I hope this article finds you well. I am happy to have the opportunity to connect with you through my new blog in the media outlet Newsmax. For those of you who do not know my writing through other publications, I am the research professor for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, with the responsibility to research, write, and support U.S. Army and government thinking about security issues in the region. As part of that responsibility, I write on the efforts of the militaries and other institutions of our partners in the region, to combat challenges such as transnational crime and illicit networks. I also write about how the strategic environment of the region is impacted (both positively and negatively) by the activities of extra-hemispheric actors, including China, India, Japan, and Korea in Asia, and others who have traditionally challenged U.S. interests in the region, such as Russia and Iran.
For me, this new blog through Newsmax provides a welcome opportunity to write short, focused pieces for a broad audience. I do so as an academic with a deep love for the region, including both its strengths and imperfections. I write with great respect for the military officers, businessmen, academics and other friends and colleagues I have come to know working on the region over my career. Yet I also write unapologetically from the perspective of the United States, which I believe includes a strong interest in a prosperous, well-governed democratic Latin America and the Caribbean, characterized by rule of law, respect for contracts and property, a strong moral center, and protection of diversity and dignity of the person.
For those of you who, like I, were born and raised in the U.S., and particularly those serving in our military and our national security community more broadly, my principal goal through this blog is to advance our understanding, and strategic thinking regarding the hemisphere that we share. In the process, I also seek to advance our attention to the importance of the region to U.S. security and prosperity, arising from the intimate connection of the U.S. to Latin America and the Caribbean through bonds of geography, commerce, and family. In no other part of the world does what happens so strongly and immediately impact the U.S. as conditions of our neighbors to the south.
In a positive sense, such interdependence allows free trade and flows of financial, intellectual and human capital to contribute powerfully to U.S. prosperity, and that of the region.
Yet interdependence also means that challenges of corruption, insecurity, and weak governance in the region, adversely impact neighbors, including the U.S., through permitting spaces in which transnational criminal organizations, terrorists, and other illicit networks can grow, ultimately burdening and contaminating their neighbors through flows of refugees, capital, drugs, and other illicit goods. In our interdependent world, the U.S. cannot wall itself off from such maladies.
In my work, some of my strongest words are directed at the opportunistic populists who would secure power and wealth by exploiting the frustrations of the marginalized with the failures of their governments to provide security, justice and economic opportunity. Without mentioning Venezuela, strategic thinking dictates that the U.S. cannot turn a blind eye to the rise of such leaders or the extra-hemispheric actors whose presence in the region they facilitate. Yet the U.S. must also make the self-interested investments in prosperity and good governance that best inoculate societies from such malevolence.
For those to whom this blog reaches in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in other parts of the world, it is my hope that the information and thoughts conveyed here, in some way, enriches and complexifies the way you see the United States. I have heard the perception of friends in the region that we gringos are cold and dispassionate, and that our country is consumed by materialism and bereft of family values. As with most things, the reality is more complex.
I have found life to be an unpredictable journey in which some of the greatest riches are the people you meet along the way, and the friends and colleagues you hold onto over the years. I appreciate the opportunity to include you as part of that journey.
Dr. Evan Ellis is Senior Non-Resident Fellow at CSIS, and Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. His work focuses on security and defense issues, including transnational organized crime, populism, and the region’s relationships with China and other non-Western Hemisphere actors. Dr. Ellis has published over 180 works, including three books, and has presented his work in 26 countries across four continents. He has testified on multiple occasions regarding Latin America and the Caribbean before the U.S. Congress, and his work regularly appears in the media in both the U.S. and the region. Through his work, Dr. Ellis calls attention to the strategic importance of Latin America and the Caribbean for the United States through bonds of geography, commerce, and family, and how the prosperity and security of the U.S. are tied to that of its partners in the region. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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