The United States and Colombia: The Journey from Ambiguity to Strategic Clarity

  • May 01, 2003
  • Dr Gabriel Marcella

American strategy towards Colombia has shifted from a counternarcotics focus to more comprehensive support for that nation's security. This shift recognizes that Colombia's problems are deeply rooted and go beyond illegal narcotics. In the last year the Bush administration committed the United States to help Colombia defend democracy and to defeat the illegal armed groups of the left and right, doing so by promising to help that nation extend effective sovereignty over national territory and provide basic security to the people. The author identifies the strategic challenge of Colombia within the framework of the weak state and ungoverned space, made more complicated by the violence and corruption generated by the international organized criminals sustained by illegal drugs. He argues that the lessons learned in dealing with the security challenges that Colombia faces will have powerful consequences for the adaptation of American strategy to the conflict paradigm of the 21st century.