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April 07, 2008

Comments

Dolchstosslegende redux.
I don't think that being a product of one's environment is really gonna cut it as a defense.
See US v. Altstoetter, et al.

If we don’t change this underlying view, nothing will change even if the Democrats win the White House. People like Wolfowitz may come and go, but the worldview that created him will linger on. For that reason, we’ll keep repeating history until that worldview -- that excessive certainty -- is confronted.

In particular, I fear the political aftermath of our eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Like Vietnam, it will trigger poisonous resentment among nationalists. The temptation will be to hide from -- rather than confront -- the cognitive dissonance by doubling down on a fantasy version of America. We may well see the rise of a new nationalism movement fueled by Iraq resentment, and a particularly nasty one at that.

Agreed. This has a very bad feel to it.

The next several years look very much like post-Vietnam redux, complete with a stagflationary economy to go with the nationalist hangover from a failed war.

This is another argument for grass-roots politics rather than top-down engineering of a wafer-thin electoral victory by the Democrats. Cultural change has to happen in this country or this sorry history will repeat itself.

I think the key is that we need to find a positive expression of American values that makes us feel good about ourselves as a country but which is directed inwards at rebuilding our communities rather than outwards at finding and fighting enemies. Not evey struggle has to be a war, either literally or metaphorically.

Ironically, this is an area where religion may be of help, if we can re-engage with the idea that caring for each other is a more reverent way of expressing our religous impulses than finding things to fight over.

We can start by pushing for the best possible care for our veterans.

This is all a long way of saying that it’s not enough for the public to oppose the Iraq War. The real goal is to change the mindset that led to the Iraq War. There are hundreds of aspiring young Wolfowitzes toiling away in the Bush executive branch as we speak, gaining valuable resume lines. The only way to make sure they don’t ascend to power is to make their preferred policies politically unviable, regardless of what party controls the government.

This is most certainly true, and something I despair of. Human stupidity is both eternal and infinite. Look at our record in race relations---while there is much that is admirable, if anything come to challenge the idea of modern US thought as supreme Good, it is vociferously attacked and deemed automatically wrong (see Rev.Wright).

The real influence of Strauss upon modern politics was his Manichean worldview of absolute good and absolute evil. Evil (or tyranny) existed, Strauss believed, and strong action was necessary to confront it.

The Straussian legacy that matters, then, is his absolute certainty in “our” own goodness and in the “Other’s” evilness. That’s the true theoretical underpinning of neoconservatism -- everything they espouse follows if you are certain that you are good and certain that you are fighting evil. If arms control treaties or the UN or torture statutes prohibit fighting evil, then they must be put aside. It’s as un-Burkean as you can get. As Andrew Sullivan has explained at length, doubt is a far better foundation for conservatives.

The problem isn't certainty that you are fighting evil. We are and we were. The problem is certainty that setting aside certain moral principles that you claim to hold dear is needed in order to fight it.

Just wondering--have you read much Strauss? Because this sounds like a digest of a digest of his thought. Your descriptions of his thought are clear and crisp--almost, dare I say it, Manichean? I'm more familiar with his works on theology and its relations to political philosophy, but Strauss' own work is not exactly lacking in shades of grey.

Just wondering--have you read much Strauss? Because this sounds like a digest of a digest of his thought. Your descriptions of his thought are clear and crisp--almost, dare I say it, Manichean? I'm more familiar with his works on theology and its relations to political philosophy, but Strauss' own work is not exactly lacking in shades of grey.

I would strongly recommend reading Reinhold Niebuhr's 'The Irony of American History'. (I blogged about the book a while ago and how relevant it seems now). Niebuhr, faced with an ideology (Communism) he saw as evil was nevertheless deeply concerned that Americans should not therefore simply presume themselves and their cause as untaintably Good, and discusses in some details the dangers inherent in that.

I've once ran across a cartoon which depicts exactly that: http://bofh.priv.at/1025_GodXBlessXUSA.jpg.

And indeed, the rot runs much deeper -- the overly nationalist American public is to blame for the rise of neoconservatism

Ah, the "stab in the back theory". I was wondering when it would make its appearance. I guess this at least is consistent with the arguments of your fellow Wingers that the thing to be most feared in America is that politicians might begin to pay attention to the interests of their electorate.

Your argument of course ignores all facts about what support the war did or didn't have from the general public, and it ignores the fact that if the general public had known the truth about Iraq's weapons capabilities and had known the truth about the extent (or lack thereof) of Iraq's ties to the 9/11 attackers that the support of the public for the war would have been pretty much limited to the 19-percenters.

But hey, if we're taxing poor people to bail out rich investment bankers why not blame them for the war and bail out the neocons, too?

Jesus F***ing Christ. What insanity. America needs a left wing again.

I have to agree with Mr. Sanders above. Not only have I read Strauss, and find him less than Manichean, but my father - the furthest thing from a neoconservative I can imagine - studied under him as a Ph.D. candidate, and certainly does not feel that Strauss encouraged a Manichean worldview among his students.

Let us not forget the strong negative reactions to Burkean philosophies at the end of his life, from such people as Jefferson and Paine. Those who disagreed that conservatism ought to be a philosophy of doubt long pre-dated the University of Chicago, much less the teachings of Leo Strauss.

Kit Whitfield has a great analysis of the types of stories Americans have chosen to tell about ourselves, and about the "Macho Sue" figure at the center. She's also pointing to the mystery of why the Manichean struggle against Evil has gotten so wound up with issues of masculinity -- a mystery because logically the dynamic between male and female is that of yin/yang, it's anti-Manichean.

The problem is certainty that setting aside certain moral principles that you claim to hold dear is needed in order to fight it.

This is certainly a problem. There is another, though, that afflicts people of a certain kind of faith. We're good and the other guys are evil. The Almighty wants good to prevail, and only makes things difficult for us to test our resolve. We must therefore ignore downside risk, and temporary setbacks, because what's important is that we remain steadfast in our resolve.

Allow yourself to assume that we are just different sets of human beings with different values, traditions, and interests, and you end up with things like planning, logistics, the realities of how people feel they are being treated making all the difference.

For years, comments about how the strategy wasn't working would be met by supporters of the goals of the strategy -- and here, Charles Bird is a fine example -- with descrptions of how bad the other guys are. Of course they're bad. Of what relevance is that to whether the strategy will work, or whether pursuing an ineffective strategy is worth the lives lost doing it? A lot of talking past each other in those years.

I think I can agree with most of this – but the historical analysis skips right over one rather glaring event that doesn’t fit into the pattern you are trying to mold here – GW1. That was pretty unambiguously “good” v. “evil” IMO. Recall that there were plenty of people against our involvement even there. Just as there are people who automatically assume we are the good guys no matter what, there are people who automatically assume that war is never justified under any circumstances, and that we are the bad guys even in a case such as GW1.

And because GW1 was unambiguously justified and we were the good guys (to many of us anyway) and because it was seen as unfinished business to many of us (myself included) Iraq part two was much easier to swallow.

OCS, I don't think very much of what little mainstream objection to GW1 that there was -- I was for it, certainly -- was about whether or not we were 'good guys' but (a) whether alternatives to war had been fully explored and (b) whether the royal family of Kuwait deserved American sacrifice. Again, I was satisfied on both points. IIRC, though, Gen. Powell had serious issues with (a). In the event, the sacrifice in (b) was so modest as to be a non-issue. This isn't always a totally sure bet going in to such a thing.

