Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cold War revisionism

The subject of proxy wars during the Cold War period is a subject that nowadays is mainly covered only on left-wing blogs and history sites. It's really a shame, too, because their text contains some pretty vicious slander of the United States. Many people read these sites(or books by Chomsky, Zinn, and Cockburn) and now have a distorted view of that period.

According to the left-wing narrative, the US sponsored coup after coup in the Third World, funded and armed tyrants, and stood in the way of democratic progress. It's all true, but it's only half the story. It's a prosecution case which leaves out the historical context. It's like saying that from 1941-1945, the United States murdered millions of Germans and Japanese and invaded country after country, all to protect our economic interests. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of World War II would find such a statement to be ridiculously out of context, despite technically being true. Unfortunately, revisionism of Cold War history tends to work because it happened over a longer period, much of what happened was secret(a lot of very important events are still disputed), and there is a dearth of good, balanced books about the period. And even those books don't deal much with the proxy wars, preferring instead to concentrate on US-Soviet diplomatic strategies and arms control, along with the most well-known crises that almost led to World War III. This is sad, because the US's victories in the proxy wars had as much to do with the eventual fall of the Eastern bloc as any other factor. It's just not a sexy subject for historians without any particular agenda.

Back to that agenda, if you want to learn about the proxy wars, there is no shortage of left-wing authors who have written extensively about them. From Chomsky's writings to "Killing Hope", you can learn all you could ever want to know about US crimes. Not that these books don't serve a valuable purpose. War is ugly. We should know what war looks like so we aren't eager to fight it(or have others fight it on our behalf). But these books don't really tell the reader why we did what we did. Nor do they touch on the end result of our policies.

First let's look at the context. It was the Cold War. The Soviets and Cuba were supporting guerilla forces intent on overthrowing the governments in the region. We had two options: do nothing, and hope for the best, or actively support the governments under attack. We chose the latter. There are varying situations and exceptions, but that's the gist of it. Noncommunist governments were under attack, so we supported those governments to prevent them from falling into the Soviet orbit. In most cases, we succeeded.

In the case of coups, there are two that are nearly legendary in left-wing circles: the coup that overthrew Allende in Chile and the coup that ousted Mossadegh in Iran. There are others, but they aren't as well known on the left because a) the coup victim wasn't a "progressive", or b) the aftermath of the coup wasn't nearly as ugly. In the case of Allende, Pinochet replaced him and Chile fell under tyranny for the next 15 years. In the case of Mossadegh, Iran too fell into dictatorship, as the Shah replaced him for the next 25 years. He in turn was replaced by the mullahs due to his misrule. The Chile story ended much better, but I'll get to that later.

Anyway, the left-wing narrative on Allende is that he was a democratically elected leader who was overthrown in a CIA coup because he threatened US economic interests because he was nationalizing industries. What they don't tell you is that Allende was elected with only 37% of the vote and thus did not enjoy widespread popular support. Of course, this alone means nothing, because a fairly elected leader is a fairly elected leader. But in the context of the rest of the story, it becomes important. Allende tried to make revolutionary changes to Chilean society. A leader with slim support who does this kind of thing can expect the majority that didn't vote for him to be very pissed off, which is exactly what happened. Okay, so you may ask why we overthrew him. If the Chilean people hated him so much, they'd just vote him out, right? Not exactly. Allende was violating the constitution on a regular basis and had Fidel castro over for a full month to dispense advice on Chile's transition to socialism. I think it's pretty easy to see how this would alarm the people who didn't vote for Allende. Allende also made statements that he intended to overthrow democracy. The end result was anarchy. When faith in the democratic process evaporates, the people realize that the only way to get power back is to fight for it. Allende supporters and anti-Allende people fought in the streets. The situation got so bad that the elected Congress called on the military to restore order. And that's the final, most important context that the left-wing authors leave out: the fact that the ELECTED Congress called on the military. Not the United States, not Henry Kissinger. In the end, the military overthrew Allende. What is known is that the coup plotters did consult with CIA agents. But the US did not direct the coup, nor was the coup done because as Chomsky says, "Allende was trying to help his people".

The case of Mossadegh is a lot simpler. He was elected with a lot more popular support. His problems weren't internal, they were external. Mossadegh tried to nationalize Western oil interests. Now when left wing authors say "nationalize" they think they are saying, "give to the people". But to the owner of property, nationalize means to steal. It's eminent domain of a sort, something that US homeowners have become increasingly familiar with. Making things worse, Mossadegh's compensation offer was ridiculously low. The US and Britain rightly saw this as theft and acted. Should they have overthrown Mossadegh? I don't think so. It was a disproportionate response. It was wrong. It's led directly to the problems we have today with Iran. But when you have the whole picture, it does look a little more understandable, doesn't it?

The Cold War was for all intents and purposes a 45-year World War fought by proxies rather than directly between the US and Soviet Union. The US, by doing what left-wingers apparently wanted us to do(stay out of it), would merely have ceded the battlefield to the Soviet Union, condemning billions to Communism and hundreds of millions to mass graves. We fought that war, and we won that war. And because we won that war, today most of the world is democratic. Almost all of those legendary pro-US dictators are now a part of history, dead or in exile, often due to US pressure on those regimes to hold free elections. That's the epilogue to the story that they don't want you to know. Meanwhile, the epilogue to Communism has a far less happy ending. Although the European Communist nations all became democracies, the Third World nations where the Communists managed to win are still tyrannical hellholes to this day. I think it's safe to assume that if we'd conceded those Third World battlegrounds to the Soviet Union back then, they would all look like Cuba and North Korea today. The fact that we won is something to be proud of. That doesn't mean we should shirk our responsibility for the suffering of untold numbers of Third World peoples in those wars. As the ones who did most of our fighting for us I'd say we owe them a Marshall Plan of some sort, especially Latin America. It's more than Russia will ever do. Russia, by the way, STILL supports all of their old clients. You won't be hearing any apologies from them, much less reparations. For all the faults of our Cold War strategy, thank God we won and not them.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Missouri Senate race

Shows what I know. I didn't even mention this race because I assumed Talent was safe.

Turns out he's running neck and neck with his challenger. Poll here.

At this point, the Democrats look to gain a net of two seats. They are leading in Montana(incumbent Burns is in trouble over Abramoff), Missouri(by only three), and Pennsylvania(Santorum getting beat up on by Casey). Republican Tom Kean is currently in a slight lead for the New Jersey seat currently held by Menendez.