For US elites the easing of Cold War tensions was a mixed blessing. True, the decline of the Soviet deterrent facilitates US resort to violence and coercion in the Third World, and the collapse of the Soviet system paves the way to integration of much of East and Central Europe into the domains that are to "complement the industrial economies of the West. " But problems arise in controlling the ever-threatening public at home and maintaining influence over the allies, now credible rivals in terms of economic power and ahead in the project of adapting the new Third World to their needs. Here lie many problems, of a potentially serious nature. It was therefore hardly surprising that Gorbachev’s initiatives should have elicited such ambivalent reactions, tinged with visible annoyance and thoughts as to how they could be exploited to Washington’s advantage; or that his unilateral concessions and offers were so commonly interpreted as moves in a game of PR one-upmanship, in which our side unfortunately lacked the talent to compete.
The "Unsettling Specter of Peace" raises "knotty ‘peace’ questions," the Wall Street Journal observes.’ Crucially, it threatens the regular resort to the military Keynesian programs that have served as the major device of state economic management through the postwar years. The Journal quotes former army chief of staff General Edward Meyer, who thinks that a more capital-intensive and high-tech military will ensure "a big business out there for industry": robot tanks, unmanned aircraft, sophisticated electronics-all of dubious use for any defensive (or probably any) military purpose, but that is not the point. It is, however, a rather lame hope; how will the public be bludgeoned into paying the costs, without a plausible Red Menace on the horizon?
Business circles have long taken for granted that the state must play a major role in maintaining the system of private profit. They may welcome talk about free enterprise and laissez-faire, but only as a weapon to prevent diversion of public resources to the , 7 population at large, or to facilitate the exploitation of the dependencies.
The assumption has been that a probable alternative to the Pentagon system is investment for social needs. While perhaps technically feasible by the abstract standards of the economist, this option interferes with the prerogatives of owners and managers and is therefore ruled out as a policy option. But unless driven by fear, the public will neither choose the path that best serves corporate interests nor support foreign adventures undertaken to subordinate the Third World to the same demands.
Problems of social control mount in so far as the state is limited in its capacity to coerce. It is, after all, hardly a law of nature that a few should command while the multitude obey, that the economy should be geared to ensuring luxuries for some instead of necessities for all, or that the fate-^ even the survival-of future generations be dismissed as irrelevant to planning. If ordinary folk are free to reflect on the causes of human misery (in Barrington Moore’s phrase), they may well draw all the wrong conclusions. Therefore, they must be indoctrinated or diverted, a task that requires unremitting efforts. The means are many; engendering fear of a threatening enemy has always been a powerful tool in the kit.
The Vietnam years awakened many minds. To counter the threat, it was necessary to restore the image of American benevolence and to rebuild the structure of fear. Both challenges were addressed with the dedication they demand.
The congressional human rights campaign, itself a reflection of the improvement in the moral and intellectual climate, was skillfully exploited for the former end. In the featured article of the Foreign Affairs annual review of the world, Robert Tucker comments, cynically but accurately, that since the mid 1970s "human rights have served to legitimize a part of the nation’s post-Vietnam foreign policy and to give policy a sense of purpose that apparently has been needed to elicit public support." He adds "the simple truth that human rights is little more than a refurbished version of America’s historic purpose of advancing the cause of freedom in the world," as in Vietnam, a noble effort "undertaken in defense of a free people resisting communist aggression." Such State Department handouts are all that one can expect about Vietnam in respectable circles; the plain truth is far too threatening to be thinkable. But the comments on "America’s historic purpose"-also conventional-do merit some notice. Such rhetoric would elicit only ridicule outside of remnants of pre-Enlightenment fanaticism-perhaps among the mullahs in Qom, or in disciplined Western intellectual circles.
