Week 11 Reflections

One of the most interesting aspects of this weeks reading/video was the notion of “terrors” being a conflict between a terror state and a terrorist group. These conditions galvanized one another, with state military groups acting in a brutal and repressive manner due to the percieved threat of the terror group. This threat could find itself inflated and exaggerated in the media to great effect: in an authoritarian state, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the state, and can thius depict a one sided battle, a just cause for brutality.
This worked in the opposite direction as well: state respression often had the effect of creating sympathy for guerilla movements. Already, an ugly picture is being painted, violence compounding violence, with civil liberties and stability eroding in the name of security and revolution respectively. Making the issue worse was the ongoing cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States. Access to large amounts of arms, and training (for example, Contras being given training and logistical support by the CIA), furthered the brutality of these conflicts.
The shift away from democratic institutions in Latin America was a wave that had covered most of the region by 1980. Revolutionary movements around the world and within were marked as a serious threat to internal stability. This created an environment of fear, which helped give rise to numerous authoritarian regimes around Latin America, but also helped to justify the radical increase in United States military expenditure in Latin America, which largely served as fuel for various conflicts. One question, or maybe speculation, that I could offer: what was the role, if any, of the military industrial complex in Latin America? Or the continuation of the cold war as a whole?
When I think about the amount of munitions and arms that go into these conflicts, it is definitely worth considering who is profiting from that. In the Iran-Contra scandal, the US government sold arms to Iran, making a significant profit which was funneled to the Contras, which, in all likelihood, would in turn be spent on more arms and munitions. War profiteering has been around as long as war, but in the post-WWII world, we’ve seen this industry expand exponentially. A statistic that I think illustrates this quite jarringly is the fact that eight bombs were dropped every minute during the US-Vietnam war (1964-1973), more than the entire number of bombs dropped in WWII. This was done despite the fact that massive civilian casualties and detrimental ecological impact were a direct result. To this day, there are millions of un-exploded arms that continue to cause harm throughout SE Asia. Some people made a lot of money because of that, and it’s worth taking that into consideration when we consider the brutality of the Terrors in Latin America.

8 thoughts on “Week 11 Reflections

    1. ConnorMcCabe Post author

      Those are both good questions, however they’re also both difficult to answer. Are there terror states today? I’d say yes, power has definitely proven itself to be a corrupting influence in our world, and violence has proven itself to be an effective means of maintaining that power (at least for a little while). If we look at a country like Zimbabwe which, until a coup two days ago, had been ruled by Robert Mugabe for 40 years, we can find most of the symptoms of a terror state. His government came to power after defeating the white minority government of Rhodesia, and basically served with an iron fist for decades. We could also look at somewhere like Indonesia, which, although not a terror state in the traditional sense, if one lived in East Timor, or West New Guinea, it would probably feel like living under a terror state.
      If it’s repression, and impunity for those who carry out said repression that makes up a terror state, then unfortunately I think our world today continues to be rife with examples. To answer your second question, we could look at somewhere like the Amazon. The current president of Brazil, Michel Temer. has signed legislation that denies Indigenous people the rights to their land, opting instead to allow it to be used for mining and logging (eerily similar to pre-revolution Mexico). This has, unsurprisingly, led to a significant amount of violence against Indigenous peoples, as well as environmental activists.

  1. Matilda

    I like your point about who profits from these terror wars. Certainly not the guerrillas who were unable to successfully gain power and enact the changes they wanted, nor the authoritarian figures who rose up during this time as their stories tended to end in an unsatisfying way (for them). As you said, these wars were funded by both Russia and the US, but they were also locked in a seemingly perpetual checkmate in their own war. So who did really profit from the terror wars?

  2. Ximena

    I liked reading your post. I agree that terrorism came from the state and the guerrillas however I don’t believe guerrillas gain sympathy. It is true that because the violence comes from both fronts it is easier to antagonize the government thus the citizens do not have sympathy they have to fight in two fronts.

  3. Lauren Hart

    Hey Conner, great point about the media inflating threats, especially in an authoritarian regime. This is a classic way that a state gains control, and I think that it happens even outside of authoritarian regimes. A lot of the time the media does more to legitimize the state than to question it. Your point about war profiteering was also really interesting and depressing — especially about the Vietnam War!

  4. ruze guvenc

    Really great analysis of how terror functions and can be used to reach a desired outcome or profit! I completely agree that powerful nations such as the US have learned to capitalize on the terror in more vulnerable nations, and in many cases have be a catalyst to increase terror in the regions.

  5. silas latchem

    Hey! Great post. I really like you question on the role of the military industrial complex in Latin America. I wonder if the whole situation could have persisted without outside action- ie if you removed foreign interests from Latin America would the internal conflicts have sustained themselves?

  6. michelle marin

    I found it insightful how you linked ‘terror’ with both the terrorist groups and the terror state. I also find it sad that it seems that “fighting fire with fire” is a common occurrence in Latin America. Unfortunately, terror versus terror leads to a lot of casualties and suffering.


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