Market Democracy in a Neoliberal Order: Doctrines and Reality

Noam Chomsky


I have been asked to speak on some
aspect of academic or human freedom, an invitation that
offers many choices. I will keep to some simple ones. Freedom
without opportunity is a devil’s gift, and the refusal
to provide such opportunities is criminal. The fate of the
more vulnerable offers a sharp measure of the distance from
here to something that might be called
"civilization." While I am speaking, 1000 children
will die from easily preventable disease, and almost twice
that many women will die or suffer serious disability in
pregnancy or childbirth for lack of simple remedies and care.
UNICEF estimates that to overcome such tragedies, and to
ensure universal access to basic social services, would
require a quarter of the annual military expenditures of the
"developing countries," about 10 percent of U.S.
military spending. It is against the background of such
realities as these that any serious discussion of human
freedom should proceed.

It is widely held that the cure for
such profound social maladies is within reach. The hopes have
foundation. The past few years have seen the fall of brutal
tyrannies, the growth of scientific understanding that offers
great promise, and many other reasons to look forward to a
brighter future. The discourse of the privileged is marked by
confidence and triumphalism: the way forward is known, and
there is no other. The basic theme, articulated with force
and clarity, is that "America’s victory in the Cold
War was a victory for a set of political and economic
principles: democracy and the free market." These
principles are "the wave of the future—a future for
which America is both the gatekeeper and the model." I
am quoting the chief political commentator of the New York
, but the picture is conventional, widely repeated
throughout much of the world, and accepted as generally
accurate even by critics. It was also enunciated as the
"Clinton Doctrine," which declared that our new
mission is to "consolidate the victory of democracy and
open markets" that had just been won. There remains a
range of disagreement: at one extreme "Wilsonian
idealists" urge continued dedication to the traditional
mission of benevolence; at the other, "realists"
counter that we may lack the means to conduct these crusades
of "global meliorism," and should not neglect our
own interests in the service of others. Within this range
lies the path to a better world.

Reality seems to me rather different.
The current spectrum of public policy debate has as little
relevance to actual policy as its numerous antecedents:
neither the United States nor any other power has been guided
by "global meliorism." Democracy is under attack
worldwide, including the leading industrial countries; at
least, democracy in a meaningful sense of the term, involving
opportunities for people to manage their own collective and
individual affairs. Something similar is true of markets. The
assaults on democracy and markets are furthermore related.
Their roots lie in the power of corporate entities that are
totalitarian in internal structure, increasingly interlinked
and reliant on powerful states, and largely unaccountable to
the public. Their immense power is growing as a result of
social policy that is globalizing the structural model of the
third world, with sectors of enormous wealth and privilege
alongside an increase in "the proportion of those who
will labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh
for a more equal distribution of its blessings," as the
leading framer of American democracy, James Madison,
predicted 200 years ago. These policy choices are most
evident in the Anglo-American societies, but extend
worldwide. They cannot be attributed to what "the free
market has decided, in its infinite but mysterious
wisdom," "the implacable sweep of ‘the market
revolution’," "Reaganesque rugged
individualism," or a "new orthodoxy" that
"gives the market full sway." The quotes are
liberal-to-left, in some cases quite critical. The analysis
is similar across the rest of the spectrum, but generally
euphoric. The reality, on the contrary, is that state
intervention plays a decisive role, as in the past, and the
basic outlines of policy are hardly novel. Current versions
reflect "capital’s clear subjugation of labor"
for more than 15 years, in the words of the business press,
which often frankly articulates the perceptions of a highly
class-conscious business community, dedicated to class war.

If these perceptions are valid, then
the path to a world that is more just and more free lies well
outside the range set forth by privilege and power. I cannot
hope to establish such conclusions here, but only to suggest
that they are credible enough to consider with care. And to
suggest further that prevailing doctrines could hardly
survive were it not for their contribution to
"regimenting the public mind every bit as much as an
army regiments the bodies of its soldiers," to borrow
the dictum of the respected Roosevelt-Kennedy liberal Edward
Bernays in his classic manual for the Public Relations
industry, of which he was one of the founders and leading

