Accuracy in Media

13 years…6 councils…0 results. Witness the history and goals of the
Defense Ministerial of the Americas (DMA), as written by Eric
Farnsworth, Vice President of the Council of the Americas (COA):

In July 1995, the first Defense Ministerial of the Americas (DMA) was
held in Williamsburg, Virginia gathering civilian and military leaders
of the region together for the first time. During three days of
intensive meetings, they discussed a broad range of security issues in
an atmosphere of open dialogue and mutual confidence. The six
“Williamsburg Principles” they established have guided hemispheric
security policies since that time. These principles recognize that the
preservation of democracy is the basis for mutual security and that
armed forces must be subordinate to democratically elected leaders.

After all, history implies some type of movement, even a regressive
one. According to Colonel John Cope, however, the DMA has not
“progressed really far since 1995.”

Col. Cope is a Senior Research Fellow at the U.S. National Defense
University. On August 13, he joined Canadian Major General Doug
Langton, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western
Hemisphere, Stephen Johnson, in a panel discussion at COA. By his own
admission, Cope’s opinions of DMA stemmed from being an “interested
observer” and the “friction in the machine.”

The problem, argued Cope, is that the defense ministers from North
America are not putting their “good words into practice.” Although the
“Williamsburg Principles” are filled with “platitudes,” they lack
“practical” application. Since 1995, DMA has only accomplished two
things. First, Secretary of Defense William Perry created the Center
for Hemispheric Defense Studies. Second, DMA created a venue for the
North American leaders to meet every other year. However, as of 2008,
“no consensus” exists among the nations to implement cooperative
strategic defense measures.

Stephen Johnson took Cope to task. “The need for consensus,”
stated Johnson, “limits what [can go] into a declaration.” Membership
of DMA also makes agreement difficult because “diplomats” and
“military” personnel comprise the ranks. According to Major General
Langton, “prosperity, Democratic governments, markets, and security”
concerns DMA. Stephen Johnson emphasized “peace-keeping” as well.

The defense, security, and economic goals are intertwined, however. As
Farnsworth’s introduction stated, countries will not invest in Central
and South America if an “investment atmosphere” does not exist.
Governments and businesses must “feel safe” in order for capital to
flow through trade channels.

Less than a handful of countries in Central and South America are
investment friendly. According to Langton, this is due to an increase
in “transnational crime,” lack of “effective military[ies]”/ “defense
modernization,” and low investment in “newer technologies and
creativity.” The Western Hemisphere, therefore, needs to practice
“information-sharing” and “transparency” in order to support a
“promotion of renewed unity.” Cooperation is also difficult because
democratic ideals are at play. Simply put – more democratic nations
“will not force concrete actions from” less democratic nations.

But for Col. Cope, thirteen years of diplomatic mental masturbation has
confounded problem-solving. The number of issues the DMA has taken on
seems to have stifled progress. His solution begins with the North
American ministers “focus[ing] on one area as a test case – disaster
relief.” Multilateral cooperation on disaster relief is perfect,
according to Cope, because “disaster is the great equalizer.”
Currently, even after thirteen years, North and South America have “no
[cooperative] mechanisms to respond to disasters.” Instead, most
countries defer to the United Nations and development capital from the
World Bank (WB).

DMA will meet again in Banff, Canada, September 2-6. While
Johnson and Langton liked Cope’s suggestion, it remains to be seen
whether the 650 DMA delegates will move any closer to accomplishing its
thirteen year old goals. Col. Cope remains skeptical. In order for
September’s meeting to be successful, the diplomats must stop trying to
build cohesion from the top-down. Instead, success can and should be
reached from “a bottom-up approach.”

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