Brazil National Security Toward the Future
As Brazil looks toward the future, it will have to adjust its national
security policies to new international and domestic conditions.
In the international arena, Brazil probably will continue its integration
with nations in the Southern Cone of South America (especially Argentina,
Paraguay, and Uruguay) and the rest of the continent, creating new
linkages and reducing any perception of external threat. At the
same time, there is increasing demand for Brazil's participation
in operations other than war, such as peacekeeping. Although Brazil
has resisted major involvement in such operations, the country's
desire for greater recognition by the international community (for
example, a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations) may
force it to be even more fully involved.
Democratic rule in Brazil is being consolidated. The return of
the armed forces to the barracks did not eliminate them from the
decision-making process, but they were forced increasingly to share
power with civilians. Unlike their counterparts in Argentina, the
armed forces retained some of their prerogatives. And yet, as Alfred
Stepan concludes: "It is clear that the attraction of military
rule--its presumed stability, unity, and fixity of purpose--has
been largely illusory. Even more importantly, the difficulties encountered
by the highly professional army in Brazil, with its technocratic
civilian allies, illustrate that there can be no apolitical solution
to the problems of political development."
Major issues concerning Brazil's national security include the
revision of the constitution, the role of intelligence, protection
of the Amazon, and an increasing number of actors in the national
security arena. There is a debate over whether a revised constitution
should give the military responsibility for both external and internal
defense, as was granted in the 1988 constitution. Weak political
institutions in Brazil have created a vacuum in which the armed
forces continue to play a somewhat influential political role. Although
the military has resisted greater involvement in civic-action and
counterdrug activities, it may have little choice but to increase
its involvement in some of these areas. The military's dominant
role in national security (especially in the nuclear, space development,
and arms industries) may be eclipsed by an expanding roster of actors.
It remains to be seen how the military will respond to its displacement
by civilian actors in the political system.
The neoliberal economic model introduced by Fernando Henrique Cardoso
poses major challenges for those involved with national security
issues in Brazil. The economic model imposes severe financial constraints
on all state-related sectors, including the security forces, and
calls into question the size, roles, and missions of the armed forces.
By late 1995, the armed forces had managed to curb any further erosion
in defense expenditures, suggesting that the impact of the neoliberal
economic model on the military would not be as severe as in Argentina.
The economic model, with its emphasis on privatization, reduces
state support for defense and other industries previously considered
"strategic." The privatization of Embraer, for example,
symbolized a new era of reduced state support for defense-related
Although the neoliberal economic model has reduced the means for
security in Brazil, the demand for security has not necessarily
declined. On the external front, as seen above, participation in
peacekeeping continues to strain resources. On the internal front,
growing criminality, increased drug trafficking, and similar problems
also strain the security apparatus. In conclusion, the need to balance
means and ends in the security arena, at a time of major international
and domestic changes, will challenge Brazilian policy-makers into
the twenty-first century.
* * *
The rich literature on the Brazilian military is exemplified by
Alfred C. Stepan's classic, The Military in Politics , and his Rethinking
Military Politics . Thomas E. Skidmore provides a thorough review
of the military regime in The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil,
1964-85 . See also his Politics in Brazil, 1930-64 . Stanley E.
Hilton's works include "The Brazilian Military: Changing Strategic
Perceptions and the Question of Mission" in the journal Armed
Forces and Society . David V. Fleischer contributes excellent sections
on the Brazilian military in The Latin American Military Institution,
e dited by Robert Wesson. Wendy Ann Hunter provides sophisticated
analysis of the Brazilian military since 1985 in her doctoral dissertation,
"Back to the Barracks? The Military in Post-Authoritarian Brazil."
Comprehensive coverage of the subject of defense in Brazil is contained
in Adrian J. English's two books, The Armed Forces of Latin America
and Regional Defence Profile: Latin America , both now somewhat
dated. For a study of Brazil's defense industry from an economist's
perspective, see Patrice Franko-Jones, The Brazilian Defense Industry
. In the field of geostrategy, good and concise coverage is provided
by Robert J. Branco's The United States and Brazil: Opening a New
Dialogue , which takes a political-economic point of view, and by
Orlando Bonturi's Brazil and the Vital South Atlantic , which deals
mainly with Brazil's geostrategic importance.
From an historian's perspective, an overview of Brazilian military
history from colonial times to the mid-1980s is Robert Ames Hayes's
The Armed Nation . Frank D. McCann's The Brazilian-American Alliance:
1937-1945 analyzes an important period in Brazil-United States military
relations, including Brazil's participation in the Italian campaign
of World War II. Hernani Donato's Dicionário das batalhas
brasileiras provides a good synoptic outline of Brazilian military
history, from the colonial period until World War II.
In the case of the individual armed forces, the history of the
navy is better documented than that of the army and air force, thanks
to the indefatigable efforts of the navy's own Historical Section.
Apart from the navy's publications, Arthur Oscar Saldanha da Gama's
two books on the Brazilian Navy in the two world wars provide excellent
coverage not only of this aspect of the subject but also of the
period immediately preceding each conflict. The public relations
departments of the army and the navy publish monthly newsletters
(O Verde Oliva and No Mar , respectively) on their respective forces,
and these can be useful sources of up-to-date information on current
developments. Informative dissertations done in the early 1990s
include Scott D. Tollefson's "Brazilian Arms Transfers, Ballistic
Missiles, and Foreign Policy" and Jorge Zaverucha's "Civil-Military
Relations During the Process of Transition."
Deoclecito Lima de Siqueira's Fronteiras: A patrulha aérea
e o adeus do arco e flecha , although dealing ostensibly only with
the maritime patrol and antisubmarine warfare activities of the
Brazilian Air Force during World War II, merits attention for the
light it throws on the early development of Brazilian military aviation,
the impact of United States military assistance, and the important
role played by the Brazilian Navy and Air Force in the latter stages
of the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II.
Useful magazines include Tecnologia e Defesa and Flap , which deal
with general defense and aviation subjects on a bimonthly and monthly
basis, respectively. Security and defense issues are discussed in
Segurança e Defesa . The best sources of up-to-date and relatively
objective information on Brazilian defense are the Spanish monthly
magazine Defensa and the two German-published Spanish-language magazines
Tecnologia Militar and Iberoamericana de Tecnologias . (For further
information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of April 1997