Brazilian National Security: A brief Analysis

National Security has been the ultimate discussion between states and the world superpowers. Even though extremely current, the idea that the nation-state had sovereign control not only of domestic affairs such as religion, but also of external security is not a new discussion. The modern concepts of national security arose in the 17th century during the Thirty Years War in Europe and the Civil War in England. By that time, leaders thought that peace and stability could be better served if people were not slaughtering each other over some universal principle, such as religion. It would be far better to have an international system based on the equilibrium of nation-states dedicated to the limited purposes of national sovereignty and self-defense. This idea of the nation-state is commonplace today, yet it would be wrong to assume that it is the only way to look at international security.

In this complex scenario, power was for a long time, the main instrument for regulating and keeping peace. It can best be defined as a nation’s possession of control of its sovereignty and destiny. It implies some degree of control of the extent to which outside forces can harm the country.

Frequently analysis are made about United States, France, Germany, England, Russia and other superpowers regarding National Security, but it is extremely rare to see discussions about this topic involving more “pacific” states, such as Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden or Australia. Also, the development of the nowadays diplomacy occurred first in Europe and Asia, and them were exported to the other states or colonies.

But before we start talking about National Security in Brazil, we have to define some concepts. The first is the concept of power. It can best be defined as a nation’s possession of control of its sovereignty and destiny. It implies some degree of control of the extent to which outside forces can harm the country. Hard, or largely military, power is about control, while soft power is mainly about influence—trying to persuade others, using methods short of war, to do something.

Instruments of power exists in a balance, on one side we have the use of power and on the other side the appeal to diplomatic means of persuasion on the other. Such instruments include the armed forces; law enforcement and intelligence agencies; and various governmental agencies dedicated to bilateral and public diplomacy. Variables of power include military strength, economic capacity, the will of the government and people to use power, and the degree to which it can be legitimized, either in the eyes of the people or in the eyes of other nations or international organizations.

Another term to understand properly is the military strength. This term refers to military capacity and the capabilities of the armed forces. It often is understood as a static measure of the power of a country, but in reality, military strength is a variable that is subject to all sorts of factors, including the relative strength of opponents, the degree to which it is used effectively, or whether it is even used at all.

Force is the use of a military or law enforcement capacity to achieve some objective. Using force unwisely or unsuccessfully can diminish one’s power and strength. By the same token, using it effectively can enhance power. Force is an instrument of power just as a tool or some other device would be, but unlike institutional instruments like the armed forces, its use in action is what distinguishes it from static instruments of strength like military capacity. Thus, force should be understood narrowly as an applied instrument of coercion.

Finally, there is national defense. Strictly speaking, this refers to the ability of the armed forces to defend the sovereignty of the nation and the lives of its people.

If we could briefly define National security, it is a concept that a government, along with the Congress, should protect the state and its citizens against all kind of "national" crises through a variety of power projections, such as political power, diplomacy, economic power, military might, and so on.

For most of the 20th century, national security was focused on military security, but as a concept, it expanded over time beyond what armed forces could do. Now, national security has come to mean different things to different people. Today, there are all kinds of “national securities.” They include economic security; energy security; environmental security; and even health, women’s, and food security. This proliferation of definitions has not always been for the good. In some instances, for example, it is merely a rebranding of domestic agendas. In other cases, it is adjusting to the complexities of a changing international environment.

Regarding Brazil, we could divide the National Security System in three parts: National Defense, Collective Security and Global Security.

In National Defense, we have all the armed forces, including the army, navy and air force, responsible for preventing an external attack from other states and to defend the sovereignty of the nation and the lives of its people. It is also part of the collective defense the agreements and treaties with other countries and the mutual support to defend the territory.

That being sad, it is also important to emphasize that Brazil is a very peaceful Nation. The only War Brazil participated as the protagonist was the war, known as War of the Triple Alliance, also called Paraguayan War, Spanish Guerra de la Triple Alianza, Portuguese Guerra da Tríplice Aliança , (1864/65–70), and was the bloodiest conflict in Latin American history, fought between Paraguay and the allied countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. According to Thomas Whigham of the University of Georgia, as much as 60% of the population and 90% of Paraguayan men died from combat or, more often, from disease and starvation.

In that time Paraguay had been involved in boundary and tariff disputes with its more powerful neighbors, Argentina and Brazil, for years. The Uruguayans had also struggled to achieve and maintain their independence from those same powers, especially from Argentina. In 1864 Brazil helped the leader of Uruguay’s Colorado Party to oust his Blanco Party opponent, whereupon the dictator of Paraguay, Francisco Solano López, believing that the regional balance of power was threatened, went to war with Brazil. Bartolomé Mitre, president of Argentina, then organized an alliance with Brazil and Colorado-controlled Uruguay (the Triple Alliance), and together they declared war on Paraguay on May 1, 1865. López’s action—following his buildup of a 50,000-man army, then the strongest in Latin America—was viewed by many as aggression for self- and national aggrandizement; but, as the war wore on, many Argentines and others saw the conflict as Mitre’s war of conquest.

