Friday, August 25, 2006

Neocons then and now

I am just finishing up Westad's magisterial The Global Cold War. Here is his summary account of the results of Reagan's neocon-inspired interventions in Central America:
The effects of the Central American war for the region were dreadful. In Nicaragua it left 30,000 dead (as historian William LeoGrande points out, relative to the population this was more than the United States lost in the Civil War, the two world wars, and the Korea and Vietnam wars combined). The country had over 100,000 refugees and an economy with inflation out of control and massive unemployment. In tiny El Salvador the effects were even worse; 70,000 dead, death squads roaming the countryside, villages destroyed, lives shattered. While the brutality of the El Salvadoran civil war surpassed anything seen in the recent history of Latin America, US efforts at imposing change -- with assistance costing around 1 billion dollars in military aifd and three times as much in economic aid -- had little effect: in 1990 more than 90 percent of El Salvadorans still lived in poverty.
Funny how the neocons seem to get the same results wherever their policies get imposed. What's that old saw about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Westad continues with how this all went down at home:
Within the United States the wars also had serious effects, although not in terms of human lives. The Reagan administration's attempts at defying Congress in supplying funding to the Contras led to the Iran-Contra Affair, which hurt the neoconservative agenda with the public and inside the White House. The fact that Reagan's people had sold weapons to the Iranian Islamist regime and used the proceeds of that transaction to fund the counterrevolutionary forces in Nicaragua was a bit too much even for Reagan's supporters to swallow. Together with the antiwar movement and Congressional resistance against the war, the Iran-Contra Affair contributed to a distinct reduction in the administration's appetite for foreign internvetions toward the end of its final term in office. Its worldview, though, stayed intact: the Cold War was a conflict between good and evil, in which the United States was on the side of the angels.
Pulverizing the countries they believe their are liberating, contempt for Congress and other quaint domestic political niceties, an unshakable faith in their own moral righteousness... eerie, isn't it?

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