In the Reagan years, a "yearning for democracy" was added to the battery of population control measures. As Tucker puts it, under the Reagan Doctrine "the legitimacy of governments will no longer rest simply on their effectiveness, but on conformity with the democratic process," and "there is a right of intervention" against illegitimate governments-a goal too ambitious, he feels, but otherwise unproblematic. The naive might ask why we failed to exercise this right of intervention in South Korea, Indonesia, South Africa, or El Salvador, among other candidates. There is no inconsistency, however. These countries are committed to "democracy" in the operative meaning of the term: unchallenged rule by elite elements (business, oligarchy, military) that generally respect the interests of US investors, with appropriate forms for occasional ratification by segments of the public. When these conditions are not satisfied, intervention is legitimate to "restore democracy."
In the early Reagan years, the Soviet threat was manipulated for the twin goals of Third World intervention and entrenching the welfare state for the privileged. Transmitting Washington’s rhetoric, the media helped to create a brief period of public support for the arms build-up while constructing a useful myth of the immense popularity of the charismatic "great communicator" to justify the state-organized party for the rich. Other devices were also used. Thanks to the government-media campaign, 6 percent of the public came to perceive Nicaragua as a "vital interest" of the United States by 1986, well above France, Brazil, or India. By the mid 1980s, international terrorism, particularly in the Middle East, assumed center stage. To appreciate the brilliance of this propaganda feat, one must bear in mind that even in the peak years of concern, 1985-6, the US and its Israeli ally were responsible for the most serious acts of international terrorism in this region, not to speak of the leading role of the United States in international terrorism elsewhere in the world, and in earlier years.
To fit the part, a menace must be grave, or at least portrayable as such. Defense against the menace must engender a suitable martial spirit among the population, which must accord its rulers free rein to pursue policies motivated on other grounds and must tolerate the erosion of civil liberties, a side benefit of particular importance for the statist reactionaries who masquerade as conservatives. Furthermore, since the purpose is to divert attention away from power and its operations-from federal offices, corporate boardrooms, and the like-a menace for today should be remote: "the other," very different from "us," or at least what we are trained to aspire to be. The designated targets should also be weak enough to be attacked without cost; the wrong color helps as well. In short, the menace should be situated in the Third World, whether abroad or in the inner city at home. The war against the menace should also be designed to be winnable, a precedent for future operations. A crucial requirement for the entire effort is that the media launch a properly structured propaganda campaign, never a problem.
A war on drugs was a natural choice for the next crusade.
Seventy percent of the Bush-Bennett drug budget was for law enforcement; if the underclass cannot be cooped up in urban reservations and limited to preying on itself, then it can be imprisoned outright. Countering criticism from soft-hearted liberals, Bennett supported "tough policy" over "drug education programs": "If I have the choice of only one, I will take policy every time because I know children. And you might say this is not a very romantic view of children, not a very rosy view of children. And I would say, ‘You’re right’." Bennett is somewhat understating his position when he says that punishment is to be preferred if only one choice is available. In his previous post as Secretary of Education, he sought to cut drug education funds and has expressed skepticism about their value.
The flashiest proposal was military aid to Colombia after the murder of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan. However, as his brother Alberto pointed out, "the drug dealers’ core military power lies in paramilitary groups they have organized with the support of large landowners and military officers." Apart from strengthening "repressive and anti-democratic forces," Galan continued, Washington’s strategy avoids "the core of the problem"- that is, "the economic ties between the legal and illegal worlds," the "large financial corporations" that handle the drug money. "It would make more sense to attack and prosecute the few at the top of the drug business rather than fill prisons with thousands of small fish without the powerful financial structure that gives life to the drug market."
It would indeed make more sense, if the goal were a war on drugs. But it makes no sense for the goal of population control, and it is in any event unthinkable, because of the requirement that state policy protect power and privilege, a natural concomitant of the "level playing field" at home.