At the opening of the war, in 1865, Paraguayan forces advanced northward into the Brazilian province of Mato Grosso and southward into the province of Rio Grande do Sul. Logistical problems and the buildup of the allied troop strength, which soon outnumbered Paraguay’s by 10 to 1, then forced the Paraguayans to withdraw behind their frontiers. In June 1865 Brazilian naval forces defeated a Paraguayan flotilla on the Paraná River at Riachuelo, near the Argentine city of Corrientes; by January 1866 the allies had blockaded the rivers leading to Paraguay. In April Mitre led an allied invading force into southwestern Paraguay but was prevented from advancing for two years. Fierce battles were fought; the most notable, won by the Paraguayans at Curupayty in September 1866, inhibited any allied offensive for nearly a year. Both sides suffered heavy losses in the campaign. In January 1868 Mitre was replaced as commander in chief by the Brazilian marquês (later duque) de Caxias. In February Brazilian armoured vessels broke through Paraguayan defenses at the river fortress of Humaitá, near the confluence of the Paraná and Paraguay rivers, and pressed on to bombard Asunción, the capital. In the Campaign of Lomas Valentinas in December, the Paraguayan army was annihilated. López fled northward and carried on a guerrilla war until he was killed on March 1, 1870.

The Paraguayan people had been fanatically committed to López and the war effort, and as a result they fought to the point of dissolution. The war left Paraguay utterly prostrate; its prewar population of approximately 525,000 was reduced to about 221,000 in 1871, of which only about 28,000 were men. During the war the Paraguayans suffered not only from the enemy but also from malnutrition, disease, and the domination of López, who tortured and killed countless numbers. Argentina and Brazil annexed about 55,000 square miles (140,000 square km) of Paraguayan territory: Argentina took much of the Misiones region and part of the Chaco between the Bermejo and Pilcomayo rivers; Brazil enlarged its Mato Grosso province from annexed territory. They both demanded a large indemnity (which was never paid) and occupied Paraguay until 1876.

Since the Paraguayan War Brazil has not participated in any other conflict, except for small roles in the first and second World Wars. Today, the armed forces in Brazil are focused on protecting the Brazilian frontiers and helping to rebuild Haiti. Because of that, the military budget in Brazil is very small compared to the world superpowers and slowly grows every year. From 2013 to 2015 the military spend increased only 15%.

Comparing the Military Budget in Brazil with the Military spending in the USA, we can see the enormous difference:

The second is collective security and refers to the protection of the civil population inside the Brazilian territory. Is a little more complex than National Defense because involves various types of organizations such as Police forces, Federal Police, Guards and private sector companies responsible for security. Also, this is the most invested area in Brazil because of the fight against the Narco-traficants and the violence that accompany it. Every year, it is estimated that the government spends 258 billion Reais, almost 74 billion dollars, in national security, including the budget for police operations, law system and imprisonment. This budget is 264% higher than the budget invested in military. That shows that the government still struggles to keep its national security and the fight against drugs while the National defense continues unaffected.

Last, we have Global Security. Global security is a set of ideas, developed largely by the United Nations since the end of the Cold War, that the world’s security is everybody’s business. It rests on the premise that no single nation is secure unless all are secure. More than that, Global Security in modern days in Brazil is about cooperating with other countries, mainly in Latin America and Africa, but also to play a strong role in diplomacy and worldwide peace. This is not only a desire but also a tradition. Brazil always speaks first at the UN General Assembly. This goes all the way back to 1947, a tradition that has never been broken and shows the Brazilian leadership toward open discussions.

Brazil should have been (in the UN Security Council) ever since 1945, when the UN was created. Brazil did not enter; Brazil defended the democratization of the United Nations Organization and, above all, defended the democratization of the Security Council; defended the participation of representation by continent, by Africa, which can have two (representatives), by South America, by Asia, and Brazil formally now claims a seat for itself, because it is the largest country in South America, because it is a country with the largest number of inhabitants, the country with the largest territorial area; well, we have the right to make such a claim. And we are making it.
— Press interview given by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at the Planalto Presidential Palace - Brasilia, April 29, 2005

In conclusion, Brazil plays a very particular role in the International Security. Different from the United States, Europe and Russia, its budget is low and the country has no strong power on military. But on the other hand, Brazil is particularly important in mediating discussions and in diplomacy. This is a tradition in foreign policy that represents the peaceful spirit of the nation. In addition, it is important to remember the great impact the violence and the narco-traficants have in national security. The country has invested a lot of money in a system based on police operations, judicial system, and imprisonment, that so far, has not brought any definitive conclusion