From National Review: Now Is the Time for Us to Secure the Peace in Colombia ‘USA Should Allocate Resources to Assist Process
We’ve had incredible success in helping to stabilize the country over the last 20 years. We can’t give up now.
America loves an underdog success story, be it the Mets in 1969 or the men’s Olympic hockey team in 1980. But perhaps the greatest unlikely tour de force of all has taken place under our noses.
Twenty years ago, Colombia was on the verge of being declared a failed state. It was in the throes of a civil war that saw two thirds of its land controlled by terrorist groups, including the violent, Marxist-Leninist FARC. The government was a geopolitical ally to Washington, but the strains of war had weakened its power and the country itself remained a security threat: a destabilizing force in the region, a borderline narco-state, and a refugee crisis waiting to happen.
Fast-forward two decades, and today’s Colombia is virtually unrecognizable: a robust democracy with a resilient economy and a homicide rate barely a third of what it was. How did this happen? Recognizing a disaster at its tipping point, U.S. legislators reached a bipartisan consensus in 1999 and passed Plan Colombia, a comprehensive, long-term assistance package that stands today as one of our greatest foreign-policy successes.
The task force’s recommendations are guided by an acknowledgment of what remains to be done. New illegal networks are moving in to fill the void left by the FARC’s demobilization, coca cultivation is on the rise, and the slow expansion of the state’s presence in remote areas means marginalized populations continue to be victimized and recruited into organized crime.
These challenges aren’t insurmountable, but American monitoring and assistance will be crucial in overcoming them. The ideal blueprint for action goes beyond security initiatives and encompasses cooperation to strengthen the rule of law. The transitional justice process will be arduous, but if well executed it could lay the groundwork for lasting peace. The U.S. should allocate resources to assist in the process while helping to ensure accountability in recognition of the primacy of victims’ rights.