The Foreign Policy Debate: Coke or Pepsi?

by Kevin Carson

The Foreign Policy Debate: Coke or Pepsi?

Monday’s Presidential debate on foreign policy, as one might have expected, supplied more than its share of howlers. Mittens, for example, referred to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez as one of the “world’s worst actors.” In response to an early Obama administration statement to the effect that “the United States has dictated,” Romney said: “The United States does not dictate to other countries. It frees other countries from dictators.” And he referred to Iran as “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism,” and called for the prosecution of Ahmadinejad for genocide.

It’s hard to guess whether Mittens is really this abysmally ignorant or just pandering to his estimate of his audience’s stupidity.

Let’s start with Chavez. He’s certainly shown a dismaying tendency toward authoritarianism and caudillismo as president of Venezuela. But it’s a safe guess his “Bolivarian Socialism” is nowhere near as godawful as the regime the United States would have replaced him with — and still would — had its attempted coup in 2002 succeeded. At best it would reenact the corporate looting of state assets, rubber-stamping of fake “free trade” treaties, and union busting carried out by Paul Bremer’s Iraq Provisional Authority. At worst, it would resort to the same secret police and death squad murders of labor activists as other Latin American regimes installed by U.S.-backed coups in previous decades. Either way, you could count on massive transfer of peasant land back to landed oligarchs.

Apparently the U.S. state’s main criterion for a “bad actor” is someone who doesn’t take orders from Washington — and worse yet, manages to retain power when Washington decides to punish him for it.

As for that bit about “freeing countries from dictators” bit, my eyes hurt from rolling so much. Yeah, the U.S. freed the hell out of Guatemala, Iran and Indonesia. Mobutu built pyramids of the skulls of those he liberated. Starting with Goulart in Brazil and Allende in Chile, and proceeding through Operation Condor in the 1970s, the United States “freed” one country after another from left-leaning elected governments and replaced them with military dictatorships. In those days you could identify the “Free World” by all the dictatorships installed by the United States, rather than by the Soviet Union.

And any time you see a U.S. government ranking of “state sponsors of terrorism,” you should always remember to fill in the unspoken “except for the United States.” From the military regime that supplanted Arbenz in 1954 to the Contras in Nicaragua thirty years later, the systematic use of death squads to terrorize labor and landless peasant activists into docility has been a favorite weapon in the American arsenal.

Never mind the direct use of state military power as a terrorist weapon — deliberately blowing up electrical plants and water purification facilities. When it comes to the murder of hundreds of thousands through fire-bombing as an instrument of state terror, the U.S. has been the unchallenged heavyweight champion since 1945.

Not that Obama is any better. Liberal Democrats, just as much as Republicans, make foreign policy on the assumption stated by Chomsky as “America owns the world.” Obama, as much as Romney, believes the United States bears some sort of messianic obligation to maintain “global security” by determining the outcomes of international disputes, installing “responsible” governments, and deciding who’s allowed to have nukes. Obama, as much as Romney, believes America is the one country whose “defense” capability should be based, not on “legitimate defensive needs,” but on the capability of enforcing its will on the entire rest of the world combined. Obama believes, every bit as much as Madeline Albright did when she was raining death from the skies over Yugoslavia, that “America is the world’s indispensable nation.”

Obama may believe that America sometimes “makes mistakes” in carrying out this messianic destiny, but he doesn’t question the rightfulness of the destiny itself. Romney uses red meat rhetoric to appeal to the jingoist bigots in his base. But Obama’s more pacific rhetoric amounts to little more, in practice, than James T. Kirk’s attitude as expressed in the novelty song “Star Trekkin’”: “We come in peace — shoot to kill, shoot to kill …”

However the 2012 race comes out, the winner will believe America has a unique role in telling the other countries of the world what to do. He’ll murder people — including American citizens — by the thousands with drones with no oversight whatsoever. And he’ll treat the ability to defend against an American attack as a “threat.”

The foreign policy will be the same. But you get to choose whether you want it packaged in idealistic Kennedy liberal rhetoric, or troglodytic “kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” rhetoric. So which is it? Coke or Pepsi?

6 responses to “The Foreign Policy Debate: Coke or Pepsi?

  1. Actually it was the United States that saved the life of Chevez in 2002 – with appeals from Washington that he not be killed. The American government (under the first President Bush) made a similar move in relation to the coup against Norega in Panama.

