Deciding moments

Working on another video taken in Honduras in 1965, I am reminded that my trip there probably accounts for a pretty decisive turn in my thoughts about what I would take up as a career. It was the beginning of a decision to leave the military rather than stay in for twenty years and then take up teaching or some other career; of course, the events that were unfolding in Viet Nam at that same time would also play a part in that decision.

I went to Honduras with two other Army officers with the first Military Training Team dispatched to that country following the coup staged by General Osvaldo Lopez Arellano and the army in October, 1963. Although I was unaware of it as I arrived, our group’s appearance on the scene was regarded – at least by the US Military Attache – as an important event.

In the coup that toppled Ramon Villeda Morales, Lopez Arrellano had employed a considerable amount of equipment provided through US military assistance programs, while the forces loyal to the President had relied largely on equipment provided by the US Agency for International Development. In that sense, it had been a conflict in which the Defense Department was the backer of one side and the State Department backed the other side. This seems abstract until one realizes that during the conflict each of the fighting factions was communicating with “their” friends in the US Embassy. While, of course, the Embassy maintained official relations with the legally-constituted government.

The importance of our visit (to the US Military Attache) was to get the military assistance program back up and running and we were a part of that. But for me one of the “lessons learned” from this visit was that the change in government had resulted in a hiatus in US-supplied assistance to all programs. For example, travelling through the countryside there were a lot of unfinished school houses that work had been stopped on after the coup and it appeared that work might not begin again for a while (the schools had been USAID-supported projects initiated by Villeda Morales). I became disillusioned about the ability of government-to-government programs to actually deliver benefits to the people when the programs were so impacted by politics. Later I began to worry that the specifics of the programs were determined bureaucratically rather than by some market mechanism…but that’s a whole other story.

2 comments on “Deciding moments

  1. wichem
    March 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    I can’t wait for more post All about you!
    Do you take requests for topics?

  2. edoarde
    March 30, 2008 at 12:47 pm #

    It’s all I can do to make the odd posting…and most of them are odd…but if there’s anything you’d like to hear, let me know.

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