As Drug Czar under the Reagan Administration, George Bush was instrumental in terminating the main thrust of the real "war on drugs." Officials in the enforcement section of the Treasury Department monitored the sharp increase in cash inflow to Florida (later Los Angeles) banks as the cocaine trade boomed in the 1970s, and "connected it to the large-scale laundering of drug receipts" (Treasury Department brief). They brought detailed information about these matters to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Justice Department. After some public exposes, the government launched Operation Greenback in 1979 to prosecute money-launderers. It soon foundered; the banking industry is not a proper target for the drug war. The Reagan Administration reduced the limited monitoring, and Bush "wasn’t really too interested in financial prosecution," the chief prosecutor in Operation Greenback recalls. The program was soon defunct, and Bush’s new war on drugs aims at more acceptable targets. Reviewing this record, Jefferson Morley comments that the priorities are illustrated by the actions of Bush’s successor in the "war against drugs." When an $8 billion surplus was announced for Miami and Los Angeles banks, William Bennett raised no questions about the morality of their practices and initiated no inquiries, though he did expedite eviction notices for low-income, mostly Black residents of public housing in Washington where drug use had been reported.
There may also be some fine-tuning. A small Panamanian bank was pressured into pleading guilty on a money-laundering charge after a sting operation. But the US government dropped criminal charges against its parent bank, one of Latin America’s major financial institutions, based in one of the centers of the Colombian drug cartel. There also appear to have been no serious efforts to pursue the public allegations by cartel money-launderers about their contacts with major US banks.
The announced war on drugs has a few other gaps that are difficult to reconcile with the announced intentions, though quite reasonable on the principles that guide social policy. Drug processing requires ether and acetone, which are imported into Latin America. Rafael Perl, drug-policy adviser at the Congressional Research Service, estimates that more than 90 percent ~ of the chemicals used to produce cocaine comes from the United States. ‘, In the nine months before the announcement of the drug war, Colombian ~ police say they seized 1.5 million gallons of such chemicals, many found | in drums displaying US corporate logos. A CIA study concluded that US exports of these chemicals to Latin America far exceed amounts used for any legal commercial purpose, concluding that enormous amounts are being siphoned off to produce heroin and cocaine. Nevertheless, chemical companies are off limits. "Most DEA offices have only one agent working on chemical diversions," a US official reports, so monitoring is impossible. ~ And there have been no reported raids by Delta Force on the corporate | headquarters in Manhattan.
Reference to the CIA brings to mind another interesting gap in the program. The CIA and other US government agencies have been instrumental | in establishing and maintaining the drug racket since World War II, when J Mafia connections were used to split and undermine the French labor unions and the Communist Party, laying the groundwork for the "French connection" based in Marseilles. The Golden Triangle (Laos, Burma, Thailand) became a major narcotics center as Chinese Nationalist troops fled to the region after their defeat in China and, not long after, as the CIA helped implement the drug flow as part of its effort to recruit a mercenary "clandestine army" of highland tribesmen for its counterinsurgency operations in Laos. Over the years, the drug traffic came to involve other US clients as well. In 1989 General Ramon Montano, chief of the Philippine constabulary, testified in a public hearing in Manila that drug syndicates operating in the Golden Triangle use the Philippines as a transshipment point to other parts of Asia and the West, and conceded that military officers are involved, as a Senate investigation had reported. The Philippines are on their way to "becoming like Colombia," one Senator observed.
There are good reasons why the CIA and drugs are so closely linked. Clandestine terror requires hidden funds, and the criminal elements to whom the intelligence agencies naturally turn expect a quid pro quo. Drugs are the obvious answer. Washington’s long-term involvement in the drug racket is part and parcel of its international operations, notably during the Reagan-Bush administrations. One prime target for an authentic drug war would therefore be close at hand.
Hodding Carter, Wall Street Journal observed
The mass media in America have an overwhelming tendency to jump up and down and bark in concert whenever the White House-any White House snaps its fingers."