If there were people who opposed GW1 on "evil" grounds, they're way out on the fringe. YMMV, but to me maybe the only worse policy argument than 'God wants us to do X, so we can't fail' is 'we must do X, because if we don't do X, some dirty f*ing hippy, somewhere, will be happy.'

As for the unfinished business aspect, this is the thing that I really had the hardest time with. Bush Sr. gave a reasonably articulate account for why GW1 ended as it did. I hate to use terms like adult and childish here, but in the run-up to the 2003 war, I didn't much hear supporters fairly addressing the adult version. Instead, I heard childish fantasies of transforming the region with one bold stroke.

To synthesize and boil down my two comments, I think a huge problem has been widespread adoption of 'it'll work because we're good.' Along with Sebastian's 'it's okay because we're good.'

[T]his is an area where religion may be of help, if we can re-engage with the idea that caring for each other is a more reverent way of expressing our religous impulses than finding things to fight over.

I like this idea.

On a related note, I don't recall reading anything in Leo Strauss about those particular religious impulses, but admittedly my exposure to his works has been narrow. It does seem like a problem for his followers, though (at least the ones who are public about it). A focus on political morality distorts your perspective.

Thanks for this analysis, publius. I guess I have one comment.

Regardless of whether you think, rightly or wrongly, that you're fighting for Good against Evil, there comes a certain point when you have to decide to cross a line or not.

The line could be building a nuclear arsenal capable of annihilating life on earth multiple times over. It could be developing a security and intelligence apparatus that can, and does, interfere with other people's nations and lives in illegal ways on a regular basis.

It could be carpetbombing and defoliating civilian population areas. It could be training and funding people who throw their political enemies from helicopters, or who kidnap and assassinate their political enemies in the dead of night, or who rape and murder nuns.

It could be calling for a national foreign policy that is based on the domination of every other nation on earth, friend or foe, through any means available or necessary, whether that's military, political, or economic, so that no rival nation is allowed to emerge in any part of the globe.

Or, it could just be starting wars based on fraudulent representations of the actual threat and actual circumstances, and then covering your behind by asserting increasingly bizarre readings of the law and the Constitution as the new policy of the nation.

It could be affirming torture as a legitimate means of gaining information from folks you capture and hold.

The healthy human response to approaching or crossing that line, in any of its forms, is to say, "My God, what have we become".

The unhealthy response is to say, "Time to double down!"

The neoconservatives among us may be no better or worse than the average joe in lots of ways. I hold them accountable , however, for their response to the "what have we become" moment.

They're not loudmouth, pissed off joe sixpack sounding off about "my country right or wrong" down at the local.

They are people who claim to study and understand history and policy, and who claim to be entitled to define policy for the nation. The bar is higher.

Plus, not for nothing, but many of them have made a wonderful living from war mongering. That tends to put my radar up as well.

OCSteve: GW1. That was pretty unambiguously “good” v. “evil” IMO.

Insofar as it was "Royal House of Kuwait v. Saddam Hussein"? No, it wasn't.

Insofar as it was establishing that a bigger and more powerful country is not allowed to invade and occupy a smaller/less powerful country just because the second country has oil and the first country wants it, I think GW1 ambiguously “good” v. “evil” - because a lot of what was done to Iraq during GW1 wasn't about just ending the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Destroying Iraqi infrastructure and setting up a blockade was about punishing Saddam Hussein - and not for what he'd done in the 1980s.

And given GW2, I think that "establishing" (that a bigger and more powerful country is not allowed to invade and occupy a smaller/less powerful country just because the second country has oil and the first country wants it) was an absolute bloody failure.

CC: I don't think very much of what little mainstream objection to GW1 that there was -- I was for it, certainly -- was about whether or not we were 'good guys'…

That meshes pretty well with my memory.

As for the unfinished business aspect, this is the thing that I really had the hardest time with. Bush Sr. gave a reasonably articulate account for why GW1 ended as it did.

Not to disagree with you, but so did Darth Cheney. In fact, he was remarkable prescient on Iraq back in 1992:

… capturing Saddam wouldn't be worth additional U.S. casualties or the risk of getting "bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."

"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.

"And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."

Going to Baghdad, Cheney said in 1992, would require a much different approach militarily than fighting in the open desert outside the capital, a type of warfare that U.S. troops were not familiar, or comfortable fighting.

"All of a sudden you've got a battle you're fighting in a major built-up city, a lot of civilians are around, significant limitations on our ability to use our most effective technologies and techniques," Cheney said.

"Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq."

"Now what kind of government are you going to establish? Is it going to be a Kurdish government, or a Shi'ia government, or a Sunni government, or maybe a government based on the old Baathist Party, or some mixture thereof? You will have, I think by that time, lost the support of the Arab coalition that was so crucial to our operations over there," he said.

The end result, Cheney said in 1992, would be a messy, dangerous situation requiring a long-term presence by U.S. forces.

"I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today, we'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home," Cheney said, 18 months after the war ended.

Apropos of nothing really, I just thought some folks might not be aware of how the head neocon thought about Iraq and Saddam back then.

Nothing like good, old-fashioned un-learning. Thanks for the depressing laugh, OCSteve.

TLTIABQ: we need to find a positive expression of American values that makes us feel good about ourselves as a country but which is directed inwards at rebuilding our communities rather than outwards at finding and fighting enemies. Not evey struggle has to be a war, either literally or metaphorically.

Ironically, this is an area where religion may be of help, if we can re-engage with the idea that caring for each other is a more reverent way of expressing our religous impulses than finding things to fight over.

What an excellent comment. I'm not going to read another blog or comment today, so it's nice to go out on a high note.

"This is certainly a problem. There is another, though, that afflicts people of a certain kind of faith. We're good and the other guys are evil. The Almighty wants good to prevail, and only makes things difficult for us to test our resolve. We must therefore ignore downside risk, and temporary setbacks, because what's important is that we remain steadfast in our resolve.

Allow yourself to assume that we are just different sets of human beings with different values, traditions, and interests, and you end up with things like planning, logistics, the realities of how people feel they are being treated making all the difference."

But Republicans are EVIL! Oh wait that is a different discussion. ;)

Or is it, Hillary Clinton?

"To synthesize and boil down my two comments, I think a huge problem has been widespread adoption of 'it'll work because we're good.' Along with Sebastian's 'it's okay because we're good.'"

I'm not sure what you mean but I'm pretty sure it isn't anything like what I said.

I do however think one of the most fascinating things about foreign/domestic policy in the past decade is how much the Republicans adopted the exact same philosophy that they make fun of in the domestic sphere: that because we have good intentions (or at least we think we do) meddling in very complex situations will lead to our intentions.

Seems to me that the problem with the good/evil dichotomy is that it takes place on a different logical level from action in the world. It's about the actors, not the actions.

It's easy to characterize yourself as good and someone else as evil. But even if you really are good, whatever that might mean, actually acting good is a bitch. In the world, which is populated by other people and by inconvenient objects which literally do not care what your intentions are or whether you are good or not, it is impossible to do what and only what you intend. Your actions will have consequences that you, being a mere mortal, cannot foresee. Leave good and evil to the gods. They are immortal and they can afford to think in such terms. Also, they don't exist.

We Americans must learn to think in more grown-up, less grandiose terms. What will the consequence of THIS action PROBABLY be, for ME, my FELLOW CITIZENS, and OTHER PEOPLE?

History shows that growing up is painful. The question is: how will we learn it?

History shows that growing up is painful. The question is: how will we learn it?

