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Latin America's New Security Reality: Irregular Asymmetric Conflict and Hugo Chavez

Authored by Dr. Max G. Manwaring. | August 2007

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Since his election as President of Venezuela in 1998, Hugo Chavez has encouraged and continues to encourage his Venezuelan and other Latin American followers to pursue a confrontational "defensive," populist, and nationalistic agenda that will supposedly liberate Latin America from the economic dependency and the political imperialism of the North American "Colossus" (the United States). Chavez argues that liberation, New Socialism, and Bolivarianismo (the dream of a Latin American Liberation Movement against U.S. hegemony) will only be achieved by (1) radically changing the traditional politics of the Venezuelan state to that of "direct" (totalitarian) democracy; (2) destroying North American hegemony thoughout all of Latin America by (3) conducting an irregular and asymmetric "Super Insurgency," or "Fourth-Generation Warfare" to depose the illegitimate external enemy; and, 4) building a new Bolivarian state, beginning with Venezuela and extending to the whole of Latin America.

This is not the rhetoric of a "nut case." It is, significantly, the rhetoric of an individual who is performing the traditional and universal Leninist-Maoist function of providing a strategic vision and the operational plan for gaining revolutionary power. In pursuit of this Bolivarian dream, Chavez has stirred the imaginations of many Latin Americans—especially the poor. Additionally, he has aroused the imaginations of many other interested observers around the world. And now, Hugo Chavez is providing political leaders—populists and neo-populists, new socialists, disillusioned revolutionaries, and oppositionists, and submerged nomenklaturas worldwide—with a relatively orthodox and sophisticated Marxist-Leninist-Maoist model for the conduct and implementation of an irregular "Super Insurgency." Interestingly, this kind of war is the only type of conflict the United States has ever lost. It is surprising and dismaying that the world's only superpower does not have a unified political-military strategy and a multidimensional interagency organizational structure to confront Chavez's challenge. It is time to make substantive changes to deal better with irregular contemporary conflict.