Bernays was drawing from his experience
in Woodrow Wilson’s state propaganda agency, the
Committee on Public Information. "It was, of course, the
astounding success of propaganda during the war that opened
the eyes of the intelligent few in all departments of life to
the possibilities of regimenting the public mind," he
wrote. His goal was to adapt these experiences to the needs
of the "intelligent minorities," primarily business
leaders, whose task is "The conscious and intelligent
manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the
masses." Such "engineering of consent" is the
very "essence of the democratic process," Bernays
wrote shortly before he was honored for his contributions by
the American Psychological Association in 1949. The
importance of "controlling the public mind" has
been recognized with increasing clarity as popular struggles
succeeded in extending the modalities of democracy, thus
giving rise to what liberal elites call "the crisis of
democracy" as when normally passive and apathetic
populations become organized and seek to enter the political
arena to pursue their interests and demands, threatening
stability and order. As Bernays explained the problem, with
"universal suffrage and universal schooling,…at last
even the bourgeoisie stood in fear of the common people. For
the masses promised to become king," a tendency
fortunately reversed—so it has been hoped—as new
methods "to mold the mind of the masses" were
devised and implemented.

To discover the true meaning of the
"political and economic principles" that are
declared to be "the wave of the future," it is
necessary to go beyond rhetorical flourishes and public
pronouncements and to investigate actual practice and the
internal documentary record. Close examination of particular
cases is the most rewarding path, but these must be chosen
carefully to give a fair picture. There are some natural
guidelines. One reasonable approach is to take the examples
chosen by the proponents of the doctrines themselves, as
their "strongest case." Another is to investigate
the record where influence is greatest and interference
least, so that we see the operative principles in their
purest form. If we want to determine what the Kremlin meant
by "democracy" and "human rights," we
will pay little heed to Pravda’s solemn denunciations of
racism in the United States or state terror in its client
regimes, even less to protestation of noble motives. Far more
instructive is the state of affairs in the
"people’s democracies" of Eastern Europe. The
point is elementary, and applies to the self-designated
"gatekeeper and model" as well. Latin America is
the obvious testing ground, particularly the Central
America-Caribbean region. Here Washington has faced few
external challenges for almost a century, so the guiding
principles of policy, and of today’s neoliberal
"Washington consensus," are revealed most clearly
when we examine the state of the region, and how that came

Washington’s "crusade for
democracy," as it is called, was waged with particular
fervor during the Reagan years, with Latin America the chosen
terrain. The results are commonly offered as a prime
illustration of how the U.S. became "the inspiration for
the triumph of democracy in our time," to quote the
editors of the leading intellectual journal of American
liberalism. The author, Sanford Lakoff, singles out the
"historic North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA)" as a potential instrument of democratization.
In the region of traditional U.S. influence, he writes, the
countries are moving towards democracy, having "survived
military intervention" and "vicious civil

The primary "barriers to
implementation" of democracy, Lakoff suggests, are the
"vested interests" that seek to protect
"domestic markets"—that is, to prevent foreign
(mainly U.S.) corporations from gaining even greater control
over the society. We are to understand, then, that democracy
is enhanced as significant decision-making shifts even more
into the hands of unaccountable private tyrannies, mostly
foreign-based. Meanwhile the public arena is to shrink still
further as the state is "minimized" in accordance
with the neoliberal "political and economic
principles" that have emerged triumphant. A study of the
World Bank points out that the new orthodoxy represents
"a dramatic shift away from a pluralist, participatory
ideal of politics and towards an authoritarian and
technocratic ideal…,"  one that is very much in
accord with leading elements of 20th century liberal and
progressive thought, and in another variant, the Leninist
model; the two are more similar than often recognized.
Thinking through the tacit reasoning, we gain some useful
insight into the concepts of democracy and markets, in the
operative sense.

Lakoff does not look into the
"revival of democracy" in Latin America, but he
does cite a scholarly source that includes a contribution on
Washington’s crusade in the 1980s. The author is Thomas
Carothers, who combines scholarship with an
"insider’s perspective," having worked on
"democracy enhancement" programs in Reagan’s
State Department. Carothers regards Washington’s
"impulse to promote democracy" as
"sincere," but largely a failure. Furthermore, the
failure was systematic: where Washington’s influence was
least, in South America, there was real progress towards
democracy, which the Reagan administration generally opposed,
later taking credit for it when the process proved
irresistible. Where Washington’s influence was greatest,
progress was least, and where it occurred, the U.S. role was
marginal or negative. His general conclusion is that the U.S.
sought to maintain "the basic order of…quite
undemocratic societies" and to avoid
"populist-based change," "inevitably [seeking]
only limited, top-down forms of democratic change that did
not risk upsetting the traditional structures of power with
which the United States has long been allied."

