Some success. With peace within reach in Colombia—on October 2, Colombians will vote on approving a historic treaty that would end the war with the FARC, one of the longest-running insurgences on the planet—politicians and opinion makers in the United States are holding up Plan Colombia as a modular success story, to be cut and pasted into other global hot spots. Hillary Clinton recently recommended that it be replicated in Honduras to fight crime: “I think we need to do more of a Colombian plan for Central America,” she said, when asked by Democracy Now!’s Juan González about her role in legitimizing Honduras’s 2009 coup, telling González to “remember what was going on in Colombia when first my husband and then followed by President Bush” were in office. “Now,” Clinton says, thanks to Plan Colombia, “we’re in the middle of peace talks.” And Shawn Snow, in Foreign Policy, thinks Plan Colombia can be franchised into Plan Afghanistan, to fight Islamist extremists.
Nick Miroff at The Washington Post has written a series of articles holding up Plan Colombia—which was put into place during the Bill Clinton administration and passed more than $10 billion to Colombian security forces—as a victory, saying that it “is widely credited with helping the government turn the tide against the FARC.”
A more recent essay has Miroff extending the idea that Plan Colombia is responsible for the current peace: “After 16 years and $10 billion, the once-controversial security aid package is celebrated today by many Republicans and Democrats in Congress as one of the top U.S. foreign policy achievements of the 21st century. Colombia, a fast-growing nation of 50 million, has become the leading U.S. ally in South America and a major free-trade partner.”
The U.S. intervention tipped the war. It delivered a shot of confidence to Colombia’s institutions, particularly its military. It gave the country a vast, sophisticated intelligence-gathering system to hunt the rebels, as well as the lethal hardware to strike them from the skies. By 2003, nearly 5,000 staff members and private contractors were working out of the American diplomatic compound in Bogota, making it the largest U.S. embassy in the world. [Emphasis added.] Once outmaneuvered and intimidated by the FARC, Colombian soldiers received the training and technology to confront the guerrillas head-on. With American Black Hawk helicopters, they learned to deploy quickly into rugged guerrilla terrain. They are widely viewed today as Latin America’s best-prepared and most professional military. The rebels were pushed back, deeper into the jungle, and faced increased desertions…