The Dimensions of Security

The Dimensions of Security

By Dialogo
November 09, 2012

Interview with Major General Oswaldo Jarrín, current president of International Studies at the International University of Ecuador

From his trench at the academy, retired Ecuadorean Army Major General Oswaldo Jarrín crumbles concepts and hypotheses, and examines and deciphers complex events with the self-assurance that his battlefield experience grants him. The retired general, who is currently president of the International Studies Center at the International University of Ecuador, had a key role during the long and complicated years in the history of his country: he was Minister of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Staff and Undersecretary of Defense.

Two decades ago, Major Gen. Jarrín paused his military career to further his studies at the Inter-American Defense College, just outside Washington, D.C., where he returned last October as a panelist for the college’s 50th Anniversary Symposium. In an interview with Diálogo, the Ecuadorean Military academic discussed issues, such as the importance of cooperation of all state organizations in the fight against terrorism, the concept of multidimensional security, and the assistance that the Armed Forces can give.

Diálogo: Major General Jarrín, in your opinion column in the Ecuadorean newspaper El Comercio, you emphasize that the problem of drug trafficking must be addressed from all sides. What role do you play in this holistic strategy at the Armed Forces?

Major General (retired) Oswaldo Jarrín: The Ecuadorean Armed Forces are working directly on border security, in cooperation with other institutions that have the responsibility of participating in a counter drug strategy, such as the Police, with its counter drug units. It takes a holistic approach to address the drug phenomenon, because it seriously affects social values and economy. All these aspects are the responsibility of the state institutions in their fields. Therefore, the Armed Forces are monitoring border protection and security, the Police is focused on counter drug cooperation, Customs has their role… It is a comprehensive job of all institutions to preserve the law to protect our heritage and economy.

Diálogo: During the sessions at the 50th Anniversary Symposium for the Inter-American Defense College, the concept of multidimensional security was mentioned several times, including being the example for dealing with new threats that face our countries. Could you elaborate on that?

Maj. Gen. Jarrín: After several years of studies by experts, during the American States Organization (OAS) conference in Bridgetown and the Special Security Conference in Mexico in 2003, the concept of security, a product of the Cold War era, was updated. So, from 2003, that concept allowed us to see security in a wider perspective, in accordance with new threats. However, this concept left criteria in each state: according to sovereignty, to determine the priorities of these threats, and the necessary policies to address them. Proper strategies must be derived from these policies for each institution. Each state has two alternatives to carry out their institution’s missions, including the Armed Forces. The first one is their constitution. The second aspect is the international agreements and treaties that are part of the legal bodies that each state must abide by, so that government determines the national policy of how to apply the law and determine the measures to address the threats.

Diálogo: So, considering this conventional security concept, what is the role of the Armed Forces in your country?

Maj. Gen. Jarrín: In addition to abiding by the constitution, the Armed Forces have specific laws and policies for their missions. Since 2000, Ecuador established its National Defense Policy, which is the “white book”. It specifies scenarios, threats, composition of the defense system and how to apply it in different circumstances. For example, disaster response is a strategic objective in defense. Border protection and security are linked to national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Hence, the sea, the air space, and the borders are the specific responsibility of the Armed Forces. They will not combat these non-traditional threats directly, such as organized crime, because that is a police task. However, once a country has their borders secured, they [the Armed Forces] are already cooperating with the internal security of a state.

Diálogo: In reference to natural disasters, I understand that your country received military support from other nations in the region during the aggressive forest fires that recently caused several deaths and destroyed thousands of acres of forests.

Maj. Gen. Jarrín: Yes. First of all, we must recognize that the National Risk Secretary managed it very well, and there was excellent international cooperation. There is no country with the necessary conditions to confront these situations alone; they are risks more than a threat. We are talking about situations beyond the capability of institutions acting alone. We had the participation of helicopters and a specialized control team of forest fires from Chile, Venezuelan and Colombian planes, and an air tanker from Brazil. This was an example of cooperation.

Diálogo: Do you think the Inter-American Defense College maintains the vitality and importance that motivated you to study here two decades ago?

Maj. Gen. Jarrín: The IADC is definitely living up to the circumstances that they are faced with. In my presentation, I gave an analogy between the College and the OAS. The OAS has had an adaptive evolution, a response to the circumstances that have been taking place. Therefore, it went from collective defense to collective security, and then to cooperative security. This is a demonstration of how it responds to global geopolitical situations, to regional security needs, and to different situations. Discussions [during the IIADC’s Symposium] have been of high quality. And I think the ideas discussed on regional security are a great contribution for the whole continent.