The last phrase requires a gloss. The
term "United States" is conventionally used to
refer to structures of power within the United States; the
"national interest" is the interest of these
groups, which correlates only weakly with interests of the
general population. So the conclusion is that Washington
sought top-down forms of democracy that did not upset
traditional structures of power with which the structures of
power in the United States have long been allied.

To appreciate the significance of the
fact, it is necessary to examine more closely the nature of
parliamentary democracies. The United States is the most
important case, not only because of its power, but because of
its stable and long-standing democratic institutions.
Furthermore, the United States was about as close to a model
as one can find. America can be "As happy as she
pleases," Thomas Paine remarked in 1776: "she has a
blank sheet to write upon. The indigenous societies were
largely eliminated. There is little residue of earlier
European structures, one reason for the relative weakness of
the social contract and of support systems, which often had
their roots in pre-capitalist institutions. And to an unusual
extent, the socio-political order was consciously designed.
In studying history, one cannot construct experiments, but
the U.S. is as close to the "ideal case" of state
capitalist democracy as can be found.

Furthermore, the leading framer of the
constitutional system was an astute and lucid political
thinker, James Madison, whose views largely prevailed. In the
debates on the Constitution, Madison pointed out that in
England, if elections "were open to all classes of
people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure.
An agrarian law would soon take place," giving land to
the landless. The system that he and his associates were
designing must prevent such injustice, he urged, and
"secure the permanent interests of the country,"
which are property rights. It is the responsibility of
government, Madison declared, "to protect the minority
of the opulent against the majority." To achieve this
goal, political power must rest in the hands of "the
wealth of the nation," men who would "sympathize
sufficiently" with property rights and "be safe
depositories of power over them," while the rest are
marginalized and fragmented, offered only limited public
participation in the political arena. Among Madisonian
scholars, there is a consensus that "The Constitution
was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check
the democratic tendencies of the period," delivering
power to a "better sort" of people and excluding
"those who were not rich, well born, or prominent from
exercising political power." These conclusions are often
qualified by the observation that Madison, and the
constitutional system generally, sought to balance the rights
of persons against the rights of property. But the
formulation is misleading. Property has no rights. In both
principle and practice, the phrase "rights of
property" means the right to property, typically
material property, a personal right which must be privileged
above all others, and is crucially different from others in
that one person’s possession of such rights deprives
another of them. When the facts are stated clearly, we can
appreciate the force of the doctrine that "the people
who own the country ought to govern it," "one of
[the] favorite maxims" of Madison’s influential
colleague John Jay, his biographer observes.

One may argue, as some historians do,
that these principles lost their force as the national
territory was conquered and settled, the native population
driven out or exterminated. Whatever one’s assessment of
those years, by the late 19th century the founding doctrines
took on a new and much more oppressive form.

But the growth of the industrial
economy, and the rise of corporate forms of economic
enterprise, led to a completely new meaning of the term. In a
current official document, "Person" is broadly
defined to include any individual, branch, partnership,
associated group, association, estate, trust, corporation or
other organization (whether or not organized under the laws
of any State), or any government entity," a concept that
doubtless would have shocked Madison and others with
intellectual roots in the Enlightenment and classical
liberalism—pre-capitalist, and anti-capitalist in

These radical changes in the conception
of human rights and democracy were not introduced primarily
by legislation, but by judicial decisions and intellectual
commentary. Corporations, which previously had been
considered artificial entities with no rights, were accorded
all the rights of persons, and far more, since they are
"immortal persons," and "persons" of
extraordinary wealth and power. Furthermore, they were no
longer bound to the specific purposes designated by state
charter, but could act as they chose, with few constraints.
The intellectual backgrounds for granting such extraordinary
rights to "collectivist legal entities" lie in
neo-Hegelian doctrines that also underlie Bolshevism and
fascism: the idea that organic entities have rights over and
above those of persons. Conservative legal scholars bitterly
opposed these innovations, recognizing that they undermine
the traditional idea that rights inhere in individuals, and
undermine market principles as well. But the new forms of
authoritarian rule were institutionalized, and along with
them, the legitimation of wage labor, which was considered
hardly better than slavery in mainstream American thought
through much of the 19th century, not only by the rising
labor movement but also by such figures as Abraham Lincoln,
the Republican Party, and the establishment media.

