Book Review: ¡Vamos a avanzar!: The Chaco War and Bolivia's Political Transformation, 1899–1952


by Robert Niebuhr

Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2021. Pp. xii, 260+. Illus., map, table, notes, biblio., index. $60.00. ISBN: 1496207785

Bolivia in the Chaco War

Although the Chaco War, between Paraguay and Bolivia was the largest international conflict in South America since the nineteenth century, the literature on it in English is rather slender. In this essentially “war and society” account Prof. Niebuhr (Arizona State) gives us a look at the Bolivian side of the struggle.

Niebuhr opens by examining the trends in Bolivian society that led the country to undertake a war over the enormous but largely unexplored Chaco, with its promise of potentially vast natural resources. He makes the case that in the decades before the war, a degree of common “national” identity had begun to emerge in Bolivia, spurred by some political initiatives and economic trends, shared even by part of the Indigenous population, so that the war was widely popular.

Niebuhr’s account of the war is adequate, covering operations and their consequences, both on the fighting front and at the home front. He demonstrates that despite their confidence in their preparations for war, the Bolivian armed forces were in fact outclassed, and out-generaled, by the Paraguayans, leading to a costly defeat.

This defeat set in motion significant changes in Bolivian society, driven to a great extent by the veterans, including those of Indigenous origins, terming the war “the most influential revolutionary event in modern Bolivian history”.




Note: ¡Vamos a avanzar! is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium
Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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