Originally Posted by Lynx
This idea that the USA (and what I mean by the ‘USA’ is the government and elites who run the country) is a champion for democracy (self determination for people to decide their own fates) forced or otherwise is quite simply a masterpiece of propaganda.
It’s interesting how American elites view themselves. They seem to believe that they have a ‘historic mission’ to go forth wherever they see injustice and evil and replace it with ‘tolerant societ[ies] in which leaders and governments exist not to use or abuse people but to provide them with freedom and opportunity’. The world is fortunate to have such a benevolent superpower, who is unique in its insistence that ‘we do not seek to expand the reach of our institutions by force, subversion or repression,’ instead keeping to persuasion, compassion and peaceful means.
The world is lucky to have such a benevolent superpower, too benevolent as many fear like Henry Kissinger who has often warned that the altruism of US policy goes too far for its own good. After all when he was queried about the role he played in allowing thousands of Kurds to flee their homelands (during the 1970s) he replied that ‘covert action should not be confused with missionary work’. George Bush the first evidently agreed, after giving the Iraqis a good smiting in the first Gulf War (1990), stood tall and sternly warned the world that ‘What we say goes’.
Sometimes the idea of ‘American benevolence’ reaches to the point of pure logic. Thus a Professor of political science like Samuel Huntington (1990s) can write that the USA must maintain its ‘international primacy’ for the benefit of the world because, alone among nations, its ‘national identity is defined by a set of universal political and economic values’, namely ‘liberty, democracy, equality, private property, and markets’ accordingly ‘the promotion of democracy, human rights, and markets are far more central to American policy than to the policy of any other country’. Perhaps now we can understand Secretary of War Henry Stimson (May 1945) explanation of why other countries must dismantle their regional systems yet the US must be allowed to maintain theirs, in fact the US has to extend its regional system ‘as part of our obligation to the security of the world’ the influential Liberal Democrat Abe Fortas explained adding sagely that ‘what was good for us was good for the world’.
Now that we know that whatever
the US does is by definition
‘democratic’ we can happily
dispense with the tedious work of trying to confirm whether American ‘words’ matches its ‘actions’. A wise decision because when you start to investigate the conduct and history of US foreign policy you do find plenty of odd ‘anomalies’.
For example how does one reconcile Americas principled rejection of ‘force, subversion or repression’ with the terrorist wars launched by the (conservative) Regan administration in Central America during the 1980s which left three countries in ruins, strewn with tens of thousands of tortured, mutilated corpses. Or how could the (liberal) Kennedy administration (1960s) reconcile American principles with its international terrorist campaign against Cuba and its escalation of the attack against South Vietnam. Moving from supporting the standard Latin American Style terror state (that Eisenhower had instituted) to outright aggression, which included bombing of civilian targets by the US Air Force, the use of napalm, crop destruction to starve out the indigenous resistance and other such means.
Perhaps we should look to South America to see US ‘benevolence’ in action. After all they have had a long relationship with this part of the world. Secretary of War Henry Stimson (May 1945) described the relationship quite well with the pithy phrase ‘our little region over here which has never bothered anybody’. Sadly, however those ‘anomalies’ appear again. In South America during the 1960s the US played a pivotal role in overthrowing the parliamentary government of Brazil, paving the way for a regime of killers and torturers. This had a domino effect that left neo Nazi regimes in control of much of the hemisphere for decades, always with firm US support if not initiative.
There are scores of more examples but I don’t want to belabour the point. I’m sure you get the picture.
Having said that I would like to concentrate on one case namely the central American country of Nicaragua because it gives an instructive example of how and why the US acts in the way it does in International affairs.
Somoza a devoted US ally seized control of Nicaragua during the 1930s and ran a brutal military dictatorship, which remained in power under the Somoza dynasty until 1979. It was finally overthrown by the Sandinista National Liberation Front which enjoyed immense popular support
President Jimmy Carter tried desperately to prop up Somoza regime to the bitter end. Even Israel was enlisted (despite US denials) but failed to stop the final death agonies of the bloody regime. By the time Somoza regime was overthrown Nicaragua lay in ruins, its countryside devastated with 40-50000 killed.