Shortly after the November 1988 elections, 34 percent of the public had selected the budget deficit as "George Bush’s No. 1 priority once he takes office." Three percent selected drugs as top priority, down from previous months. After the media blitz of September 1989, "a remarkable 43% say that drugs are the nation’s single most important issue," the Wall Street Journal reports, with the budget deficit a distant second at 6 percent. In a June 1987 poll of registered voters in New York, taxes were selected as the number 1 issue facing the state (15 percent), with drugs far down the list (5 percent). A repeat in September 1989 gave dramatically different results: taxes were selected by 8 percent while the drug problem ranked far above any other, at a phenomenal 46 percent. The real world had hardly changed; its image had, as transmitted through the ideological institutions, reflecting the current needs of power. A martial tone has broader benefits for those who advocate state violence and repression to secure privilege. The government-media campaign helped create the required atmosphere among the general public and Congress. In a typical flourish, Senator Mark Hatfield, often a critic of reliance on force, said that in every congressional district "the troops are out there. All they’re waiting for is the orders, a plan of attack, and they’re ready to march." The bill approved by Congress widens the application of the death penalty, limits appeals by prisoners, and allows police broader latitude in obtaining evidence, among other measures. The entire repressive apparatus of the state is looking forward to benefits from this new "war," including the intelligence system and the Pentagon (which, however, is reluctant to be drawn into direct military actions that will quickly lose popular support). Military industry, troubled by the unsettling specter of peace, scents new markets here, and is "pushing swords as weapons in the drug war," Frank Greve reports from Washington. "Analysts say sales for drug-war work could spell relief for some sectors, such as commando operations, defense intelligence and counterterrorism," and Federal military laboratories may also find a new role. Army Colonel John Waghelstein, a leading counterinsurgency specialist, suggested that the narco-guerrilla connection could be exploited to mobilize public support for counterinsurgency programs and to discredit critics:
A melding in the American public’s mind and in Congress of this connection would lead to the necessary support to counter the guerrilla/narcotics terrorists in this hemisphere. Generating that support would be relatively easy once the connection was proven and an all-out war was declared by the National Command Authority. Congress would find it difficult to stand in the way of supporting our allies with the training, advice and security assistance necessary to do the job. Those church and academic groups that have slavishly supported insurgency in Latin America would find themselves on the wrong side of the moral issue. Above all, we would have the unassailable moral position from which to launch a concerted offensive effort using Department of Defense (DOD) and non-DOD assets.
"Substance abuse," to use the technical term, takes a terrible toll. The grim facts are reviewed by Ethan Nadelmann in Science magazine. Deaths attributable to consumption of tobacco are estimated at over 300,000 a year, while alcohol use adds an additional 50,000 to 200,000 annual deaths. Among fifteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds, alcohol is the leading cause of death, also serving as a "gateway" drug that leads to use of others, according to the National Council on Alcoholism. In addition, a few thousand deaths from illegal drugs are recorded: 3562 deaths were reported in 1985, from all illegal drugs combined. According to these estimates, over 99 percent of deaths from substance abuse are attributable to tobacco and alcohol.
There are also enormous health costs, again primarily from alcohol and tobacco use: "the health costs of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin combined amount to only a small fraction of those caused by either of the two licit substances [alcohol and tobacco]," Nadelmann continues. Also to be considered is the distribution of victims. Illicit drugs primarily affect the user, but their legal cousins seriously affect others, including passive smokers and victims of drunken driving and alcohol-induced violence; "no illicit drug . . . is as strongly associated with violent behavior as is alcohol," Nadelmann observes, and alcohol abuse is a factor in some 40 percent of roughly 50,000 annual traffic deaths.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 3800 nonsmokers die every year from lung cancer caused by breathing other people’s tobacco smoke, and that the toll of passive smoking may be as many as 46,000 annually if heart disease and respiratory ailments are included. Officials say that if confirmed, these conclusions would require that tobacco smoke be listed as a very hazardous carcinogen (class A), along with such chemicals as benzene and radon. University of California statistician Stanton Glantz describes passive smoking as "the third leading cause of preventable death, behind smoking and alcohol."
Illegal drugs are far from uniform in their effects. Thus, "among the roughly 60 million Americans who have smoked marijuana, not one has died from a marijuana overdose," Nadelmann reports. As he and others have observed, federal interdiction efforts have helped to shift drug use from relatively harmless marijuana to far more dangerous drugs.
One might ask why tobacco is legal and marijuana not. A possible answer is suggested by the nature of the crop. Marijuana can be grown almost anywhere, with little difficulty. It might not be easily marketable by major corporations. Tobacco is quite another story.