More pain. Maybe, eventually, it will sink in.

Wisdom comes through suffering.
Trouble, with its memories of pain,
Drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
So men against their will
Learn to practice moderation.

Aeschylus

But nobody reads him anymore. Tragedies are a drag.

Not every struggle has to be a war, either literally or metaphorically.

Amen.

For all the talk about how Schmitt was more nuanced than Publius's description might imply, Schmitt spends the whole third section of The Concept of the Political examining the importance of the friend/foe distinction as the root of all politics. He nuances this some by looking at the distinction between private and political enemies and by saying that he does not favor war or pacifism, but the friend/foe distinction remains his central concept and the state of exception his marker of who holds sovereignty.

George Kennan:

Kennan's historical writings, and his memoirs, lament in great detail the failings of democratic foreign policymakers and those of the United States in particular. According to Kennan, when American policymakers suddenly confronted the Cold War, they had inherited little more than rationale and rhetoric "utopian in expectations, legalistic in concept, moralistic in [the] demand it seemed to place on others, and self-righteous in the degree of high-mindedness and rectitude... to ourselves." The source of the problem, according to Kennan, is the force of public opinion, a force that is inevitably unstable, unserious, subjective, emotional, and simplistic. As a result, Kennan has insisted that the U.S. public can only be united behind a foreign policy goal on the "primitive level of slogans and jingoistic ideological inspiration."x

In particular, I fear the political aftermath of our eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Like Vietnam, it will trigger poisonous resentment among nationalists. The temptation will be to hide from -- rather than confront -- the cognitive dissonance by doubling down on a fantasy version of America. We may well see the rise of a new nationalism movement fueled by Iraq resentment, and a particularly nasty one at that.

I honestly don't know how society will react to the inevitable pull-out, but I think things might go differently from Vietnam:

We have a lot fewer soldiers who are better trained; most have them have been through the rigmorale of the Counterinsurgency manual and its attendant doctrinal changes.

It seems that many young officers, have largely bought into the need for Counterinsurgency. I could be completely crazy here, but I think that will have a positive impact. Serious study of counterinsurgency doctrine leads one inexorably to two conclusions: 1. CI is really, really hard and is only very rarely successful, and 2. we spent the first few years doing a really bad job at CI. To the extent that the young officer corps believes those lessons and to the extent that the enlisted men who serve under them and respect them buy into those ideas as a result, I think society will be better off.

In Vietnam, we had a vast number of soldiers who were brought up with the expectation that going to war meant being a WWII hero. They didn't have that experience for the most part, and as a result, they had to adopt a narrative to explain why their experience didn't match their childhood expectations. For some of them, that narrative became "because we were stabbed in the back".

Every institution has to build narratives to deal with failure. If the military adopts a narrative that says "the American people lacked the guts to stick it out", then we lose. On the other hand, there are some promising signs that a narrative is developing that says "stupid senior officers screwed up, either by failing to plan for phase IV, or by failing to stand up and tell the President what he needed to hear rather than what he wanted to hear, or by refusing to take CI seriously".

I think I can agree with most of this – but the historical analysis skips right over one rather glaring event that doesn’t fit into the pattern you are trying to mold here – GW1. That was pretty unambiguously “good” v. “evil” IMO. Recall that there were plenty of people against our involvement even there. Just as there are people who automatically assume we are the good guys no matter what, there are people who automatically assume that war is never justified under any circumstances, and that we are the bad guys even in a case such as GW1.

OCSteve, do you think GW1 would have been as highly supported amongst the public if the government of Kuwait had not spent tens of millions of dollars on a massive public relations campaign? Do you think public support would have been any less if a young Kuwaiti woman hadn't lied while testifying before congress by telling a completely fabricated story about Iraqi soldiers tossing babies out of incubators?

I ask because that story was repeatedly cited in the Senate debate where the vote for war was a very close 52-47.

I don't really understand how it was unambiguously good to sacrifice even one American soldier's life to intervene in a military conflict between two awful dictatorships. I mean, if the US was serious about sticking to the UN charter and intervening in all cases where states tried to resolve their disputes through invasion, that would be one thing, but since the US is obviously does not hold to that policy...

Thanks for the very interesting article and for calling attention to this obviously important book. I do have a bit of a quibble with the statement "...their worldview reflected much of the American public’s foreign policy worldview." To the extent that the majority of Americans can properly be said to have a foreign policy worldview, that view is a byproduct of the political process and the media.

Unfortunately the left in America did not survive the McCarthy era. Had major liberal leaders opposed the politics of fear (a Commie under every bed, hide under your desk in case the Russkies nuke us), there might have been some real discussion in this country about what our role should be in the world. Instead, liberals were all to quick to jump on the anti-Commie cold war bandwagon, so nationalism and the good vs. evil Us vs. Them mentality reigned unopposed within the government and media establishment.

What worries me most about the influence of the neocons is that there are still no competing foreign policy worldviews except in the far left of the political spectrum and among libertarians. Even now 15 years after the end of the Cold War, that world view is unopposed within our political and media systems. We argue only about whether we should be more or less reliant on the military to achieve our imperial goals.

What is the world view you would suggest?

Democracy lover can speak for himself or herself, but I'd like to see an America where no one would type the following except satirically--

" Despite graphic media coverage, American policymakers, journalists, and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil. Ahead of the killings, they assume rational actors will not inflict seemingly gratuitous violence. They trust in good faith negotiations and traditional diplomacy. Once the killings start, they assume that civilians who keep their heads down will be left alone. They urge ceasefires and donate humanitarian aid."

That's from page XVII of Samantha Power's "A Problem from Hell". In the real world the US has sometimes bombed civilians, imposed brutal sanctions aimed at harming civilians, or supported mass murderers and then covered up their crimes, but Samantha Power wants to be taken seriously as a foreign policy pundit, so in her world US foreign policy is conducted by naive little innocents who can't wrap their heads around the concept of evil.

Are intellectuals in other democracies this silly?

I'd certainly attribute it more to indifference than naivete, Donald, but your post overlooks the words "journalists" & "citizens" in that sentence. And to call her & that book "silly" based on one sentence is just obnoxious.

OCS:
I think I can agree with most of this – but the historical analysis skips right over one rather glaring event that doesn’t fit into the pattern you are trying to mold here – GW1. That was pretty unambiguously “good” v. “evil” IMO.

Jus ad bellum: strongest case, but far from unambiguous. See, e.g., CC's first response above.
Jus in bello: arguing that this is even ambiguous is difficult indeed, but the unambiguity is hardly flattering to the "good".
Jus post bellum: likewise fairly unambiguous, and not in a desirable way.

Katherine,

The Donald Johnson simulator I have running on my laptop says that, among other things, whitewashing the US-supported genocide in East Timor out of existence when writing a book on Genocide in the 20th century simply because one of your friends was closely involved in creating that policy is, at best, silly. So says /usr/bin/donald-johnson-sim.

Speaking for myself, I think Powers is a wonderful writer who has done some really great work and produced a truly excellent book, but that her willingness to whitewash said genocide is revolting.

This militancy, in turn, is made possible by underlying certainty of one's correctness

I'm not so sure.

Many Neocons are militaristic even in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence that there designs are simply beyond our physical (ie. logistic) capabilities. I'm not sure that can be explained purely by their certainty in their own correctness.

For example, I am certain of my correctness that the Klan is a blight on this country and wrong both morally and factually - but I wouldn't fool myself into thinking I can successfully beatup 100, or even 10, Klansmen single handedly My correctness doesn't give me super powers or allow me to ignore my physical limitations.


