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Neomilitarism is a term that has been used in two contexts to describe shifts in the configuration of military-state relations:

Neomilitarism in Latin America

The term was first used by historian Edwin Lieuwen to describe the resurgence of the military in politics in Latin America in the early years of the Cold War.[1] Lieuwen was an influential scholar in US-Latin American relations in that period, gaining prominence for his criticism of the US role in revival of military influence in politics in Latin America.[2] Subsequently, the term was used frequently to describe the dominance of the military in political affairs in Latin America during the Cold War.[3]

More recently, Peruvian intellectual Enrique Ghersi used the term with a new meaning in the Latin American context, to describe the phenomenon in which "leftist military men . . . lead a rebellion, are jailed for it, and then emerge with the popularity to win the next presidential election with large majorities of the vote." Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is said to be the exemplar of this "model of new militarism."[4]

Neomilitarism in the United States

The author Alasdair Roberts has also used the term to describe a form of militarism that is adapted to the requirements of an advanced market (or neoliberal) state.[5] According to Roberts it has the following features:

  • Abandonment of conscription as a method of filling manpower requirements in military services. In other words, reliance on an Volunteer military. In the United States, conscription was abolished in 1973, following the report of the 1970 Gates Commission, which said that it was an unjustified intrusion on individual freedom. (Two influential members of the Commission were economists Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan.)
  • A shift toward new technologies that increase military potency, and at the same time reduce manpower requirements, as well as the human cost of conflict, measured in own-force fatalities and casualties.
  • The rationalization and expansion of federal programs to promote military service. Federal spending on recruitment is pro-cyclical: as the economy improves, so too does military advertising. Between 1998 and 2001, the US military spent $1.6 billion on such advertising.

These policies emerged as the US military attempted to respond to public anger over the Vietnam war, which involved high levels of government expenditure and substantial deployment of conscripted personnel. Combined, they may be described as "neomilitarist" because they represent an attempt to maintain public support for the defense establishment without challenging fundamental tenets of a free-market society.

Roberts describes the effects of a shift to neomilitarism including:

  • The sharp decline in the proportion of the US population that is employed in the active-duty military;
  • The substantial increase in popular respect for the US military since the end of the Vietnam war; and
  • A perception (evident after the Gulf War and other 1990s conflicts) that the US could engage in "techno-wars" that did not produce substantial casualties.

In combination, Roberts claims these effects may have increased the probability that policymakers would rely on the military in responding to national crises. After 2001, "Neomilitarism . . . offered the administration an escape from weakness at home."[6] He perceives this is a challenge to the reasoning of the Gates Commission, which predicted that the shift to an all-volunteer service would not alter the willingness of governments to use force during crises.[7]

Roberts' claim that the Global War on Terrorism was a "neoliberal war" [8] was the subject of the cover story in Foreign Policy in November 2007.[9]

The term "neomilitarism" has also been used by Canadian political scientist Stephen Clarkson to describe the defense policies pursued by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks. Clarkson described the key elements of Bush administration policies, and their consequences for the US' continental partners, in the 2003 Harvey T. Reid Lecture at Acadia University.[10] Clarkson expands on his views about the transformation of security policies in the United States, and its impact on its neighbors, in a forthcoming book.[11]

The term has also been invoked by Korean scholars to describe the trend of policy (the "neoliberalism and neomilitarism prevailing in today's world") after 2000.[12] Political scientist James M. Cypher proposes a similar concept, "neoliberal militarism."[13]


  1. ^ Liewen, Edwin. Generals vs. Presidents: Neomilitarism in Latin America. New York: Praeger, 1964; "Books Today," New York Times, November 24, 1964, page 36.
  2. ^ Szulc, Tad. "The Praetorian Tradition," New York Times, March 27, 1960, page BR26; Matthews, Herbert. "When Generals Take Over in Latin America," New York Times, September 9, 1962, page 276.
  3. ^ Rossi, E.E., and J.C. Plano, eds., The Latin American Political Dictionary, ABC-Clio Press, 1980. Pages 62, 128, 132
  4. ^ Ghersi, Enrique. South America's New-style military coup. Christian Science Monitor, June 19, 2003. For another recent use of the term as applied to Latin America, see: Perez, Orlando. “El neomilitarismo latinoamericano y su desafi? a la democracia liberal.” Paper presented at the Conference Balance y perspectivas de las relaciones civiles y militares venezolanas en la segunda mitad del siglo XX. Universidad Simon Bolivar, Caracas, Venezuela (February 6-8, 2001).
  5. ^ Roberts, Alasdair. The Collapse of Fortress Bush: The Crisis of Authority in American Government. New York: New York University Press, 2008, 14 and 108-117.
  6. ^ Clark, Timothy. Perspective: Constraints on Change. Government Executive, June 1, 2008.
  7. ^ President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force. The Report of the President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1970, 17.
  8. ^ Moynihan, Donald. A Crisis of Authority? Public Administration Review 68.3 (May/June 2008), pages 516-522 at 516
  9. ^ The War We Deserve. Foreign Policy November/December 2007.
  10. ^ Clarkson, Stephen. Uncle Sam and Us: Global Terrorism, Neomilitarism and the Canadian Fate. Harvey T. Reid Biennial Lecture, Acadia University, September 25, 2003.
  11. ^ Clarkson, Stephen. Does North America Exist? Governing the Continent After Nafta and 9/11. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.
  12. ^ Kab-Woo, Koo. The System of Division on the Korean Peninsula and Building on a 'Peace State'. University of North Korean Studies, 2006, page 32.
  13. ^ Cypher, James M. From Military Keynesianism to Global Neoliberal Militarism. Monthly Review. 59.2 (June).


  • Lieuwen, Edwin. Generals vs. Presidents: Neomilitarism in Latin America. New York: Praeger, 1964.


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