When the Sandinistas were finally in government, everything was done to demonise them with accusations of genocide, drug trafficking and undemocratic practices. Not to mention US sanctions/trade embargo which played a key role in strangling the economic development of the country (eg. If the Nicaraguan government tried to get international loans it was blocked by US diplomatic pressure). Despite this Sandinistas did manage to enact a series of ‘remarkable reforms’ which the US media kept silent about. In fact despite the pressure they were under (by now they were under terrorist attack from the ‘Sons of Reagan’ (Contras)) they managed to maintain a relatively free press and won elections held in 1984 (which was judged free and fair by international observers). The election part is interesting as far as I know it was never reported in the US media and to my knowledge US scholarship doesn’t mention it (because the wrong people won perhaps?).
Oxfam commented with its experience of working in 76 developing countries, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government proved exceptional in its commitment to addressing inequities in land ownership, and in extending health, educational and agricultural services to poor peasant families.
By the mid 1980s the US began to use the Contras a terrorist force who’s main purpose was to retard the economic developments of Nicaragua (engaging in acts of terrorism, destroying schools, farms etc etc) and contribute to the strangulation of the country. Forcing the recalcitrant population to comprehend that survival requires submission to the will of the master of the hemisphere. In May 1988 a defence department official explained it well.
‘Those 2000 hardcore guys [maintained by the US within Nicaragua] could keep some pressure on the Nicaraguan government, force them to use their economic resources for the military, and prevent them from solving their economic problems – and that’s a plus. . .Anything that puts pressure on the Sandinista regime, calls attention to the lack of democracy, and prevents the Sandinistas from solving their economic problems is a plus’
Contra commander Israel Galeano, in an August 1989 interview said ‘we’re sure we’ll be able to make sure the Sandinistas can’t live in peace’.
Eventually after a decade of tremendous pressure the people of Nicaragua buckled and bowed down to the will of the ‘master of the hemisphere’ with the election in 1990s of the Pro US candidate. You can’t blame them, after all its hard for people to resist the ‘master of the hemisphere’ when it is holding a gun to your head.
The US media reaction to the election of the pro US candidate is again instructive. Time commented on the ‘happy series of democratic surprises’ as ‘democracy burst forth’ in Nicaragua. How did the US achieve this wonderful result? The method was to ‘wreck the economy and prosecute a long and deadly proxy war until the exhausted natives overthrow the unwanted governments themselves’ with a cost that is ‘minimal’ (to the US) leaving the victim ‘with wrecked bridges, sabotaged power stations, and ruined farms’ and thus providing the US candidate with ‘a winning issue’ ending the ‘impoverishment of the people of Nicaragua’. The only issue dividing the US media was ‘who should claim credit’ for this magnificent triumph of US styled ‘democracy’.
Nicaragua now is one of the poorest countries in the world, with any hopes of economic development retarded for the foreseeable future.
There is only one debate that I can find that brings all these issues together. Its 12 minutes in total so its not too long. John Silbers defence of the indefensible leaves little to the imagination
John Silber vs Noam Chomsky Part 1
John Silber vs Noam Chomsky Part 2
Transcript here if anybody’s interested.
One question needs to be asked is why the United States is so threatened by countries particularly weak countries who decide to follow an independent path of development. Why is it a threat?
‘An explanation for this superficially quite irrational behaviour is provided by the rotten apple theory, in its internal rather than public form; in these terms the hysteria makes perfect sense. If a tiny impoverished country with miniscule resources can begin to do something for its own population, others may ask: ‘Why not us?’ The weaker and more insignificant a country, the more limited its means of resources, the greater the threat of a good example. The rot may spread threatening regions of real concern to the rulers of much of the world.’
Originally Posted by naidamar
Yes, Human Rights is only a means to an end, if it serves the purpose of promoting US policy then it’ll be backed but if it doesn’t then it’ll be dispensed with. Saddam Hussein is a classic example. Pre 1991 he was a great friend and ally whom the US protects (eg. Remember Donald Rumsfeld handshake with Saddam. Guess who vetoed the resolution condemning Saddam for gassing the Kurds, China? USSR? No it was the UK, He was even allowed to bomb a US warship in the Gulf with no response, a rare privilege only given to Israel). But when he disobeyed orders (by invading Kuwait) he was immediately transformed into the next incarnation of Hitler.
Originally Posted by Lynx
I personally don’t like making predictions that far in advance but one can hope that people of the world would be able to run affairs as they see fit. However if you think people are going to ‘ape’ after American model of development then you are sadly mistaken. I think it would be even better if the US would stop acting as a barrier to people’s right of self determination and learn simply to mind its own business.