Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Steven den Beste thinks that the United States hasn't been interventionist enough, and needs to become more so. And in some cases, he's obviously right --- the recent business in Afghanistan is, to a great extent, the United States belatedly cleaning up a mess we made some time ago, and let fester for nearly twenty years.

But on the whole, I think he's giving the U.S. too little credit. We certainly haven't been shy about intervening in Latin America --- think for instance of Panama, where the CIA sponsored Noriega throughout his rise to power, then pulled him out. Or the 1954 CIA-sponsored coup in Guatemala, which kicked out a democratically sponsored government in favor of an incredibly brutal dictatorship in order to save taxes for United Fruit. Or Chile.

And in the middle east, consider, the coup against Mossadegh in Iran, which left the country under the thumb of the Shah. That blew back at us twenty-five years later when the people of the country got so fed up with his rule that they lent overwhelming support to the only credible opposition they could see --- Ayatollah Khomeni --- who showed his gratitude in ways we can all remember.

(This is a pattern which Islamic extremists have been trying hard to recreate elsewhere, as I've noted several times).

Or Indonesia... but I think that's enough.

If there's a pattern here, it's not shyness at intervention. It's instead, a particular form of intervention, which, I think, has shown itself as counterproductive. The pattern is that we put thugs in place who promised support for our policy line --- often deposing democratically elected governments to put them in place, on the apparent theory that winning popular support for our party line was more difficult than buying a thug who would just do it.

There are problems with this policy. One, as I've also noted, is that thugs can't be permanently bought --- it's not in their nature. They can only be rented, and when their self-interest no longer aligns with ours, things get ugly in a hurry.

Another is the sheer brutality of it all. Moral considerations aside, it leaves large populations who are deeply embittered against us, often (as in Guatemala) for no good reason at all.

(BTW, if the Afghan rebellion doesn't fit the pattern, it's because we didn't even rent the thugs ourselves --- we used the Pakistani ISI as an agent to find them for us).


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