Thanks for mentioning the East Timor affair.

Look, normally I'd say that whether we get McCain or Obama, I'd bet we're heading for a period of isolationism and restraint, but I suspect that if we get Obama, the Left will be disappointed. I have never lost money betting against the cynicism of the Democratic Party.

Leftists aren't opposed to war. The most violent regimes in history have come from the Left. Leftists are only opposed to war when the Tories wage it. Leftists are in favor of war when they are in control.

Have none of you read Orwell?

Look, the proper course of action is a staged withdraw from Iraq over the next three to four years as the Iraqi Government stands up (which it actually is in the process of doing, the Iranian bid for mastery having come a cropper). But having done so, the proper path after that is one of restraint: No Darfour, no Burma, no crusades of any kind.

The Elite should have a decent respect for the natural isolationist impulses of the American people, no matter how many starving children you see on CNN. Nobody gives us a pat on the back for these crusades, and it's time to bring them to an end. In that, I think the Paleos and a lot of Leftys are in agreement.

In short: in one great way, it was Pat Buchanan who was right all along. However, too many of the Left and Right elites just aren't getting it.

I know: the libs want St. Barack to go forth into the world wearing a hairshirt and a "Kick Me" sign and beg forgiveness, but the world is a harsh place and hates a sucker. Further, I suspect a lot of Americans tire of involvement overseas, which is going to surprise a lot of liberal internationalists on both sides of the aisle, especially the Free Trade lobby and the Club For Greed.

One point is this: you can't change "the underlying view" because you aren't going to convince the American People that they are somehow bad or wicked or inherently evil or brought 9/11 on themselves. Sorry, my friends, but you go to war with the America you've got, and you wage peace (as Ike said) with the America you've got, as well.

Is a Neoconservative "evil" then?

If so, then your whole argument is a failure.

I strongly recommend magistra's link above if (like me) you were unfamiliar with the works of Niebuhr. Good reading.

And as another data point: I opposed GW1 at the time, regarding it as an internecine fracas between two unpleasant dictatorships whose moral dimensions were complicated by our previous (and possibly contemporary) complicity. I've somewhat recanted on this -- I think a) Saddam's Kuwait would have been worse than the Kuwaiti Kuwait, and b) allowing him to annex Kuwait would have emboldened him to broaden his aspirations throughout the Middle East -- but I'm still uneasy about its moral rectitude.

The Kuwaiti incubator story sums up my reservations in a nutshell: a morally righteous cause shouldn't require that kind of despicable lie in order to receive support, and the ugly jingoistic fervor it kicked off showed (to me) that GW1 didn't have much to do with Saddam but instead Ledeen's aphorism that "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business".

And, bluntly, to feel good about ourselves.

I might not be so bitter if the same jackholes who'd derided my moral stances on our foreign policy in the past -- viz. our support of Saddam -- hadn't suddenly discovered, and become outraged by, those self-same moral dimensions I'd been talking about for years. OTOH, since exactly the same damn thing happened after 9/11, I really don't think I'm the one with the problem here.

@section9: the libs want St. Barack to go forth into the world wearing a hairshirt and a "Kick Me" sign and beg forgiveness

If you want us to believe what you say about the American people and their opinions, you really shouldn't advertise your grotesque misunderstanding of liberals. It damages your credibility.

I think you've got Strauss' influence wrong. Well actually I'm not sure about his influence, but as far as Strauss, I think he did believe in evil, but he also argued that "human beings will never create a society which is free of contradictions". This precludes the possibility of an "absolutely" good "us" versus an "absolutely" evil "them". Strauss would have criticized that worldview, only he would not have called it Manichean, because he would have seen it as a product of a misguided liberal Enlightenment idealism about the ability of people to create a perfect society (i.e., one that was absolutely good).

I don't disagree with the basic point that we as Americans may tend to think of ourselves in too high a light or of the rest of the world perhaps too poorly. But I think the comment overreaches after that.

Pre-1989, excessive certainty about the evils of communism

Not clear on what would be "excessive" in this regard. We had plenty of proof prior to Reagan of the evils of communism. I see the point about that translating into excessive belief in our own country's goodness later on, but I don't think you can get to where you want to go by saying "see, we were wrong to a degree about communism." We were right.

And why start with Reagan. I think by WWII we were already there in terms of what you describe as moral certainty. And WWII provided about as black and white a scenario as you are ever going to see in a conflict. I'm sure that did in fact contribute to the feeling of most Americans that we were in fact good. Because we, well, WERE good.

The larger point for today’s purposes is that the worldview underlying neoconservatism -- excessive certainty of good and evil -- is shared by too many Americans even today. Indeed, we saw it in full display in the run-up to, and aftermath of, Iraq. We had to go to war because Saddam was evil. The war was good because we are good and you’re blaspheming the troops. The names had changed, but the song otherwise remained the same.

Looking ahead, real progress requires us to shed the kindergarten view of both ourselves and our adversaries.

Painting with an awfully broad brush here! Isn't it a bit much to accuse conservatives (albeit somewhat indirectly) of having a kindergarten-like world view? I, for one, did not support the war from a "me good, you bad" perspective.

One could also say excessive certainty that the beliefs of "too many Americans" are kindergarten-like in their nature is likewise a problem.

Not that the philosophical musings are completely unhelpful, but just because one can tie an argument to Strauss doesn't necessarily make it better. It may be comforting to think that "neocons" have this binary view of the world but it doesn't, IMHO, approach reality. Just as you want "too many Americans" to see more nuance and gray in the world, the same could be said for critics of neocons.


Not clear on what would be "excessive" in this regard. We had plenty of proof prior to Reagan of the evils of communism. I see the point about that translating into excessive belief in our own country's goodness later on, but I don't think you can get to where you want to go by saying "see, we were wrong to a degree about communism." We were right.

I think it all depends on what you mean by "communism". If you define "communism" to be "Stalin's regime" and nothing more and nothing less, then we were indeed right. The only problem here is that the US government has traditionally used the word communism to refer to all sorts of things that it didn't like, whether or not those things had any similarity to "Stalin's regime" and has used anticommunism to justify a dog's breakfast of policies that have nothing to do with communism.

For example, I really don't think our attempts to support armies that rape catholic nuns advanced an anticommunist cause; they were about keeping business leaders happy. To the extent that we insisted that any government more progressive than Pinochet's had been subverted by communists and was thus exactly as evil as Stalin, I don't think we were right at all.

Not that the philosophical musings are completely unhelpful, but just because one can tie an argument to Strauss doesn't necessarily make it better. It may be comforting to think that "neocons" have this binary view of the world but it doesn't, IMHO, approach reality.

Could you expand on this a little? In particular, I'd like to hear more about what views you think prominent neoconservatives espoused that diverged significantly from the manichean view Publius ascribes to them. Are there statements that Wolfowitz or Feith made for example that provide evidence for your assertion here?

Are there statements that Wolfowitz or Feith made for example that provide evidence for your assertion here?

I was using "neocons" in the broad sense Publius was advocating: the "too many Americans." His epiphany was that Wolfowitz represents a much larger movement.

I didn't mean to argue that Wolfowitz or Feith were not manichean (nor do I mean to argue the opposite). But should that be ascribed to the "neocon public at large" (which I infer actually means most conservatives)? Don't think so.

