RIO DE JANEIRO – Last week Brazil and the U.S. signed a defense pact, which brings to mind interesting military reflections. The renowned military philosopher Clausewitz defines war as “a continuation of policy by other means”, and the emerging role of Brazil as an international oil source seems to raise the stakes of the South American giant.
In the world stage Brazil may not register among many military scholar’s highlights, but in it’s short history there has been a notable number of violent conflicts.
The most devastating was The War of the Triple Alliance, also known as the Paraguayan War, which was fought from 1864 to 1870 between Paraguay and the allied countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. It caused more deaths than any other South American war and particularly devastated Paraguay, killing most of its male population.
Of the around 123,000 Brazilians that fought in the War of the Triple Alliance, the best estimates say that around 50,000 died. Uruguayan forces counted barely 5,600 men (some of whom were foreigners), of whom about 3,100 died. Argentina lost around 18,000 of its 30,000 combatants.
The specific numbers of casualties are disputed, but it has been estimated that 300,000 Paraguayans, mostly civilians, died; up to 90 percent of the male population may have been killed.
In roughly the same time period, during The American Civil War (1861–1865), the Union armies had from 2,500,000 to 2,750,000 men, and their loses are estimate at 360,222. The Confederate strength, known less accurately because of missing records, was from 750,000 to 1,250,000, and lost approximately 258,000 casualties.
In 2007, Time Magazine published an article titled “A South American Arms Race?”, reporting Venezuela’s spending US$4 billion on Russian fighter planes, Kalashnikovs and perhaps even submarines. Then Brazil, announced a 53 percent increase in its military budget for 2008, the biggest increase in more than a decade.
According to a 2008 study by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Brazil was the twelfth largest military spender in the world with US$23.3 billion. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. was first with US$607 billion, followed by China with US$84.9 billion, while the United Kingdom ranks forth with US$64 billion.
In somewhat less depressing news, depending on who you’re rooting for, Botafogo finally got the better of Flamengo in the Campeonato Carioca (state) finals after loosing for the last three seasons…