A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter on a May 2008 humanitarian training mission in Costa Rica. More Costa Rica exercise pictures are on our “Just the Facts” site.
Costa Rica has enjoyed uninterrupted democracy since 1948. Most Costa Ricans speak with pride of this stability, and of the decision that year – taken after a brief civil war – to abolish the country’s military. Costa Rica has a civilian police force that protects citizens and the country’s borders.
The U.S. government has respected that decision, and has consistently maintained cordial relations with Costa Rica.
Which is why I was surprised this morning, when going through a recent Defense Department required report to Congress on its overseas military-aid programs (PDF), to find this on page 67, in a listing of Pentagon-funded humanitarian-assistance programs in 2007:
Country: Costa Rica
Dollar Amount: $920,971
Type of Support Provided: Infrastructure – Rehabilitate or repair – School renovation/construction, Clinic construction, 4 Minimal Cost projects
Purpose: Improves U.S. image with a government with anti-military sentiment. Project showcases U.S. Military multi-mission capabilities. Promoting democracy, regional prosperity, and stability.
There is something troubling about the notion that
(1) the U.S. image in a traditionally friendly country like Costa Rica is so low today that improving it is a reason given for a nearly $1 million military deployment; and
(2) it is seen as somehow in the U.S. interest to counteract “anti-military sentiment” in armyless Costa Rica.