Again, I think it is a good basic point that is carried much too far. As a country, we have done many, many good things. Conservatives probably do rely a bit much on our past good deeds to justify future "good deeds." Self reflection being a universally good thing, so far so good. I have had the same thought myself.

But to put everything so black and white (while simultaneously accusing others of thinking black and white) is pushing the point too far.

To the extent that we insisted that any government more progressive than Pinochet's had been subverted by communists and was thus exactly as evil as Stalin, I don't think we were right at all.

I agree. Putting aside the things done in the name of combating communism, it still doesn't change the fact that communism was a bad form of government and posed a serious threat to freedom. Pinochet did not advocate (at least to my knowledge) taking his government world wide. Communism did.

Your distinction that many not-so-good things done in the name of combating communism (or "evil") is well-taken. I did not read Publius as arguing that necons are disingenuous. I read him as saying they really think in simple good/bad terms.

Pinochet did not advocate (at least to my knowledge) taking his government world wide. Communism did.

Pinochet replaced Allende. Allende was not, to my knowledge, seeking global domination.

When we sponsor guys who throw their opponents out of helicopters, we're not the good guy anymore. Doesn't mean the other side's good either, there might not be a good guy. But, at that point, it sure as hell ain't us.

I agree. Putting aside the things done in the name of combating communism, it still doesn't change the fact that communism was a bad form of government and posed a serious threat to freedom.

Sure, but were Allende or Mossedaq serious threats to freedom? Were they comparable to communism? I'd argue that they were not, and that therefore, we were wrong to believe that they had anything to do with communism, regardless of whatever actions we took based on that belief. The issue here is not (just) that the US did bad things in the name of anticommunism; its that we were wrong about communism because we insisted that everything we didn't like was communist. That seems to disprove your claims that we were right about communism.

Pinochet did not advocate (at least to my knowledge) taking his government world wide. Communism did.

I don't think most of the people tossed out of helicopters into the oceanby Pinochet's regime would find this distinction useful. From their perspective, an evil foreign power helped depose a democratically elected government and then replaced it with a vicious military dictatorship that ruthlessly crushed dissent. This does not sound like freedom to me.

I think we can forgive some of "the disappeared" for thinking, in their final seconds before they plunged into the Pacific ocean, that 1. the US actions here look no less expansionist than anything the USSR had been accused of, and 2. while communism must be awful, it can't be much worse for freedom than getting tossed into the ocean for the crime of criticizing the government.

I'm inclined to agree with our hypothetical soon to be very very wet and very very dead friend.

As a country, we have done many, many good things.

Cite? Just kidding...

More seriously, it seems like there's no way a well meaning American can easily evaluate whether that assertion is true. You just state it without evidence, but I honestly can't imagine a way to assess that statement. I suspect that most Americans really do believe that the US is a huge positive force in the world, but in general, when lots of people believe something good about themselves in the absence of real evidence, the odds are that they are wrong. I've found that conservative rule of thumb to be very helpful.

(Note: I'm reading your statement as saying that America has a large positive contribution to global welfare. Obviously, the US has done many good things, but it has also done many bad things and I'd argue that the balance between those two factors matters a great deal more than the absolute number of good things. Goodness consists not only of doing right but also of avoiding wrong.)

From their perspective, an evil foreign power helped depose a democratically elected government and then replaced it with a vicious military dictatorship that ruthlessly crushed dissent.

First a disclaimer: I was not there in Chile during Allende or during the coup. Maybe you were. On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way), Pinochet murdered 3,000, Allende was democratically elected, etc. etc. On the other hand, Allende invited Castro to Chile, Allende traveled to Russia, he worshiped Stalin, ruined the economy by confiscating private property, set up a parallel government, maintained control by death squads, etc. etc. etc.

From my little knowledge of the issue and no personal knowledge, Chile and Pinochet do not deserve to be the cause celebre of the left that it has become. At a minimum, I do not see the overthrow of Allende, who by accounts was ignoring the Constitution and acting like a good communist, as an argument that the U.S. did something in the name of fighting communism when that is really not what was going on. It's not like the guy was a labour party type in G.B.!

On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way)

"Although CIA did not instigate the coup that ended Allende's government on 11 September 1973, it was aware of coup-plotting by the military, had ongoing intelligence collection relationships with some plotters, and-because CIA did not discourage the takeover and had sought to instigate a coup in 1970-probably appeared to condone it. " From foia.state.gov website. The CIA undeniably tried to instigate a coup in 1970.

On the other hand, Allende invited Castro to Chile, Allende traveled to Russia, he worshiped Stalin

It's amazing how so many conservatives really, genuinely, don't believe in freedom. Allende was head of state: he had a perfect right to invite Castro to Chile. The notion that Allende incurred suspicion by "travelling to Russia" is pure fascism. As for his "worshiping Stalin" - I'd want to read actual evidence, rather than accusations from an authoritarian fascist.

, ruined the economy by confiscating private property

Say rather that President Nixon attempted to ruin the economy. Despite that, Chile did better under Allende than under Pinochet. Under Pinochet and his neocon economic "advisers" from the US, the Chilean economy crashed.

set up a parallel government

He was head of state, bc. Democratically elected head of state, governing constitutionally as President. You'd have to be a real anti-democrat to call his government a "parallel government". But you've made clear you are a fascist authoritarian who believes that people "incur suspicion" by traveling to the wrong countries.

maintained control by death squads

Untrue. The KGB were quoted as saying that his "fundamental error was his unwillingness to use force against his opponents. Without establishing complete control over all the machinery of the State, his hold on power could not be secure." cite

The "death squad" smears were necessary to make Allende look at least equivalent to Pinochet, since Pinochet was notoriously willing to "establish complete control over all the machinery of the State" by murdering and torturing his opponents.

But to put everything so black and white (while simultaneously accusing others of thinking black and white) is pushing the point too far.

The erstwhile godfather of the site, a well-respected figure in the conservative blogosphere, once remarked -- and this is a verbatim quote AFAIR, though I can't find it online -- that a particular party was "anti-Communist, ipso facto pro-democracy". So while publius might be overbroad in certain respects, I don't think it's the slightest bit unfair to accuse "others of thinking black and white" in the mass, though obviously YMMV on any given individual.

"I'd certainly attribute it more to indifference than naivete, Donald, but your post overlooks the words "journalists" & "citizens" in that sentence. And to call her & that book "silly" based on one sentence is just obnoxious. --Katherine

The sentence was the first one in her own summary of what her book was about. The entire book isn't silly. Probably the fairest review of the book I've seen, one that gives her credit where she deserves it and then rips her apart at the end is this one, by Joseph Nevins--

Link

I linked to page 3 in the review, where Nevins starts to get to the problem with Power and her book. And yeah, "silly" isn't the right word. I was being kind.

Turbulence's DJ simulator is pretty accurate, btw.

And the friend of Power that Turb's DJ simulator mentioned is Richard Holbrooke. Power could have written a chapter on East Timor, but US complicity in the slaughter goes well beyond "looking the other way", as I think she puts it, and one of the chief villains of the story is her pal Holbrooke. (Who also looks pretty bad in Ray Bonner's book on Marcos "Waltzing with a Dictator").

But you've made clear you are a fascist authoritarian who believes that people "incur suspicion" by traveling to the wrong countries.

It's always nice that even with a disclaimer re my own knowledge on the subject I can make it "clear" that I am a little Hitler. So much for frank and open discussion.

"On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way)"

I'm not clear what you mean by that, but the details of exactly how uninvolved with various coup attempts in Chile are extremely well documented and in the public record, both via official CIA histories, and the various detailed and reputable outside histories.

