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Great diary.

My view is that the US has involved itself in Latin American politics far too often over the years and needs to just get the hell out of it.  Anyone in America who fears the rise of a Communist foe in Latin America is a fool.  What are they going to do?  Throw red coffee beans at us?  (I suppose they could refuse to sell us oil, but I'm all for that.  More reason to get off the evil, black goop.)  The Cold War's over, and it's time to get over it.  Let Latin America be Latin America, and, if some sort of violent revolution were to take place, as the Bushees seem to imply is happening, whether with guns or with elections...oh well.  I want nothing to do with it.  They can work their own problems out.  Chavez was elected.  So was the woman in Chile, whose name I can't remember, obviously.  Good for them.  I hope they're successful, and that their citizens' lives are made better -- whether Left, Right, Center, Socialist, Free-Marketeer, Moderate, whatever.  As far as I'm concerned, it's none of our damned business, and Latin Americans are smart enough to make their own decisions.

If they want to trade with us, then great.  If not, then great.  We need to leave these people alone.  No more killing farmers because of Americans' inability to put their crack pipes down.  No more intervention when elections don't go our way.  I'm tired of being involved in every country's business.  America needs to move to isolationism in foreign policy.  Our new motto should be, "We Didn't See Nothin', and We're Not Getting Involved."  All soldiers brought home, all bases closed, and so on.  We get ourselves into too much trouble when we get involved in interventionist foreign policy.

As far as the "Washington Consensus" is concerned, I still don't understand why policy-makers would push it, since no developed country in its right mind would take on such policies.  "Gosh, the economy's going into a recession, so let's throw every contractionary policy we can at the problem!"  The "Washington Consensus" was the exact opposite of Keynesianism, and -- shock of all shocks! -- it was a disaster.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:27:34 PM EST
The Woman in Chile is Bachelet.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:31:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, thank you.  I like what little I've seen of her, though I don't know what policies she's pushing.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 09:17:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you elaborate on the underlying assumption that the only foreign intervention that the US can carry out is military?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 09:21:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure.  Or I can at least give you my hypothesis.  I'm all for US intervention by peaceful means in the name of human rights -- liberty, democracy, equal application of law, and so on.  And I would even support, even volunteer for, military intervention in the name of stopping genocide.  But the problem I see is that the US suffers from one side of the aisle, the Republicans, being followers of neoconservative foreign policy -- meaning, "It's all about power in the international arena."  And I think that inevitably breeds a desire to intervene, militarily, in other countries' affairs when they don't agree with the neoconservative view of what constitutes "our interests" -- or, more accurately, "what brings us more power."

It all comes down to my view that, whether in a democracy or in a totalitarian state, bad people will seek power and attempt to use it for their own interests when the opportunity presents itself -- whether it's, in the very extreme case, someone like Mao Zedong or, in the less extreme case, someone like Dick Cheney.

Americans are, believe it or not, isolationists at their core, when it comes to the military -- the reason, I'm convinced, for why our leadership has consistently involved itself in foreign affairs secretly.  That goes back all the way to George Washington, who warned the country to avoid "foreign entanglements".  (He meant treaties, but only because they connected with foreign wars.  I have no doubt that Washington and the other Founders would've supported agreements like Kyoto.)  This was the (in my view incorrect) stance America took at the beginning of both World Wars, too.

Americans would never have supported the Iraq invasion had it not been for 9/11 and the constant stream of propaganda that followed.  They opposed invasion back in the late-1990s, when Clinton was threatening it.  They opposed getting involved in WWII until the Japanese attacked.  But, when the country is attacked, and when the population is given a target, -- in the case of Iraq, it was, obviously, the wrong target -- it goes into a "We Will Kick The Living Shit Out Of You" frenzy.  People who have been attacked will look for a reason to beat the hell out of someone.  And, when led by such a dangerous group, that's a deadly combination.

But Americans are also -- again, believe it or not -- idealists at their core, to an admittedly obnoxious extent.  They want to believe they're doing great things.  They want to believe they're freeing the world from injustice.  And it's much too easy for people, like the Neocons (who are really just the modern form of the so-called "Cold Warriors," or, more accurately, the McCarthyists), to prey upon those feelings.