These are topics with enormous
implications for understanding the nature of market
democracy. The material and ideological outcome helps explain
the understanding that "democracy" abroad must
reflect the model sought at home: "top-down" forms
of control, with the public kept to a "spectator"
role, not participating in the arena of decision-making,
which must exclude these "ignorant and meddlesome
outsiders," according to the mainstream of modern
democratic theory. I happen to be quoting the essays on
democracy by Walter Lippmann, one of the most respected
American public intellectuals and journalists of the century.
But the general ideas are standard and have solid roots in
the constitutional tradition, radically modified, however, in
the new era of collectivist legal entities.

Returning to the "victory of
democracy" under U.S. guidance, neither Lakoff nor
Carothers asks how Washington maintained the traditional
power structure of highly undemocratic societies. Their topic
is not the terrorist wars that left tens of thousands of
tortured and mutilated corpses, millions of refugees, and
devastation perhaps beyond recovery—in large measure
wars against the Church, which became an enemy when it
adopted "the preferential option for the poor,"
trying to help suffering people to attain some measure of
justice and democratic rights. It is more than symbolic that
the terrible decade of the 1980s opened with the murder of an
Archbishop who had become "a voice for the
voiceless," and closed with the assassination of six
leading Jesuit intellectuals who had chosen the same path, in
each case by terrorist forces armed and trained by the
victors of the "crusade for democracy." One should
take careful note of the fact that the leading Central
American dissident intellectuals were doubly assassinated:
both murdered, and silenced. Their words, indeed their very
existence, are scarcely known in the United States, unlike
dissidents in enemy states, who are greatly honored and
admired; another cultural universal, I presume.

Such matters do not enter history as
recounted by the victors. In Lakoff’s study, which is
not untypical in this regard, what survives are references to
"military intervention" and "civil wars,"
with no external factor identified. These matters will not so
quickly be put aside, however, by those who seek a better
grasp of the principles that are to shape the future, if the
structures of power have their way.

Particularly revealing is Lakoff’s
description of Nicaragua, again standard: "a civil war
was ended following a democratic election, and a difficult
effort is underway to create a more prosperous and
self-governing society." In the real world, the
superpower attacking Nicaragua escalated its assault on the
country’s first democratic election: the election of
1984, closely monitored and recognized as legitimate by the
professional association of Latin American scholars (LASA),
Irish, and British Parliamentary delegations, and others,
including a hostile Dutch government delegation that was
remarkably supportive of Reaganite atrocities, as well as the
leading figure of Central American democracy, Jose Figueres
of Costa Rica, also critical observer, though regarding the
elections as legitimate in this "invaded country,"
and calling on Washington to allow the Sandinistas "to
finish what they started in peace; they deserve it." The
U.S. strongly opposed the holding of the elections and sought
to undermine them, concerned that democratic elections might
interfere with its terrorist war. But that concern was put to
rest by the good behavior of the doctrinal system, which
barred the reports with remarkable efficiency, reflexively
adopting the state propaganda line that the elections were
meaningless fraud.

Overlooked as well is the fact that as
the next election approached on schedule, Washington left no
doubt that unless the results came out the right way,
Nicaraguans would continue to endure the illegal economic
warfare and "unlawful use of force" that the World
Court had condemned and ordered terminated, of course in
vain. This time the outcome was acceptable, and hailed in the
U.S. with an outburst of exuberance that is highly
informative. At the outer limits of critical independence,
columnist Anthony Lewis of the New York Times was
overcome with admiration for Washington’s
"experiment in peace and democracy," which showed
that "we live in a romantic age." The experimental
methods were no secret. Thus Time magazine, joining in
the celebration as "democracy burst forth" in
Nicaragua, outlined them frankly: to "wreck the economy
and prosecute a long and deadly proxy war until the exhausted
natives overthrow the unwanted government themselves,"
with a cost to us that is "minimal," leaving the
victim "with wrecked bridges, sabotaged power stations,
and ruined farms," and providing Washington’s
candidate with "a winning issue," ending the
"impoverishment of the people of Nicaragua," not to
speak of the continuing terror, better left unmentioned.

The methods of this "romantic
age," and the reaction to them in enlightened circles,
tell us more about the democratic principles that have
emerged victorious. They also shed some light on why it is
such a "difficult effort" to "create a more
prosperous and self-governing society" in Nicaragua. It
is true that the effort is now underway, and is meeting with
some success for a privileged minority, while most of the
population faces social and economic disaster, all in the
familiar pattern of Western dependencies.