The reactionary statist tendencies of the post-Vietnam period arose in response to a dual challenge: the decline of US dominance of the international order and the popular activism of the 1960s, which challenged the dominance of the same privileged sectors at home. Neither Kennedy’s "Grand Design" nor the efforts of the Nixon Administration succeeded in restricting Europe to its "regional interests" within the "overall framework of order" managed by the United States, as Kissinger urged. There was no alternative to the trilateralism embraced by the Carter neoliberals, who, like their predecessors, were no less troubled by the popular democratic thrust at home-their "crisis of democracy" that threatened to bring the general population into the political arena in a meaningful way.
As already discussed, these challenges inspired a campaign to restore the population to apathy and obedience and thus overcome the "crisis of democracy," and to enhance business power generally. By 1978, UAW President Doug Fraser had seen the handwriting on the wall. Resigning from the Labor-Management Group, he denounced the "leaders of the business community" for having "chosen to wage a one-sided class war in this country-a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society," and having "broken and discarded the fragile, unwritten compact previously existing during a period of growth and progress." A year later, in another recognition of reality, Cleveland’s populist mayor Dennis Kucinich told a UAW meeting that there is only one political party in the United States, the pro-business "Demipublicans."’
The period of steady economic progress was over. The challenge of rival powers was real for the first time since World War 11, and the fragile social compact could not be sustained. Programs designed through the 1970s were implemented, with an extra touch of crudity, during the Reagan years with the general support of the other faction of the business party and the ideological apparatus.
The historical and planning record and underlying institutional factors provide good reason to expect the post-Cold War era to be much like the past as far as relations between the United States and the Third World are concerned, apart from tactics and propaganda. "Radical nationalism" and experiments with independent development geared to domestic needs will raise the danger flags and call forth a reaction, varying with circumstances and the functions of the region. The same continuity is to be expected with regard to the concomitants of these policy goals, including the persistent support for human rights violations, the general hostility to social reform and the principled antagonism to democracy.
Democratic forms can be tolerated, even admired, if only for propaganda purposes. But this stance can be adopted only when the distribution of effective power ensures that meaningful participation of the "popular classes" has been barred. When they organize and threaten the control of the political system by the business-landowner elite and the military, strong measures must be taken, with tactical variations depending on the ranking of the target population on the scale of importance. At the lowest rank, in the Third World, virtually no holds are barred.
If the security forces are under control, the death squads can be unleashed while we wring our hands over our painful inability to instill our passion for human rights in the hearts of our unworthy allies. Other means are required when control of the security forces has been lost. Nicaragua, the obsession of the 1980s, was one such case, a particularly dangerous one because it was feared that the government in power was one "that cares for its people," in the words of Jose Figueres, referring to the Sandinistas who, he said, brought Nicaragua the first such government in its history, popularly elected in a free and fair election that he observed in 1984. It was for expressing such improper sentiments as these that the leading figure of Central American democracy had to be rigorously excluded from the US media throughout the 1980s.
It is therefore not at all surprising that hostility to the Sandinistas was virtually uniform in media commentary and other elite circles. The official reasons (human rights, democracy, the Soviet threat, and so on) are too far-fetched to take seriously, and were, in any event, thoroughly refuted so many times, with no effect, as to reveal the pointlessness of the exercise. The real issue is the one Figueres identified. Throughout, the only debatable question has been tactical: how to restore Nicaragua to "the Central American mode" and impose "regional standards"-those of the US client states. Such matters as freedom of the press and human rights aroused profound libertarian and moral passions in Nicaragua, as distinct from the death squad democracies next door, or other states with vastly worse records but with the compensating merit that they too were properly respectful of US priorities. Similarly, elections in the terror states revealed heartening progress towards democracy, but not in Nicaragua, where radically different standards were applied. The 1984 elections were intolerable to the United States because they could not be controlled. Therefore Washington did what it could to disrupt them, and they were dismissed and eliminated from history by the media, as required. In the case of the long-scheduled 1990 elections, the US interfered massively from the outset to gain victory for its candidates, not only by the enormous financial aid that received some publicity, but-far more significant and considered quite uncontroversial-by White House announcements that only a victory by the US candidate would bring an end to the illegal US economic sanctions and restoration of aid.
