Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jeane Kirkpatrick and the current crisis in Honduras

I had an email exchange with Russell Bither-Terry, who for a class was looking for links to two articles by Jeane Kirkpatrick, an ultra conservative foreign policy architect of the Reagan administration. [Note: this is not to implicate Russell in the content of my post! He works on hunger issues and you can read his own blog here]

These articles (published in the conservative Commentary magazine) are famous for their highly influential outline of how the U.S. should deal with Latin America, and explicitly argued that dictatorships were fine as long as they were pro-U.S. They are critical works for understanding Reagan-era policies (indeed, no matter which side you come down on).

Rereading them, I was struck by how amazingly (and depressingly) similar they are to the current arguments about how Honduras is a massive security issue. Take Kirkpatrick's "U.S. Security and Latin America," published in 1981 just as (not coincidentally) Reagan was taking office.

Here is the first paragraph, and just substitute "Hugo Chávez" for the Soviets:

While American attention in the past year has been focused on other matters, developments of great potential importance in Central America and the Caribbean have passed almost unnoticed. The deterioration of the U.S. position in the hemisphere has already created serious vulnerabilities where none previously existed, and threatens now to confront this country with the unprecedented need to defend itself against a ring of Soviet bases on and around our southern and eastern borders.

In other words, what happens in Central America could destroy us all. Therefore any talk about democracy must go out the window because it's all a ruse for our enemies.

American policies have not only proved incapable of dealing with the problems of Soviet/Cuban expansion in the area, they have positively contributed to them and to the alienation of major nations, the growth of neutralism, the destabilization of friendly governments, the spread of Cuban influence, and the decline of U.S. power in the region.


U.S. policy, it was assumed, should be based on an understanding of “changed realities” and guided by an enlightened confidence that what was good for the world was good for the United States. Power was to be used to advance moral goals, not strategic or economic ones. Thus sanctions could be employed to punish human-rights violations, but not to aid American business; power could be used “to the full extent permitted by law” to prevent terrorist actions against Cuba, but not to protect U.S. corporations against expropriation. Nor was power to be a factor in designing or implementing economic aid or trade programs except where these were intended to promote human rights, disarmament, and nuclear non-proliferation.

Barack Obama is being excoriated from the right for even talking about "democracy" or other such disgusting moral goals instead of protecting strategic interests in Honduras.

Anastasio Somoza's Nicaragua had the bad luck to become the second demonstration area for the “fresh start” in Latin America. Just because the regime had been so close and so loyal to the U.S., its elimination would, in exactly the same fashion as the Panama Canal Treaties, dramatize the passing of the old era of “hegemony” in Central America and the arrival of anew era of equity and justice.

Poor Somoza! Poor Micheletti! They're the good guys, for Pete's sake. All that human rights abuse is a Communist plot.

And she ends with the idea that there is no point in trying to do much, because Latin Americans are screwed up anyway. No one says that now, but they're thinking it.

It requires thinking more realistically about the politics of Latin America, about the alternatives to existing governments, and about the amounts and kinds of aid and time that would be required to improve the lives and expand the liberties of the people of the area. The choices are frequently unattractive.

So don't bother with democracy, morality, or human rights. They won't happen anyway, so let's do what's best for us. Which is also good for "them," you know. Or at least good enough.


Nell 1:04 AM  

The fascist fashion week ended with an homage to the styles of the eighties. Sophisticated designs in camouflage adorned the catwalks so adored by Myrna Castro. "Fashion is also culture," she said to the applause of the exquisite guests, "and the eighties were a time with very important styles," she concluded.

Oscar E., report on Day 118 of resistance, Oct. 23

Defensores de Democracia 12:38 PM  

Mr Weeks, this is an excellent article and post.

I think that this Ultra Conservatives are exaggerated and even dangerous.

Not all problems have a military solution.

The rescue of Three American Hostages, Ingrid Betancourt and other military in Colombia was done without a single bullet. Only one or two bruises on two captors that have been extradited to the USA.

A dangerous guy from the Terrorist "Secretariado of the FARC" was killed by his own body guard, for that action, he was paid more than one million dollars by the Colombian Government and now he is hidden somewhere outside Colombia and is scott free in that unknown country.

That is good economic business for the Colombian Army.

I think that these are examples of future methods to fight the grave problem of Terrorism without airstrikes that may kill peasants or civilians.

I strongly hate Hugo Chavez, for his Demagoguery, Populism, Stupid Economics, dictatorship leanings that are evident on his attacks on free speech and the press. His vulgarity and aggressivity against some other nations. His outright support for Terrorism !

But the solution is not a Hydrogen Bomb over Caracas, or the U. S. Army invading Venezuela.

When I say that the Caribbean is going to become a Russian Lake with Chavez, then I am exaggerating and going into Science Fiction or just a Joke.

But I don't like all those Russian ships and submarines on Venezuelan Ports or Islands.

I don't like Chavez Nuclear Energy Centrals in Venezuela or in Latin America. Nuclear Energy in the hands of Irresponsible Ignorants and crazy subjects of resentment and hate.

So Jeane Kirkpatrick is 99% wrong, but there is some little grain of truth in the notion that Chavez is a Real Bad Guy, and nothing good can come from him and his stooges in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

Enter Mr Obama, Fortunately this is a Highly Intelligent U. S. President. I am glad.

Vicente Duque

Anonymous,  6:16 AM  

I'll tell you the connection - the anti-human trafficking movement is packed with neocons and they have been able to get much of their ideology into UN policy over the last few years.

The current head of anti-trafficking powerhouse the "Polaris Project" is Mark Lagon

and he was "principal aide to the Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute" - Kirkpatrick was the Director he worked under.

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