We learn more about the victorious
principles by recalling that these same representative
figures of liberal intellectual life had urged that
Washington’s wars must be waged mercilessly, with
military support for "Latin-style fascists,…regardless
of how many are murdered," because "there are
higher American priorities than Salvadoran human
rights." Elaborating, editor Michael Kinsley, who
represented "the left" in mainstream commentary and
television debate, cautioned against unthinking criticism of
Washington’s official policy of attacking undefended
civilian targets. Such international terrorist operations
cause "vast civilian suffering," he acknowledged,
but they may be "perfectly legitimate" if
"cost-benefit analysis" shows that "the amount
of blood and misery that will be poured in" yields
"democracy," as the world rulers define it.
Enlightened opinion insists that terror is not a value in
itself, but must meet the pragmatic criterion. Kinsley later
observed that the desired ends had been achieved:
"impoverishing the people of Nicaragua was precisely the
point of the contra war and the parallel policy of economic
embargo and veto of international development loans,"
which "wreck[ed] the economy" and "creat[ed]
the economic disaster [that] was probably the victorious
opposition’s best election issue." He then joined
in welcoming the "triumph of democracy" in the
"free election" of 1990.

Client states enjoy similar privileges.
Thus, commenting on yet another of Israel’s attacks on
Lebanon, foreign editor H.D.S. Greenway of the Boston Globe,
who had graphically reported the first major invasion 15
years earlier, commented that "If shelling Lebanese
villages, even at the cost of lives, and driving civilian
refugees north would secure Israel’s border, weaken
Hezbollah, and promote peace, I would say go to it, as would
many Arabs and Israelis. But history has not been kind to
Israeli adventures in Lebanon. They have solved very little
and have almost always caused more problems." By the
pragmatic criterion, then, the murder of many civilians,
expulsion of hundreds of thousand of refugees, and
devastation of southern Lebanon is a dubious proposition.

Also revealing was the reaction to
periodic Reagan administration allegations about Nicaraguan
plans to obtain jet interceptors from the Soviet Union (the
U.S. having coerced its allies into refusing to sell them).
Hawks demanded that Nicaragua be bombed at once. Doves
countered that the charges must first be verified, but if
they were, the U.S. would have to bomb Nicaragua. Sane
observers understood why Nicaragua might want jet
interceptors: to protect its territory from CIA overflights
that were supplying the U.S. proxy forces and providing them
with up-to-the-minute information so that they could follow
the directive to attack undefended "soft targets."
The tacit assumption is that no country has a right to defend
civilians from U.S. attack. The doctrine, which reigned
unchallenged, is an interesting one. It might be illuminating
to seek counterparts elsewhere.

The pretext for Washington’s
terrorist wars was self-defense, the standard official
justification for just about any monstrous act, even the Nazi
Holocaust. Indeed Ronald Reagan, finding "that the
policies and actions of the Government of Nicaragua
constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the
national security and foreign policy of the United
States," declared "a national emergency to deal
with that threat," arousing no ridicule. Others react
differently. In response to John F. Kennedy’s efforts to
organize collective action against Cuba in 1961, a Mexican
diplomat explained that Mexico could not go along, because
"If we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our
security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.
Enlightened opinion in the West takes a more sober view of
the extraordinary threat to national security. By similar
logic, the USSR had every right to attack Denmark, a far
greater threat to its security, and surely Poland and Hungary
when they took steps towards independence. The fact that such
pleas can regularly be put forth is again an interesting
comment on the intellectual culture of the victors, and
another indication of what lies ahead.

The substance of the Cold War pretexts
is greatly illuminated by the case of Cuba, as are the real
operative principles. These have emerged with much clarity
once again in the past few weeks, with Washington’s
refusal to accept World Trade Organization adjudication of a
European Union challenge to its embargo, which is unique in
its severity, and had already been condemned as a violation
of international law by the Organization of American States
and repeatedly by the United Nations, with near unanimity,
more recently extended to severe penalties for third parties
that disobey Washington’s edicts, yet another violation
of international law and trade agreements. The official
response of the Clinton administration, as reported by the
Newspaper of Record, is that "Europe is challenging
‘three decades of American Cuba policy that goes back to
the Kennedy Administration,’ and is aimed entirely at
forcing a change of government in Havana." The
Administration also declared that the WTO "has no
competence to proceed" on an issue of American national
security, and cannot "force the U.S. to change its