In brief, Nicaraguan voters were informed that they had a free choice: Vote for our candidate, or watch your children starve.
These efforts to subvert the 1990 election in Nicaragua are highlighted by a comparison to the reaction at exactly the same time to elections in neighboring Honduras. Its November 1989 elections received scanty but generally favorable coverage in the US media, which described them as "a milestone for the United States, which has used Honduras as evidence that the democratically elected governments it supports in Central America are taking hold." President Bush, meeting with Honduran President Rafael Callejas after his election, called the Honduran government "an inspiring example of the democratic promise that today is spreading throughout the Americas.
A closer look helps us to understand what is meant by "democracy" in the political culture. The November elections were effectively restricted to the two traditional parties. One candidate was from a family of wealthy industrialists, the other from a family of large landowners. Their top advisers "acknowledge that there is little substantive difference between the two and the policies they would follow as president," we learn from the press report that hails this milestone in the progress of democracy. Both parties represent large landowners and industrialists and have close ties with the military, the effective rulers, who are independent of civilian authority under the Constitution but heavily dependent on the United States, as is the economy. The Guatemalan Central America Report adds: "in the absence of substantial debate, both candidates rely on insults and accusations to entertain the crowds at campaign rallies and political functions"-if that sounds familiar to a US audience, it is not mere coincidence. Popular participation was limited to ritual voting. The legal opposition parties (Christian Democratic and Social Democratic) charged massive electoral fraud.
Human rights abuses by the security forces escalated as the election approached. In the preceding weeks there were attacks with bombs and rifle fire against independent political figures, journalists, and union leaders, condemned as a plan to repress popular organizations by the head of the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations, ex-rector of the National University Juan Almendares. In preceding months the armed forces conducted a campaign of political violence, including assassination of union leaders and other extrajudicial executions, leaving tortured and mutilated bodies by roadsides for the first time. The human rights organization CODEH reported at least seventy-eight people killed by the security forces between January and July, while reported cases of torture and beatings more than tripled over the preceding year. But state terror remained at levels low enough not to disturb US elite opinion.
Starvation and general misery are rampant, the extreme concentration of wealth increased during the decade of "democracy," and 70 percent of the population are malnourished. Despite substantial US aid and no guerrilla conflict, the economy is collapsing, with capital flight and a sharp drop in foreign investment, and almost half of export earnings devoted to debt service. But there is no major threat to order, and profits flow.
In short, Honduras, like Colombia, is a praiseworthy democracy, and there is no concern over the "level playing field" for its elections, unlike those in Nicaragua.
Even El Salvador and Guatemala, murderous gangster states run by the US-backed military, are considered democracies. Elite opinion expresses considerable pride in having established and maintained these charnel houses, with "free elections" permitted after a wave of slaughter, torture, disappearance, mutilation, and other effective devices of control. Physical destruction of the independent media and murder of editors and journalists by the security forces passes virtually without comment-often literally without report-among their US colleagues, among many other atrocities.
Occasionally, one hears an honest comment. Joachim Maitre of Boston University, one of the leading academic supporters of Reagan Administration policies in Central America, observes that the US has "installed democracies of the style of Hitler Germany" in El Salvador and Guatemala. But such candor is far from the norm.
Nicaragua, however, was different, because of the threat of independent nationalism and social reform, heightened by the loss of US control of the security forces-a problem that has arisen elsewhere as well, and a serious one, because the standard device for repressing and eliminating undesirable tendencies is then no longer available. In the case of Guatemala and Chile it was necessary to resort to economic strangulation, subversion, and military force to overthrow the democratic regimes and establish the preferred regional standards. In the case of the Dominican Republic in 1965, direct invasion was required to bar the restoration of a constitutional regime. The response to the Cuban problem was direct aggression at the Bay of Pigs, and when Soviet deterrence made further such attempts unfeasible, an unprecedented campaign of international terrorism along with unremitting economic and ideological warfare-again, surely not motivated by the reasons advanced in the official government-media line, which are hardly credible. Other cases require different measures, including Panama, another long-term target of US intervention, to which we turn directly.