How many thousands of pages of documentation would you like cites to, please?

I couldn't agree more that close studies of these topics will help prevent misunderstanding and being misinformed or uninformed.

Some superquick links: try here, here,

[BREAKING FOR SPAM FILTER]

"On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way)"

I'm not clear what you mean by that, but the details of exactly how uninvolved with various coup attempts in Chile are extremely well documented and in the public record, both via official CIA histories, and the various detailed and reputable outside histories.

How many thousands of pages of documentation would you like cites to, please?

I couldn't agree more that close studies of these topics will help prevent misunderstanding and being misinformed or uninformed.

Some superquick links: try [oh, great!]

[BREAKING FOR SPAM FILTER]

Just for the heck of it:

"On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way)"

I'm not clear what you mean by that, but the details of exactly how uninvolved with various coup attempts in Chile are extremely well documented and in the public record, both via official CIA histories, and the various detailed and reputable outside histories.

How many thousands of pages of documentation would you like cites to, please?

I couldn't agree more that close studies of these topics will help prevent misunderstanding and being misinformed or uninformed.

Some superquick links: try [EDITED OUT FOR NOW] here, and, oh, that's enough trouble for the spam filter.

Try also many books, of which one of the most recent would be Legacy of Ashes; it'll be at your local library.

Just read the review of Powers liked by Donald.

Oh, dear.

I’ll defer to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

um. linked

bc: I can make it "clear" that I am a little Hitler.

Actually, given your comments about travel to [OtherCountry] and inviting [PoliticalLeader] to visit, I was thinking more "little Stalin". Have you ever read the Gulag Archipelago? This kind of condemnation was exactly the kind of "offence" that Stalinist fascism would condemn you for out of hand - just as you condemned Allende for it.

even with a disclaimer re my own knowledge on the subject

I don't blame you for not knowing that the lies you'd been told about Allende's death squads were lies, or for not knowing that Chile's economic problems under Allende were caused by US hostility. That would have required researching original sources rather than repeating what you vaguely remembered reading in your trusted sources, and hey, this is the Internet, let they who have never done that cast the first chip.

But that you cite imperfect knowledge as a reason for condemning Allende for "travelling to Russia" or for "inviting Castro to Chile" or for "running a parallel government"? How much knowledge do you need to have to know that freedom matters, that democracy matters, that condemning a person for foreign travel or a head of state freely inviting a fellow head of state, or condemning a democratically-elected head of state for governing the country is an attack on freedom and democracy? Your "lack of knowledge" there is a lack of knowledge that such basic values matter.

"Just read the review of Powers liked by Donald.

Oh, dear.

I’ll defer to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright."

Thanks FC. I wouldn't be making critical comments about Power if she'd included chapters (not a stray sentence or two) on East Timor and Guatemala and also Indonesia, and I'd add Angola (unmentioned by Nevins). Not that the latter two meet the strict definition of genocide, but I suspect if an enemy committed those crimes we'd find some way to make them fit. Plus, as Nevins says, it's a morally dubious enterprise to single out some mass killings as worse than others--it's not "genocide" by the official definition if the victims belong to a political group.

Power left out the worst sins of the US with respect to genocide and mass killing--the cases where we gave support, including weapons, to the killers, knowing for what purpose the weapons would be used. I often wonder what would have happened if she had written an unsparingly honest book. My guess is that it would have been praised by the far left and the anti-imperialist libertarians and ignored or vilified by everyone else. Nevins wrote a book on US policy and East Timor which received virtually no notice. Which would be fair, if we assume that everyone already knows all about what the US did to East Timor and is appalled by it and doesn't need to talk about it anymore. Which I doubt.

Sure would be nice to get that comment out of lock-up.

Always read your comments eagerly, Donald.

It’s, so, blindingly apalling. No matter what you know about what has been executed in the name of your patria, however troubling, there always will be something more, often worse.
I draw back from the acts of the State to the acts of the writer. If she could only bracket her account with an acknowledgment of its limitations, admit lacunae. Suggest further avenues she hasn’t traveled; it would be disingenuous, but it might lead the reader to pursue questions rather than rest content in the grasp of events he or she now has in hand.
The book is being offered as an academic contribution, isn’t it? Sigh. I suppose all scholarship is flawed, often egregiously, and perhaps from the point of view of the scholar any subject may be urgent and so by sophistry equal to any other. But. Surely the moral stakes are seldom so high.

Still be great to finally get this released:

"On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way)"

I'm not clear what you mean by that, but the details of exactly how uninvolved with various coup attempts in Chile are extremely well documented and in the public record, both via official CIA histories, and the various detailed and reputable outside histories.

How many thousands of pages of documentation would you like cites to, please?

I couldn't agree more that close studies of these topics will help prevent misunderstanding and being misinformed or uninformed.

Some superquick links: try here, here, perhaps here, here, here, here, here, and, oh, that's enough trouble for the spam filter.

Try also many books, of which one of the most recent would be Legacy of Ashes; it'll be at your local library.

Still trying: "On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way)"

I'm not clear what you mean by that, but the details of exactly how uninvolved with various coup attempts in Chile are extremely well documented and in the public record, both via official CIA histories, and the various detailed and reputable outside histories.

How many thousands of pages of documentation would you like cites to, please?

I couldn't agree more that close studies of these topics will help prevent misunderstanding and being misinformed or uninformed.

Some superquick links: try here, here, perhaps here, here, here, here, here, and, oh, that's enough trouble for the spam filter.

Try also many books, of which one of the most recent would be Legacy of Ashes; it'll be at your local library.

I'd still be very thankful if at some point my comment finally got released.

I was actually planning on writing a bunch more.

Once upon a time.

Have you ever read the Gulag Archipelago?

Yes. But please don't get me talking about my fiscally conservative idea to contract with the Russians for cash to house model long-term prisoners. Fix up the place a bit, provide good food, etc. and let those long termers with good behavior elect (it would have to be voluntary) to spend their time in nicer surroundings at much less cost to us taxpayers. For $20k/year per prisoner hard currency, the Russians could put on quite a show. Would jump start the Russian economy in the Far East.

But, even fixed up, I'll bet you'd argue "cruel and unusual" for housing prisoners outside the U.S.

But that you cite imperfect knowledge as a reason for condemning Allende for "travelling to Russia" or for "inviting Castro to Chile" or for "running a parallel government"?

Jes, I appreciate your contributions most of the time, but how many non sequiturs can you put on one post? And stop the ad hominem already?

But, since you raised it, traveling to Russia in-and-of-itself is not the issue. You see, I traveled to the Soviet Union before the wall came down. Spaseeba. Only I didn't do it to strengthen inappropriate ties between our two nations. Allende didn't go there to perform in a jazz band like I did (got to see Brandford Marsalis play in a local club and jammed with the Red Army Band). And please don't tell me that Castro staying for a month in Chile was due to the weather.

I saw first hand the devastation that communism can cause. I represented many clients from former communist bloc nations. You aren't going to convince me that communism was the answer (especially by calling me a little Stalin).

That being said, I never intended to defend Pinochet. I believe there were atrocities. The overthrow of Allende was understandable and positive in and of itself. However, beyond that is another question.

or for not knowing that Chile's economic problems under Allende were caused by US hostility.

Come on, blaming the whole thing on the U.S. is ridiculous. Marxism didn't perform gloriously as expected. Lack of U.S. support certainly didn't help.

