Fostering democracies and encouraging military establishments, which are subject to the rule of law, is vital to United States national security interests. In this regard, the American warfighting unified commands mirror the overall U.S. national security policy of peacetime engagement, not only by maintaining close contacts with friendly governments for the purpose of imparting democratic ideals and principles, but by focusing this commitment to support new democracies through detailed engagement plans.
U.S. Southern Command’s engagement plan for Latin America creates a “community of democratic, stable, and prosperous” nations. This plan also provides a blueprint for democracy-building in the context of the rule of law. With over ninety percent of its countries under some sort of authoritarian rule just ten years ago, Latin America has seen a remarkable transformation in this regard.
One challenge in transitioning from totalitarianism to democracy is defining the appropriate role of military forces. Because of the nature of this problem, the matter is best spearheaded by the U.S. military’s uniformed lawyers, its judge advocates. Their very existence serves as a way to institutionalize the American commitment to the positive values of military proficiency and ethical integrity in the armed forces.
Jeffrey F. Addicott, Building Democracies with Southern Command’s Legal Engagement Strategy, 31 Pᴀʀᴀᴍᴇᴛᴇʀs 72 (2001).