We may continue to think of the Third World in the terms used in early post-World War II planning: as the region that is to "fulfill its major function as a source of raw materials and a market" for the Western industrial societies. One long-standing source of international conflict was the Soviet empire’s failure to fulfill its function in the required way. This problem, it is hoped, will now be remedied as Eastern Europe advances towards the conditions of Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines. The fear of "creeping Communism" can then be put to rest, as the modem forms of colonialism expand towards their natural borders.
The three major power groupings are eagerly swooping down upon the collapsing Soviet empire (as on China, a few years earlier) in search of markets, resources, opportunities for investment and export of pollution, cheap labor, tax havens, and other familiar Third World amenities. These efforts to impose the preferred model of two-tiered societies open to exploitation and under business rule are accompanied by appropriate flourishes about the triumph of political pluralism and democracy. We can readily determine the seriousness of intent by a look at the reaction to popular movements that might actually implement democracy and pluralism in the traditional Third World countries, and to the "crisis of democracy" within the industrial societies themselves. The rhetoric need not detain us.
We may also take note of the broad-if tacit-understanding that the capitalist model has limited application; business leaders have long recognized that it is not for them. The successful industrial societies depart significantly from this model, as in the past-one reason why they are successful industrial societies. In the United States, the sectors of the economy that remain competitive are those that feed from the public trough: high-tech industry and capital-intensive agriculture, along with pharmaceuticals and others. Departures are still more radical in most of the other state capitalist systems, where planning is coordinated by state institutions and financial-industrial conglomerates, sometimes with democratic processes and a social contract of varying sorts, sometimes not. The glories of Free Enterprise provide a useful weapon against government policies that might benefit the general population, and of course, capitalism will do just fine for the former colonies and the Soviet empire. For those who are to "fulfill their functions" in service to the masters of the world order, the model is highly recommended; it facilitates their exploitation. But the rich and powerful at home have long appreciated the need to protect themselves from the destructive forces of free-market capitalism, which may provide suitable themes for rousing I oratory, but only so long as the public handout and the regulatory and protectionist apparatus are secure, and state power is on call when needed.
What, then, is the probable evolution of US policy towards the Third World in the post-Cold War era? The answer to this question, implicit in the earlier discussion, was announced loud and clear by the Bush Administration on December 20, 1989: More of the same.
But not precisely the same. One problem is that some adjustments are needed in the propaganda framework. The US invasion of Panama is a historic event in one respect. In a departure from the routine, it was not justified as a response to an imminent Soviet threat. When the US invaded Grenada six years earlier, it was still possible to portray the act as a defensive reaction to the machinations of the Russian bear, seeking to strangle us in pursuit of its global designs. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could solemnly intone that in the event of a Soviet attack on Western Europe, Grenada might interdict the Caribbean sea lanes and prevent the US from providing oil to its beleaguered allies, with the endorsement of a new category of scholars created for the purpose. Through the 1980s, the attack against Nicaragua was justified by the danger that if we don’t stop the Commies there, they’ll be pouring across the border at Harlingen, Texas, two days’ drive away. There are more sophisticated (and equally weighty) variants for the educated classes. But in the case of Panama, not even the imagination of the State Department and the editorial writers extended that far.
Fortunately, the problem had been foreseen. When the White House decided that its friend Noriega was getting too big for his britches and had to go, the media took their cue and launched a campaign to convert him into the most nefarious demon since Attila the Hun, a repeat of the Qaddafi project a few years earlier. The effort was enhanced by the "drug war," the government-media hoax launched in an effort to mobilize the population in fear now that it is becoming impossible to invoke the Kremlin design-though for completeness, we should also take note of the official version, dutifully reported as fact in the New York Times: "the campaign against drugs has increasingly become a priority for the Administration as well as Congress as a diminishing Soviet threat has given Washington an opportunity to turn to domestic issues.