    It is possible to have a bloodless coup, but it is very difficult – Washington often seems to not understand that by appealing that an enemy not be killed they may well be dooming friends to death. That was certainly the case in Panama – where the choice not to kill Norega led to him returning to power and killing the people who had tried to remove him. In Venezuela also the Chevez regime has organised killings.

    Chevez is himself a former attempted coup leader (a “detail” that Kevin forgets to mention) stupidly pardened by a Venezulelain President back in the 1990s.

    However, it is the statement that the Chevez regime is “nowhere near as Godawful as the regime American would have replaced him with or still would…..”

    I see so social democracy (mixed economy welfare statism) that the United States has historically supported in Venezuala, is much worse (not less bad – no worse) than socialism. Than the endless nationalisation of business enterprises than so on.

    It comes as no shock to me that Kevin says this – after all I have known for years that he is enemy of civil society style liberty (that he flies the Black Flag of “anarchism” rather than the Red Flag of Marxism makes no practical difference), but those who still try and claim that Kevin is a “classical liberal” or even a “libertarian”, have some explaining to do.

    Kevin has indicated (yet again) a clear preference for the Chevez drive towards full socialism, over the European style social democracy of the Venezuelian oppostion.

    I suspect that Kevin’s only real problem with Chevez is that Chevez has not yet (although he is working hard on it – directly and indirectly) terminated all large scale business enterprises and other large scale property in the means of production, distribution and exchange.

  2. Oh by the way….

    Contrary to what Kevin implies above, the United States govenrment has supported (not opposed) “land reform” in Latin America for many years.

    Indeed a libertarian would attack the United States government for supporting land theft (which is what “land reform” actually is), both on moral and economic grounds.

    The argument that the large scale estates in Latin America were stolen (from Indian tribes or whoever) in past centuries is not a defence for taking them by force in the 20th or 21st centuries – the “argument” that “your grandfather stole this land, so I can take it from you” is morally bankrupt (as Roman law understood – thousands of years ago).

    Of course if an estate is badly run then ownership will pass to someone else (by the normal market process – i.e. profit seeking). And if it really is more efficient to break up an estate the this the market will also do – due to the profit motive (with no need for “help” from the United States).

    The peasant plot (“penny packet”) “land reform” that the American government has supported (with its aid and so on) in Latin American has been an economic failure almost everywhere. Leading both to uneconomic farming and major environmental problems.

    I repeat.

    A libertarian would attack the American government for supporting “land reform” in Latin America. Not, as Kevin implies, for supposedly opppsing “land reform”.

    However, it is possible that by land refrom Kevin does not mean dividing estates into peasant plot (“penny packets”) after the (economically terrible) manor of Nasser in Egypt and also so many regimes in Latin America (such as Duarte in El Savador after the 1979 coup – of course he also nationalized many companies, but Kevn would most likely still pretend he w as a puppet of American “Capital” and that American policy was determined by “Big Business” and/or “the corporations”).

    It is possible that what Kevin acutally wants is for “the peasants” to “own” the land on a collective basis.

    In Russia after the freeing of the Serfs in the 1860s land was handed out not to invidual peasants (which would have been bad enough), but to “Mirs” peasant-communities. The Mir system had existed on the Royal estates – and the Imperial government decided to spread it.

    The communal policy was a disaster – leading to famine after famine.

    Only when Stolypin allowed peasants to withdraw land from the Mir system – and for intelligent business minded peasants to buy land from drunken waster peasants, did a successful class of proper farmers grow up on the former estates (much in the way that such farmers had always existed in other areas of Russia – for example the far north, and in the far east).

    Of course these people were called the “Kulacks”. Neither the Red Flag Marxists or the Black Flag “anarchists” (the Kevins?) liked them.

  3. Kevin also mentions Indonesia.

    Contrary to what he implies (an implication similar to what Comrade Barack Obama and Comrade Bill Ayers write in their “Dreams From My Father” book), the Communists in Indonesia was not slaughtered by the United States. They were slaughterted by Indonesians.

    The Communists attempted a coup in 1966 with the dream of creating a society (such as the Soviet Union under Stalin or China under Mao) were tens of millions of people of people would be exterminated.

    However, after some minor successes at first, the Communists lost – and it was them who ended up getting killed (in their hundreds of thousands).

    What had been the largest Communist party in the non Communist world ended up getting virtually wiped out – and most of the killings were not even by the army, they were by the peasants themselves.