So the answer, in my mind, is to keep the country away from foreign intervention, because it will inevitably lead to unnecessary military assaults.  The actions of the well-intentioned are not the problem.  It's the precedents they set -- the doors they open -- that are the problem.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:08:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great. So why is this? Why can't the US exercise soft power?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:24:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because, despite having quite literally written the book on the topic and means of exercising soft power and putting together win-win solutions to problems, the discourse in the US is dominated by people for whom the complex, slow and often invisible application of soft power is anathema. You see it here and you see it on dKos. Speech in terms of violence. Problems must be solved now. Patience is not a virtue. Doing nothing rather than doing something stupid that will not improve the situation is weakness. The myth that violence can solve any problem. And the fact that, for many people, war==profit.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:36:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because I think Americans are usually only interested in intervention when the situation seems to call for war -- when it can be painted as "defending the country from tyranny."  If it's not seen as an absolute necessity, then they don't typically want to be involved.  (Note the emphasis on "seems" and "seen".)  That's not always the case, and I submit to you that, were we given proper media coverage of Darfur, the citizenry would want to intervene.  But I think it holds in general.

That's, obviously, just my opinion, based on my experience and reading of the country right now.

Otherwise, they tend to see it as simply putting soldiers in harm's way for no reason.  Remember that George W. Bush "won" in 2000 partly on his insistence that the US not be "The World's Police".  Obviously he changed his tune when becoming the world's police was seen as a political opportunity, thanks to a public that was scared out of its collective mind and wanted to bomb the hell out of something in response.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:21:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no, no. I'm talking about soft power. Defending your interest but not in the style of Commodore Perry.

Why does "get involved" have to entail "putting soldiers in harm's way"?

This is the key.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ever heard of the Alliance for Progress? Peace Corps?

Why do you think <strike>they killed</strike> Kennedy was killed?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 01:15:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Point taken.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 01:16:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of my answer, honestly, is that I don't know.  If I were big on the use of hard power, I wouldn't be here on a liberal blog.  I'm having trouble coming up with an answer.

As far as using soft power to protect "our interests" -- whatever those are; I don't think Americans have much by way of collective interests, and certainly not in the way that the word "interest" is often taken to mean -- is concerned, we do that all the time.  We're in the beginning stages of using it with China on trade and currency policy.  We're doing it with North Korea, too.  (For some reason, we love multilateralism, when the issue is North Korea'a nuclear weapons.  Just in case you didn't think the Bushees were complete hypocrites....)  It's just that the use of soft power is never published or thought of on the scale that hard power is, and understandably so.  The Iraq War is, after all, a much bigger story than trade talks.

But, again, I just don't get the sense that Americans are interested in being involved with "doing something about some issue" when the stakes are not high and "we" can't rationalize it with some view of our national security -- meaning some situation that might call for putting troops in harm's way.

The US doesn't even need to use hard power for anything, aside from police and intelligence personnel to track down al-Qaeda members.  It's such an economic giant, and many countries' economies are so dependent upon US consumers, that the use of hard power is just ridiculous, to me at least.  We could force, for example, China to open up to human rights tomorrow, if we would only put a bit of effort into it.  All we would have to do is threaten to close off trade with it, and the CCP would fold like a house of cards (or the Chinese economy would collapse in a matter of hours if the CCP refused our demands).

What's so frustrating, to me, is that the US could achieve all of the ideals it claims to represent, and it could achieve them without firing a shot.  It has the power to do so.  But no one, aside from Jimmy Carter, seems to advocate it.

With regard to Iraq, and US use of hard power there, I don't know the answer, honestly.  I don't see any economic interests in Iraq.  More oil is not in my interest.  (Oil represents the bad kind of interdependency, from an liberal economist's point of view.)  Democracy and liberty are, of course, in my interest, ideologically.  But they are elsewhere, too, and I don't believe they can be produced by an outside force in a country that has little or no history with the two.  Revolution towards liberal democracy has got to come from within.  Even if oil were seen as being in "our interest," it would've been a hell of a lot easier to simply open up trade.

I also don't follow the logic:  Why open up to China and India, who could each potentially pose a greater threat, but not Iraq?  I've wondered the same thing about Cuba, though Cuba, obviously, poses no threat to us.  (I can get tobacco elsewhere.)  Iraq might have posed a threat to Israel, but I doubt it.  Again, as with Iran, Israel could blow Iraq off the map in a matter of minutes.  The Israelis are hardly incompetent when it comes to war.  Nor is it in my interest to send my fellow citizens to protect a country whose leadership I don't trust.

Anyway, again, I don't know, and I've ranted quite a bit.  My mind is a bit clouded, since I didn't get a lot of sleep last night.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 01:38:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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