The Colombian War College Turns 108
By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo June 21, 2017The Colombian War College (ESDEGUE, per its Spanish acronym) turned 108 on May 1st. To celebrate its anniversary, various academic activities and official ceremonies were held throughout the month in Bogota, Colombia. The celebration began with a seminar on “Prospects for Security and Defense” organized by ESDEGUE’s master’s program in National Security and Defense, with support from the Specialized Security and Defense Knowledge Network. The event showcased different views from an academic perspective regarding the main security and defense dynamics for both Colombia and the rest of the world in the 21st century. Retired Colombian Army Colonel Yesid Ramírez Pedraza, the director of the National Security and Defense master’s program, explained to Diálogo the context in which the seminar’s topic was selected. “The 2003 Declaration [on Security] in the Americas, [promoted by the Organization of American States (OAS), which seeks to foster respect for human rights, to protect democracy, and safeguard the rule of law] was adopted in Mexico City. OAS, and obviously the states that make up the organization, understood that security must focus on a new arena.” “When we talk about prospects, we are referring to new alternatives used by threats, the new global trends. This is a scenario where an atomization of threats appears, along with new contexts like cyberspace, war and cyber threats that could destabilize a state at any given moment,” Col. Ramírez added. The relevance of this seminar is evident within the framework of what ESDEGUE represents for national security and defense. “It is the [laboratory of ideas] of the Armed Forces General Command (...) which creates strategic studies for decision making on the part of the Ministry of Defense and the Colombian government, in terms of the state’s response to permanent threats seen in the field,” Col. Ramírez said. 108 years of achievements Since its founding in 1909, ESDEGUE has trained Colombian Armed Forces leaders in response to the needs that have historically been put in their path. It was created during the presidency of General Rafael Reyes Prieto, at a time when the Thousand Days’ War had just ended and Colombia faced a period of political instability. At the time, Gen. Reyes wanted to organize the Army to confront threats that could destabilize the government. “That curriculum, focused at the time on strategy, tactics, the operation of the Joint Staff, the deployment of troops in the field, and military administration (...), has persisted and evolved with time. Currently, there are important postgraduate studies in military sciences,” Major General Nicacio de Jesús Martínez Espinel, the director of ESDEGUE, told Diálogo. During the 1960s, the Colombian Armed Forces changed their strategy, which was based on Prussian Army doctrine, in order to face guerrillas with counterinsurgency strategies. It was a period in which education was based on American doctrine and a deeper study of national security theory. “And in the past five decades, there has been a special emphasis on new strategic scenarios, in which the Armed Forces are developing,” Maj. Gen. Martínez said. After the agreement Following the signing of the peace accords between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, ESDEGUE is preparing its leaders for this new scenario. “The institution has to accept reality, which is why they should incorporate new methods for [administering] structural changes to face new scenarios of constant challenges and obstacles,” Maj. Gen. Martínez said, pointing out that instability also arises through socioeconomic and legal factors, as well as insecurity, all of which could threaten constitutional order and peacebuilding efforts. “The Armed Forces should transform based on our needs, not only in war but also in social terms,” Maj. Gen. Martínez said. With this, he stressed the importance of human security, of working with other forces, and developing operations with other governments to promote collective security.