The propaganda operation was a smashing success. "Manuel Noriega belongs to that special fraternity of international villains, men like Qaddafi, Idi Amin, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, whom Americans just love to hate," Ted Koppel orated, so "strong public support for a reprisal [sic] was all but guaranteed." Why did Americans hate Noriega in 1989, but not in 1985? Why is it necessary to overthrow him now, but not then? The questions that immediately come to mind were systematically evaded. With a fringe of exceptions-mostly well after the tasks had been accomplished- the media rallied around the flag with due piety and enthusiasm, funneling the most absurd White House tales to the public. while scrupulously refraining from asking the obvious questions, or seeing the most obvious facts.
There were some who found all this a bit too much. Commenting on the Panama coverage, David Nyhan of the Boston Globe described the media as "a docile, not to say boot-licking, lot, subsisting largely on occasional bones of access tossed into the press kennel," happy to respond to lies with "worshipful prose. " The Wall Street Journal noted that the four television networks gave "the home team’s version of the story. " There was a scattering of skepticism in reporting and commentary, but most toed the line in their enthusiasm for what George Will called an exercise of the "good-neighbor policy," an act of "hemispheric hygiene" expressing our "rights and responsibilities" in the hemisphere-whatever the delinquents beyond our borders may think, as revealed by their near-universal condemnation.
The Bush Administration was, naturally, overjoyed. A State Department official observed that "the Republican conservatives are happy because we were willing to show some muscle, and the Democratic liberals can’t criticize because it’s being so widely seen as a success:" the State Department follows standard conventions, contrasting "conservatives," who advocate a powerful and violent state, with "liberals," who sometimes disagree with the "conservatives" on tactical grounds, fearing that the cost to us may be too high. These salutary developments "can’t help but give us more clout," the same official continued.
As for the general population, many doubtless were also enthusiastic about the opportunity to "kick a little ass" in Panama-to borrow some of the rhetoric designed by George Bush’s handlers in their comical effort to shape an effete New England aristocrat into a Texas redneck. But it is interesting to read the letters to the editor in major newspapers, which tended to express hostility to the aggression, along with much shame and distress, and often provided information, analysis and insights that the professionals were careful to avoid.
A more professional reaction was given by the respected Washington Post correspondent David Broder. He notes that there has been some carping at "the prudence of Bush’s action" from "the left" (meaning, presumably, the National Council of Churches and some centrist liberals, anything else being far beyond his horizons, as is the idea that there might be criticism on grounds other than prudence). But he dismisses "this static on the left" with scorn: "what nonsense." Rather, the invasion of Panama helped to clarify "the circumstances in which military intervention makes sense." The "best single definition" of the "new national consensus," he goes on to explain, was given by Reagan’s Defense Secretary, Caspar Weinberger, who outlined six "well-considered and well-phrased" criteria. Four of them state that intervention should be designed to succeed. The other two add that the action should be deemed "vital to our national interest" and a "last resort" to achieve it.
Oddly, Broder neglected to add the obvious remark about these impressive criteria: they could readily have been invoked by Hitler.
UN Ambassador Daniel Moynihan in a cablegram to Henry Kissinger on January 23, 1976,
reported the "considerable progress" that had been made by his arm-twisting tactics at the UN "toward a basic foreign policy goal, that of breaking up the massive blocs of nations, mostly new nations, which for so long have been arrayed against us in international forums and in diplomatic encounters generally." Moynihan cited two relevant cases: his success in undermining a UN reaction to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and to Moroccan aggression in the Sahara, both supported by the US, the former with particular vigor.
Former UN Ambassador Daniel Moynihan in his memoir of his years at the United Nations, where he describes frankly his role as Indonesia invaded East Timor in December 1975:
"… within a few weeks some 60,000 people had been killed, "10 percent of the population, almost the proportion of casualties experienced by the Soviet Union during the Second World War."
"The United states wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success."