Cold War was supposed to bring not only a peace dividend, with less money spent on
defense, but a sort of moral dividend, too. The United States, which had suppressed its
ethical standards in the higher battle against godless Communism, was now supposed to be
able to pick its friends with a little more discretion." Can you imagine this: the
article actually went downhill from there.
Erlanger wants us to believe that during the Cold War U.S. foreign policy succumbed to
awful compromises, like bombing Indochina back to the stone age, overthrowing efforts at
liberation in Central America, and supporting dictators throughout the world, all to
withstand the Russians. It doesn’t matter that even a cursory examination shows that
Washington was often supporting allies of the Russians. It doesn’t matter that U.S.
pursuits were in every instance precisely aligned with the interests of our multinationals
and of capital more broadly, with no regard for the well being of non-elite populations
abroad or at home. These facts, easily discerned at a glance—or demonstrated for
skeptics by revealing the almost perfect correlation between U.S. military and police aid
and interventions, on the one hand, and the domestic repression of recipient regimes and
preservation of free access for U.S. capital to cheap labor and resources, on the
other—are tossed aside or, more accurately, never perceived in the first place.
But Erlanger isn’t 100 percent blinded by the light of his allegiances. After
cataloging some current U.S. alliances he notes that, "In other words, nearly a
decade after the Berlin Wall fell, the United States is still keeping some sordid
company." Ooops. He has a problem. If the only reason we "kept sordid
company" before (never mind that we are the most sordid bully on the block) was
because the big bad Russians gave us no choice, then, with the Russians no longer on our
doorstep, why do we still do it?
Here comes liberal genius, such as it is. "Either the post-Soviet world is more
complex than Americans can handle, or bad old habits die hard." Wow. What
comprehensive logic. Here’s another angle to consider: The reasons the U.S. regularly
aligned with trained, armed, and protected cutthroat butchers, both during and after the
Cold War, are because then and now the U.S. government and its elite constituencies prefer
regimes who will defend our corporate and geopolitical interests against their own
populations, by any means necessary.
This hypothesis, which would snap into Erlanger’s lockjaw-like mind in an instant
if he were viewing a similar pattern of policy on the part of, say, the Soviet Union, is
ruled out of court. Erlanger gives himself away, however, when he indicates that what
replaced Somoza (the Sandinistas) was worse than Somoza. So a regime hell bent on
utilizing Nicaragua’s resources for Nicaragua’s citizens and, at the outset,
quite willing to enter agreements with the U.S., was worse than a grotesque terror regime?
What standards are at work here, one wonders? Is it that the Sandinistas inclined toward
the Soviets? Nah, it can’t be that, or we wouldn’t have bent them that way by
preventing them from dealing with anyone else in the world. Or is it that the Sandinistas
threatened U.S. business interests, both directly and by the possibility that others would
emulate their plans to benefit their population (instead of our multinationals) with their
Of course the Republicans aren’t a whole lot more astute than Erlanger, at least
when trying to alibi in public. So Erlanger quotes Peter Rodman of the Nixon Center:
"You can’t have a China strategy without Indonesia as a counterweight, and a lot
of the people who attack Suharto on human-rights grounds also get badly worried about
China, which is the big enchilada, and don’t connect the two." How profound. So
our policy has nothing to do with U.S. business interests? There is no relation between
the horrible treatment of populations at the hands of the butchers we train and arm, and
our corporation’s aims? Barbaric repression, for these analysts, is just a nasty
sidebar to some subtle geopolitical balancing act against maniacal terrorists and in the
interests of all right-thinking humanity. Too bad the Timorese have to pay the price.
The truth, of course, however ugly and sad, is that barbaric repression of indigenous
populations is the main motive of our support, on behalf of our corporations—and
capitalism more generally. But that isn’t news that’s fit to print in the New