American Coin Doctrine And El Salvador Rand

American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador
The Rand Corporation

The Salvadoran Military and Human Rights

  • Salvadoran military’s attitude toward the importance of political aspects of the war is curical;
  • “90 % of the war is political, social, economic, and ideological and only 10% military”
  • 1981: over 10,000 political murders were committed by the Salvadoran military and death squads linked to it; 1990: only 108 murders
  • American COIN policy, with consistent emphasis on winning popular support,
  • this focus has made respect for Human Rights an issue of utmost importance
  • Salvadoran armed forces often and easily target noncombatants,
  • as targets of physical violence Salvadorans become convinced of the futility of non violent means to effect regime change

The Pursuit of Justice as a Counterinsurgency Tool:

  • how Human Rights and the American Effort to Effect Judicial Reform won popular support
  • HR abuses were related to lack of judicial reform in El Salvador

American backed projects to fund judicial reform projects

  • they promoted the studies and reivisions of the criminal code,
  • the US also provided a witness protection unit,
  • develop effective criminal investigation capabilities,
  • training for judicial personnel,
  • and they encourage prosecution of Human Rights violators.


  • Amnesty law is now under consideration by the National Assembly,
  • propositions are tabled that current and former members of the military should be pardoned for crimes and Human Rights violations
  • this will only reinforce the deleterious effects of the 1987 amnesty…
  • these laws reflect spineless justice system that is unwilling and unable to prosecute those who subvert it.

Kidnapping Ring

  • 1986: FBI backed Salvadoran authorities discovered death squads posed as leftist rebels
  • case demonstrates the obstacles to achieving justice in El Salvador
  • San Sebastian Massacre
  • Salvadoran army responsible for the death of ten villagers
  • Assasination of Archbishop Romero
  • Romero was killed by El Salvadoran Major, reputed death squad leader and president of national assembly.
  • Jesuits start to be targeted

Expedient Changes or Genuine Reform?

  • US provided military training and funding to Salvadoran officer corps b/w 1965-1977;
  • they then turned out to be the worst bloodletters in Central American history
  • Kissinger commissioned urged “humane anti-guerrilla strategy” in an attempt to reduce the Human Rights offenses
  • He viewed the problem as a matter of inadequate training
  • He though that the problem could be solved by an American solution.
  • Respect for Human Rightss would be brought about not through teaching and example, but through constant American pressure

effectiveness of reform

  • The Frustrations of Reform: American Intervention, Salvadoran Resentment, and the Problems of Leverage
  • no matter how gamely the US has played the uncomfortable “good colonialist” role,
  • it has not brought the unalloyed success in curbing and prosecuting official and right-wing political violence
  • it has also not successfully promoting US-backed reforms.
  • Leads one to question the efficacy of “leverage” and “conditionality”


  • it can easily be overestimated’
  • it decreases when those whom the US is trying to influence perceive them to be constrained by national interests.
  • How could the Salvadoran military take seriously US threats to cease aid if Washington repeatedly makes it clear its intention to prevent a rebel victory?
  • The US has often found itself forced to settle for less than it had hoped and less than it thinks is necessary (see human rights)

The Problem of Death Squads

  • any discussion on reform in El Salvador must ask
  • to whatt extent did the armed forces and government administration condone/coordinate death squad activity
  • confusion, controversy, and deliberate obfuscation
  • According to Amnesty International, the death squads “are made up of regular army and police agents, acting in uniform or plainclothes, under the direction of superior officers”
  • But simply because this is so does not imply that they were used “to shield the government from accountability for the torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial executions commited in their name.”
  • Goal of Kissinger commission was to: strengthen democratic institutions and processes, and to encourage respect for Human Rights
  • US assistance in these areas has focused on the encouragement of elections, prosecution of Human Rights offenders, and the improvements in criminal justice system.
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