The reasoning with regard to the WTO is
reminiscent of the official U.S. grounds for dismissing World
Court adjudication of Nicaragua’s charges. In both
cases, the U.S. rejected jurisdiction on the plausible
assumption that rulings would be against the U.S.; by simple
logic, then, neither is a proper forum. The State Department
Legal Adviser explained that when the U.S. accepted World
Court jurisdiction in the 1940s, most members of the UN
"were aligned with the United States and shared its
views regarding world order." But now "A great many
of these cannot be counted on to share our view of the
original constitutional conception of the UN Charter,"
and "This same majority often opposes the United States
on important international questions." Lacking a
guarantee that it will get its way, the U.S. must now
"reserve to ourselves the power to determine whether the
Court has jurisdiction over us in a particular case," on
the principle that "the United States does not accept
compulsory jurisdiction over any dispute involving matters
essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the United
States, as determined by the United States." The
"domestic matters" in question were the U.S. attack
against Nicaragua.

The media, along with intellectual
opinion generally, agreed that the Court discredited itself
by ruling against the United States. The crucial parts of its
decision were not reported, including its determination that
all U.S. aid to the contras is military and not humanitarian;
it remained "humanitarian aid" across the spectrum
of respectable opinion until Washington’s terror,
economic warfare, and subversion of diplomacy brought about
the "victory for U.S. fair play."

Returning to the WTO case, we need not
tarry on the allegation that the existence of the United
States is at stake in the strangulation of the Cuban economy.
More interesting is the thesis that the U.S. has every right
to overthrow another government, in this case, by aggression,
large-scale terror over many years, and economic
strangulation. Accordingly, international law and trade
agreements are irrelevant. The fundamental principles of
world order that have emerged victorious again resound, loud
and clear.

The Clinton administration declarations
passed without challenge, though they were criticized on
narrower grounds by historian Arthur Schlesinger. Writing
"as one involved in the Kennedy administration’s
Cuban policy," Schlesinger maintained that the Clinton
administration had misunderstood Kennedy’s policies. The
concern had been Cuba’s "troublemaking in the
hemisphere" and "the Soviet connection,"
Schlesinger explained. But these are now behind us, so the
Clinton policies are an anachronism, though otherwise
unobjectionable, so we are to conclude.

Schlesinger did not explain the meaning
of the phrases "troublemaking in the hemisphere"
and "the Soviet connection," but he has elsewhere,
in secret. Reporting to incoming President Kennedy on the
conclusions of a Latin American Mission in early 1961,
Schlesinger spelled out the problem of Castro’s
"troublemaking"—what the Clinton
administration calls Cuba’s effort "to destabilize
large parts of Latin America: it is "the spread of the
Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own
hands," a serious problem, Schlesinger added, when
"The distribution of land and other forms of national
wealth greatly favors the propertied classes…[and] The poor
and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban
revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent
living." Schlesinger also explained the threat of the
"Soviet connection": "Meanwhile, the Soviet
Union hovers in the wings, flourishing large development
loans and presenting itself as the model for achieving
modernization in a single generation." The "Soviet
connection" was perceived in a similar light far more
broadly in Washington and London, from the origins of the
Cold War 80 years ago.

With these (secret) explanations of
Castro’s "destabilization" and
"troublemaking in the hemisphere," and of the
"Soviet connection," we come closer to
understanding the reality of the Cold War. It should come as
no surprise that basic policies persist with the Cold War a
fading memory, just as they were carried out before the
Bolshevik revolution: the brutal and destructive invasion of
Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to mention just one
illustration of "global meliorism" under the banner
of "Wilsonian idealism."

It should be added that the policy of
overthrowing the government of Cuba antedates the Kennedy
administration. Castro took power in January 1959. By June,
the Eisenhower administration had determined that his
government must be overthrown. Terrorist attacks from U.S.
bases began shortly after. The formal decision to overthrow
Castro in favor of a regime "more devoted to the true
interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the
U.S." was taken in secret in March 1960, with the
addendum that the operation must be carried out "in such
a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S.
intervention," because of the expected reaction in Latin
America and the need to ease the burden on doctrinal managers
at home. At the time, the "Soviet connection" and
"troublemaking in the hemisphere" were nil, apart
from the Schlesingerian version. The CIA estimated that the
Castro government enjoyed popular support (the Clinton
administration has similar evidence today). The Kennedy
administration also recognized that its efforts violated
international law and the Charters of the UN and OAS, but
such issues were dismissed without discussion, the
declassified record reveals


More of the Davie Lecture will appear
in coming months.