Gary: thanks for the links. It's not like I was arguing that the CIA was uninvolved. I always assumed as much. Heck, it was in our interest. I was simply point out the two camps on the subject and thereby (and rather inartfully) pointing out that Chile isn't the best example vis-a-vis the "good/bad" think of Publius' post.

And thank you for not joining Jes in labeling me (other than indirectly calling me uninformed :))

bc: You traveled to Russia? right, that's it, you're marked for death.

You referred to yourself as a "little Hitler" - complaining after that that I corrected this as "no, little Stalin"?

You cannot complain that you went to Russia for the right reasons and Allende, you're sure, went there for the wrong reasons, when you include "traveled to Russia" in a list of sins for which Allende deserved what happened to him.

Come on, blaming the whole thing on the U.S. is ridiculous.

Why? We've seen what happens when the US decides to destroy the economy of a country. Often the country can keep going, if it's determined, and with strict economy and good socialist practice do well with the minimal resources available. Nicaragua; Cuba; both examples of countries where the US engaged in economic warfare against democracy and the country's economy got bad as a result. Noticeably, despite the US letting up on its economic warfare after Allende was assassinated and Pinochet took over, the Chilean economy got worse. A lot worse. That you want to blame a Marxist head of state rather that US hostility is only natural, but claiming it's "ridiculous" to blame the US because Nixon wanted to make Chile "scream"? Now that's bigotry.

And please don't tell me that Castro staying for a month in Chile was due to the weather.

Again with the fascist authoritarianism! So what?

Oh yes, and when you say you've "seen firsthand the devastation communism can cause" - did you mean Communism, or fascist authoritaranism of Stalin's variety, or poverty, or the effects of being the most-devastated country in WWII, or what? Living in a country where you can be marked for death by travelling to the wrong country, or saying the wrong thing or reading the wrong books - yes, that's devastating. But it's not communism. Guantanamo Bay is a gulag, but not a communist one.

Sure would be nifty to get that comment out of prison someday.

I'm sure everyone is eager to pick up the conversation from days ago, just as if it was seconds ago.

[begins humming tunelessly]

I prefer humming tonelessly.

Gary, it seems as if the best version of your comment was actually posted on another thread.

I released all I could find that weren't obvious redundancies and some that were. Hope that suffices. Sorry for the delay, but sometimes you just can't count on the volunteer labor.

"Gary, it seems as if the best version of your comment was actually posted on another thread."

I'm pretty sure I tried here first, and absolutely sure that I tried it here again a couple of times, including only half an hour ago, as well as elsewhere, but thanks muchly, Slarti.

So, anyway, let's see: "On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way),"

Claimed because incontrovertibly true.

"Pinochet murdered 3,000,"

Claimed because incontrovertibly true.

"Allende was democratically elected, etc. etc."

Claimed because incontrovertibly true.

"On the other hand, Allende invited Castro to Chile,"

True, and legal.

"Allende traveled to Russia,"

True, and legal.

"he worshiped Stalin,"

Absolutely crazy and false.

"ruined the economy by confiscating private property,"

Impossible to determine, since the U.S. covert economic warfare action, which I can cite endless CIA documents, cables, and OPLANs detailing, was entirely sufficient to ruin the economy on its own.

"set up a parallel government,"

Somewhat true, and Allende's severest vulnerability, but only done in reaction to years of CIA operations attempting to crush and remove the government and drive the country into the ground in the process of reaching that goal.

"maintained control by death squads,"

Yeah, totally untrue lunatic propaganda charge.

"etc. etc. etc."

Basically, you bought Henry Kissinger's version, and the CIA cover story. This is not a fringe leftist claim. This is the documented history of the CIA, from the official CIA history.

I can dump literally dumptrucks full of documents on this on you.

Similarly, if you don't know about this, you don't know from Operation Condor, you don't know from CIA in Latin America, you don't know from CIA covert action history, and you don't know anything but cover stories about American foreign policy and history of the past 60 years.

"From my little knowledge of the issue and no personal knowledge, Chile and Pinochet do not deserve to be the cause celebre of the left that it has become."

I suggest some reading. It will help with the little knowledge problem. What the heck, you could do worse than starting here, though I'll be happy to recommend another ten books, and then another ten, and so on, as long as you or anyone would like.

Let's see: on to Aeschylus? Seems like a lot of comments now. Kennan? Oh, dear. Lots to comment on. East Timor? Strauss?

Maybe should stick to Chile for now. I'm sure we're all freshly excited to talk about this exciting and fresh new topic!

Which I've just gotten to comment about, seconds ago.

But I'm sure that won't matter at all.

Again with the fascist authoritarianism! So what?

Uh . . . .never mind. It's all clear to me now.

Gary:

Assume your post finally got through after I wrote my last.

You assume that because I say I personally have "little knowledge" that all of a sudden I'm horribly misinformed on U.S. foreign policy for the past 60 years.

But please note that I read Neruda in the native tongue! Basta ya! If I can read an avowed Stalinist like Neruda and enjoy it, can I really be that far from the truth? :)

But please note that I read Neruda in the native tongue! Basta ya!

Well, I'm impressed: I've read Neruda only in translation. (Pablo Neruda's bio here, for those who wonder...)

Okay, if I take back "little Stalin" will you acknowledge that traveling to Russia is not grounds for assassination except in a fascist, authoritarian state?

That’s the true theoretical underpinning of neoconservatism -- everything they espouse follows if you are certain that you are good and certain that you are fighting evil.

It's not like I was arguing that the CIA was uninvolved. I always assumed as much. Heck, it was in our interest.

Delusional manichaeism or dirty-tricks expediency.

Hard to say which is more harmful or corrupting, but at least folks beset by the former are swinging for the fences.

Okay, if I take back "little Stalin" will you acknowledge that traveling to Russia is not grounds for assassination except in a fascist, authoritarian state?

I so acknowledge (unless the true purpose of the trip is treason). Thus, there were no grounds to assassinate Nixon for his trip to China.

Delusional manichaeism or dirty-tricks expediency

I'm not clear on what you mean. I think you are saying that it was delusional manachaeism to see Allende as evil simply because he was a socialist. I'm not sure even the right saw it that way. To me, there is objective evidence that he was too close to Moscow/Havana. In other words, the coup was not supported just because we were "good" and he was "evil."

Is the "manacheism" label a result of not seeing enough gray in my comments? I think I've made it clear I'm not defending Pinochet.

As for the "dirty tricks expediency," is that really the only other way to look at this? How is this not manicheism itself?

I'm not clear on what you mean.

"Delusional manichaeism" is my characterization of publius' take on the core "it's all good if you're the good guy" neocon point of view.

"Dirty tricks expediency" is my characterization of your (IMO) cavalier discussion of CIA involvement in the overthrow of Allende and his replacement by Pinochet.

By which I mean this:

Heck, it was in our interest.

I find both attitudes pernicious, but the neo-con delusion (my characterization) at least has the virtue of being idealistic, even if perversely so.

Other countries aren't our toys, whose internal affairs we can arrange to our liking. We get away with it, sort of, because we have The Big Stick, but it breeds corruption, and resentment, and violence.

Unless you're a copper mining concern or an anti-socialist paranoid, there is no sane metric on God's green earth by which Pinochet was preferable to Allende.

People that throw their opponents out of helicopters are murderers. They are criminals. We should not be supporting them.

The fact that it was, by whatever perverse calculus, "in our interest" to have had Pinochet in office does not entitle us to fnck with the people and nation of Chile.