    You see the army, quite truthfully, told the peasant farmers that the Communists were going to take their land (as they had done in China and were to do in Cambodia and so).

    The peasants, not wishing to be exterminated in their tens of millions by the Communists (after the mannor of what Mao was doing in China at this very time – see “Mao: The Untold Story”) joined the army in cutting the Communists into small pieces. Kevin appears to regard this as a bad thing.

    Did the CIA shed any tears over this? I doubt it – although the CIA has traditionally had a lot of social democrat (what the Americans call “liberal”) people in it, whose politics is certainly not mine.

    Would I burst into tears if farmers (or other business people) cut Kevin into pieces in defence against any efforts of his to take their property, and exterminate them and their families (and any poor person, “henchman of the Kulacks”, who attempted to defend them)? I doubt that also.

    Oh no – here comes Sean Gabb with his “Public Order Act”, how scary.

  4. Short recap:

    Kevin in this article has come out as a supporter of the socialist (and Castro ally) Chevez – regarding him as to prefered over the social democratic opposition.

    And has, de facto (by opposing fighting back against them), come out in favour of the Communists in Indonesia back in the 1960s – whose aim was full collectivism and the extermination of tens of millions of human beings.

    Attacks upon me will center on typeing mistakes and other such.

    I have come to expect no higher level of response from the genocidal collectivists of the “social justice” crowd.

  5. Bravo Mr. Marks!

    I do like Kevin Carson especially for his cogent analysis on microeconomic issues such as health care in the United States. However, its clear that he is either misguided or maliciously in tentative support of Communist revolutionary monsters in 3rd world lands such as Indonesia, when there is zero doubt that the opposition would be better.
    People on the left (this includes left-libertarians) often like to shame the ‘Chicago Boyz’ for helping Pinochet. I used to hem and haw and be defensive but I say, if there is a civil war between someone like Pinochet and someone like Castro-loving Allende, I will support Pinochet every single time unapologetically. Has the left ever apologized for Lenin, Stalin, Mao or even Castro? No. And Pinochet saved his country from Communism and returned it to prosperous, market-oriented social democracy. Fuck the leftists for demonizing him.

  6. contemplationist one still has to be clear eyed (I think you would agree there). Killing armed Cong is not the same thing as killing unarmed Cong – and the latter action should be opposed.

    Of course the “they have always done it to us, and if we let them live they would kill us – first chance they got” argument is true, but “two wrongs do not make a right”. And if we have to resist the urge to kill the enemy if the lay down their weapons (or do not have any). I do not pretend it is easy – indeed that urge is very hard to resist (perhaps it is tougher for some of us – but I would not advice talking about that, as Sean Gabb will do his quote-out-of-context tapdance and start making threats about that “Public Order Act”), but it should be resisted.

    Nor is this “just” a matter of opposing murder and torture. One must be clear eyed about economic policy also.

    Pinochet set himself (and everyone else) up for an economic fall – by the demented policy of “fixing” (rigging) the exchange rate.

    Sure that policy was opposed – but why was it not opposed more strongly?

    Was if because the guy was “one of ours” and, thus, there was gut level desire not to be seen to undermine him?

    Actually bad economic choices will undermine someone whether or not one talks about them (the universe being objective – not subjective). That is not to deny that a lot of good economic policy choices were made – but when the wrong path was chosen that should have been attacked (far more than it was attacked).

    Nor is it only dictators…..

    When George Walker Bush was elected he followed terrible economic policies.

    For example, he proposed “No Child Left Behind” and “Medicare Part D”.

    Then the word went out (indeed sometimes the words were unspoken – but they were thought….).

    “We do not like this – but he is a Republican President, to oppose his polcies would be to undermine him….”

    Thinking like that is sucidal.

    Bad policy undermines things – it is not opposing bad policy that undermines things.

    If a friend (to whom one is tied) starts walking towards a cliff (which he is unable to see) one does not do him any good by just tagging along with him.

    If he will not listen to reason – then one has to cut that rope (to try and avoid going off the cliff with him).

    That is not disloyal – especially if he is dragging a lot of other people off the cliff also.

    And it is true of war also.

    If someone’s plan is based on a false assumption (for example “Islam is a religion of peace – so if we just get rid of a few bad guys….” – the Blair-Bush assumption) then the plan is likely to a bad plan.

    And bad plans should be opposed.