Officially established March 30, 1942, the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) is self-described as a “regional defense organization,” while Wikipedia states it is “an international committee of nationally appointed defense officials.” In either case, this extremely low-profile group, which announced upon its founding that its function would be to “gradually [prepare] the American Republics for the defense of the Hemisphere by developing studies and recommending measures required for its execution,” brokered a 1947 treaty that is still in effect today—and that has proven highly controversial in the past.

One of the key points of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) is that an attack on any of the signatories to the agreement is considered an attack on all of them. This led to some significant confusion in 1982 when the United States refused to intervene on behalf of TIAR signatory Argentina during the Falklands War, claiming quite reasonably that Aregentina was the aggressor in the conflict and thus had forfeited its right to call for U.S. assistance. (The fact that the U.S. was a member of NATO along with the U.K. also muddied the discussion.)

In 2002, the United States invoked the treaty as it sought to build a coalition force in the Global War on Terror, but only four nations contributed troops to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in fact Mexico formally withdrew from the treaty in order to avoid sending resources to aid the U.S. efforts, citing the U.S. actions during the Falklands War as proof that the treaty was “obsolescent” and “futile.” But Mexico’s status in that regard changed in 2006, when the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) decided to establish the IADB as an entity under its organizational hierarchy. Currently, there are 28 countries—including Mexico—that are members of the IADB.

The IADB Medal is awarded to military officers from member nations of the OAS who either complete a tour of service on the board, serve on the staff of the IADB’s Chairman or Secretariat, or serve as instructors at the Inter-American Defense College located at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.

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