That's what I mean. It's pretty simple, actually.

bc: To me, there is objective evidence that he was too close to Moscow/Havana.

I think this is (one place) where you'll start losing people. I don't think talking to Moscow or Havana is actually evil in and of itself. Invading countries that didn't do anything to you: evil. Paying proxy armies to massacre civilians: evil. Ruthlessly crushing domestic dissent: evil. Visiting losers in a foreign country: not evil. Being "close" with losers in a foreign country: not evil.

Do you see the distinction I'm trying to draw? Talking and "being close" (whatever the heck that means) are too insignificant to count as evil and certainly too insignificant to justify deposing a democratically elected government. This principle here is similar to the legal principle that forbids the government from arresting and executing people who criticize the President: talk is cheap and association is cheaper. If all your talk and association don't bring about concrete wrongdoing, then they literally mean nothing.

Also, I'm not sure you're aware of this, but some third world leaders deliberately cultivated allegiances with the Soviet Union or the US without any interest in their ideology. They wanted our money and technology and didn't care about anything else. Given that fairly obvious human behavior, it seems doubly wrong to assume that "association" is evidence for hard core socialism.

What Russell & Turbulence said. With knobs on.

"Too close" for what?

For the people of Chile? Not our call.

For our own liking, perhaps. Fair enough. There's a lot happens in the world that is not just as we would like it. I learned that when I was a child; I assume that most civilized people did likewise.

As justification for our conspiring in the overthrow (and murder) of a democratically-elected head of state, with which we were nominally at peace?

No. No. A thousand times No.

If you really think that such actions are in our national interest, then I don't much care to be part of your "nation." And yet, if it comes down to America, I suspect I was here first, so perhaps you should be the one to leave and find a home more congenial to your amoral realpolitik.

Russell:

Yes, the tone of my comments re the CIA was too cavalier. That's not how I actually look at it.

My attitude towards Latin America really comes from my association with two different friends, one Chileno and one from El Salvador. Both had suffered under the repressive regimes we supported. I mean personally suffered. The Salvadoreno's father was a moderate and was persecuted by the government. When my friend went back for his funeral, he himself was tortured simply for his familial association(don't ask me how-it's not pretty). In spite of this, he commented that the FMLN was no better and in his opinion worse.

I was in L.A. at the time of Reagan's amnesty program. He missed the cutoff date by mere weeks (my friend was here with his family illegally). He applied for asylum and was denied. Thankfully, Canada took him and his family.

My Chileno friend was similar, although he didn't like to talk about it much. Certainly no fan of Pinochet, but he spoke of the disaster of the Allende government.

Now, this is purely anecdotal, but I'm simply letting you know my perspective. It's certainly not a "pinochet is a glorious conservative savior." I don't support any of the atrocities that were committed. So:

People that throw their opponents out of helicopters are murderers. They are criminals. We should not be supporting them.

I agree. But what do you do when the alternative government is worse? Look the other way? It's not an easy decision to make. Should we have been harder after the coup on pressing human rights reform? Absolutely.

Sure, Reagan perhaps was too manichaen in his world view vis a vis communism and I agree that that allowed our country to look past things that it shouldn't have. But that doesn't mean the "base" thinks in black and white terms. I don't think I do. Now things are better in both countries and have yielded to democratic reform. I'm not convinced that the result would have been he same had Allende stayed in power. Castro sure hasn't rushed to transfer power. But then Operation Condor troubles me.

I'm open to learning more. I'm reading the links Gary posted. My first point in the whole Chileno matter was that there were two sides to the story. I still see it that way but I'll see where that goes.

For example, the Kissinger transcript that is cited in several articles I have read denouncing U.S. support for Pinochet. The summary (by G.W.U.) is decidedly anti-Kissinger and anti-Pinochet. Yet reading the whole transcript shows that Kissinger was concerned about Peru (and the soviet influence there). He wanted to meet with Ted Kennedy (leading the human rights argument in Congress against Pinochet). And when asked whether the Pinochet government was worse than Allende's, the Assistant Secretary for Latin America, William Rogers, responded "in terms of freedom of association, Allende didn't close down the opposition party. In terms of freedom of the press, Allende didn't close down all the newspapers." This part you see in the synopsis and is often quoted. What you don't see unless you read the transcript is what he says before and after: "Well, I can't say that Mr. Secretary [before] . . . "Now in terms of human rights, the effectiveness of the criminal process, there you have an argument. There was arbitrary arrest and torture." [after]. Interpret that for yourself.

Kissinger appears to have a good point that the left had no problem providing military aid to Chile with Allende in power with a government no better than Pinochet in terms of human rights but all of a sudden wants to cut off support with the Peruvian/Soviet threat next door.

I'll continue to read.

Turbulence:

I don't think talking to Moscow or Havana is actually evil in and of itself . . .it seems doubly wrong to assume that "association" is evidence for hard core socialism.

I don't either. And it wasn't simple association IMO. Planning on installing a Marxist government a la Moscow or Havana would have been a huge problem (and that is what I meant by my very imprecise "too close" phrase). I'm still reading. See above.

Dr ngo: I suspect I was here first . . . ??? Still trying to figure out what the heck that has to do with anything. If we don't agree I should leave? Doesn't seem to be in the spirit of ObWi

As justification for our conspiring in the overthrow (and murder) of a democratically-elected head of state, with which we were nominally at peace?

For the record, I have more of a problem with the efforts before the election than after. Chile did elect Allende, even if only with about a third of the vote. I have more concern about what Allende did afterward in allegedly (still reading, see above) acting unconstitutionally to the point that the legislature and people were calling for his overthrow. (but still reading-consider this a continuing disclaimer).

But, sorry, I'm not leaving anytime soon. :)

"I suspect I was here first . . . " was an obscure, and apparently obtuse, comment provoked by general irritation with the tone of the argument. I withdraw it, with apologies. No one should leave.

My irritation was caused by the assumption - shared by thousands before you, observed by me for decades (going back to Allende's time at least) - that the United States had a right to intervene in Chile if we didn't like what was going on.

The question is not - or should not be - whether Allende was "as bad as" Pinochet. (I believe not, but am not debating that here.)

The question is - or should be: what business is it of ours? Where is the United States given the authority to interpret the constitution of the Republic of Chile? Where is it written that the opinions of Americans supersede those of Chilenos? What bloody right do we have to do what we have done?

(FWIW Kissinger was quoted as saying something to the effect that the United States did not have to stand by and allow Communists to takeover due to the irresponsibility of the Chilean voters. He denied it, of course. He would.)

It was my anger over these issues - which long preceded your introduction of them here - that triggered my intemperate remark about "leaving," for which I again apologize.

The views about Chile seem to be part of a far wider problem with a substantial (?) part of the US public: the belief that the US has legitimate foreign policy interests and that no other country in the world does. So you get books written on the French 'betrayal' of the US and the claim that anyone (of any nationality) who opposes US policy in Iraq is 'unpatriotic'.

This seems to be a particularly bizarre manifestation of the Manichaen view of the world. The underlying principle is presumably that because the US is good, its foreign policy is good, so anyone who doesn't share its foreign policy or opposes it is axiomatically evil. Even British imperialist thought (which shared this belief in the rightness of all British political intentions) didn't go quite as far into absurd self-righteousness as this.

bc: I agree. But what do you do when the alternative government is worse?

You vote for the better government, if you live in a democracy, and under Allende, the people of Chile did.

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