The Pinnacle of Academic Excellence
By Dialogo January 01, 2011
Success is the word that best describes the Inter-American Defense College, or IADC, said Guatemalan Air Force Brig. Gen. Roberto Rodríguez Girón, chief of studies at the prestigious academic institution on the campus of Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Another word is partnership, he added, “where true cooperation is formed among students across the region.” Brig. Gen. Rodriguez was referring to the IADC’s nearly 50-year history of providing postgraduate level courses on security and defense for an elite group of leaders and future leaders in the Western Hemisphere.
Founded in 1962, the IADC’s list of students and alumni reads like a who’s who of the hemisphere’s most influential decision makers. More than 2,300 graduates from 24 countries have attended the college, including two former heads of state — Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Lucio Gutiérrez of Ecuador. In addition, nearly 600 generals, admirals, ambassadors and chiefs of mission have attended the school.
The IADC belongs to the Organization of American States, or OAS, and provides military officers and civilians from member states advanced academic courses centered on seven major themes: ethics and human rights, international relations, international institutions and institutional leadership, strategic analysis, strategic leadership, civil-military relations, and conflict resolution and negotiation.
The 11-month academic program is conducted by visiting professors from partner institutions such as American University in Washington, D.C. the University of Brasilia in Brazil and Catholic University in Chile. The curriculum includes seminars and a research program and is complemented by academic trips to the region and within the United States.
“The highlights for the students are the courses on conflict resolution, civil-military relations and peacekeeping operations,” said Lt. Col. Erich Hernández-Baquero, IADC academic program coordinator. “We also focus on global trends and challenges, such as the rise of China and its implications for the region, illicit trafficking and its nexus with terrorism, and the evolution of the military into nontraditional roles,” he added. “Students leave here with a more comprehensive understanding of the region, having established close relationships with their fellow classmates. This relationship can play a key role when it comes to strengthening regional cooperation in areas ranging from humanitarian assistance to understanding complex military issues.”
For a closer look at the IADC’s unique composition and role, Diálogo spoke with the director of IADC, Rear Adm. Moira Flanders.
DIÁLOGO: What is the mission and vision of the IADC?
Rear Adm. Moira Flanders: The Inter-American Defense College is the only international, joint, interagency academic institution devoted to security and defense issues in the Western Hemisphere, and probably the only one of its kind in the world. The IADC is not owned by one single country. The IADC belongs to the Organization of American States and that means that every country in the Western Hemisphere that is a member of the OAS can call this college their college. We do not speak in only one language. The primary language is Spanish, but English and Portuguese are also spoken to accommodate the students.
DIÁLOGO: What are the most important contributions the IADC has made?
Rear Adm. Flanders: Our title is defense, but we deal mostly with security. We do not discuss war and tactics. We stay at the strategic levels and hold seminars for our students but also for ambassadors and defense attachés on areas such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, civil-military relations and human rights. We really focus at a very strategic level, since our students are the Western Hemisphere leaders of the future. We are giving them the foundation for what they will be doing for the rest of their careers. The very best thing about the student population here is their ability and desire to partner with the other students from other nations in the hemisphere to create networks that will help their countries in times of need.
DIÁLOGO: What do you emphasize through the curriculum as the most challenging security issues facing the hemisphere?
Rear Adm. Flanders: At the moment we are discussing global economics because that is a concern for everyone, but we ensure that the college aligns with the vision of the OAS, which is to strengthen democracy throughout the hemisphere and to be a global partner.
DIÁLOGO: Are issues that are transregional and transnational in nature, such as illicit trafficking, studied in depth at the IADC?
Rear Adm. Flanders: We have a module on transnational threats such as gangs and drugs, and human trafficking, which are topics that are very important to us. We have guest speakers, in addition to the professors we contract with, who are experts in their fields. We also have ministers of defense and ambassadors who speak here and our students have a wonderful opportunity to interact with them and question them on issues they feel are significant.
DIÁLOGO: What are the shared issues that interest the students particularly?
Rear Adm. Flanders: The common thread, since the creation of the college, has been the need for partnership. You see in the students the desire to learn from their fellow classmates and the academic institutions that are teaching here. That is the common thread: partnership and the desire to strengthen democracy. Also, how to ensure that when they go on to their next jobs they will learn as much as they possibly can to help move our hemisphere forward in a positive way.
For more information about the Inter-American Defense College, visit: www.jid.org