid to 1/4 Military Aid that was used in the case of El Salvador. In the case of Colombia it may be the reverse, i.e., 1/4 Economic Aid to 3/4 Military aid. To not do the aforementioned, means America, the Clinton Administration, the Republican led Congress, and ourselves are not serious about reducing the drug war to a manageable level, saving lives, and preserving both Colombia's Democracy and eventually our own. To put it in James Carvillian terms, "It's about reduction stupid!" Reduction of total volume and thus, Narco influence will reduce violence and lead to a meaningful negotiated settlement. To paraphrase the late General Edward G. Lansdale's famous quote, "You have to take the cause away from the guerilla..." to achieve peace. In the case of Colombia, "You have to take away the narco money from the guerilla," additionally, for the same result. Furthermore, to quote the Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations, Congressman Benjamin Gilman, in a letter to the Director General of the Colombian National Police (dated 13 January 1998);

"It is my hope that now that the U.S. government has appropriated monies in FY 1998 to provide the CNP with three Blackhawk utility helicopters in order to wage a more effective and aggressive effort against illicit drug production, that the Colombian government will match our commitment and will provide funding through the Colombian Defense Ministry for three more Blackhawk helicopters for the DANTI. Such a gesture would be most welcomed here by the many friends of the CNP and all those other courageous and dedicated people in Colombia who are committed to fighting the scourge of illicit drugs and the adverse impact it has on your democratic society, as well as ours."

 

 

Prepared by Major F. Andy Messing, Jr. USAR (Ret.) Special Forces, Executive Director of the NDCF, who has been to 27 Conflicts World-Wide. Also assisted, researched, and edited by Ms. Stella Vesga, and reviewed by Mr. Josh Gabriel. The National Defense Council Foundation is a Defense and Foreign Affairs Think Tank established in 1978 which examines small conflicts and drug wars. The Web Site is http://www.ndcf.org .

 

 

Note: The base documents for this report are "U.S. Drug Control Policy and International Operations" (1990). Subtitled "Eradication: Narco-Guerilla Dynamics; and, The Pitfalls of Militarizing the Drug Fight." Authored by Major F. Andy Messing Jr. and Allen B. Hazlewood, Consultant....& "Drug War: The NDCF Colombia Report 1997" by Messing and Major Gilbert Macklin, USMC (ret.), Staff Director.

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