Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 8: The Agenda of the Doves: 1988 Segment 8/11
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5. Laying Down the Law

Another alternative to the flawed Reagan policies is presented by Alan Tonelson, a respected liberal policy analyst, in the New Republic.23 He urges that we transcend the sterile debate between defenders of the contras and their critics -- the latter being those who note "correctly that the contras cannot possibly achieve military victory." As usual, those who object in principle to terror and "the unlawful use of force" (to borrow the terms of the World Court ruling) are off the spectrum entirely. A new policy, "more palatable to both the hawks and doves,"

involves handling the Sandinistas and other threats in Central America the way that great powers have always dealt with pesty, puny neighbors: by laying down the law unilaterally and enforcing our will through intimidation and direct uses of military force. If the intimidation is successful -- as it easily could be -- the actual use of force would be unnecessary.

This "back-to-basics approach would satisfy America's needs in Central America, if not all of our wants"; unlike Robert Tucker, the liberal critic is willing to sacrifice some of "our wants," reluctantly, to be sure. Peace treaties, such as the Arias plan, are faulty because they "would prohibit Washington from responding to foreign Communist presences unless local states agreed," and one could hardly expect a Mexican politician in an election year "to endorse an American retaliatory strike against Nicaragua." Besides, "legal constructs like treaties raise the prospect of lengthy deliberations to document and prove charges, protracted appeal processes, the filing of countercharges, and other complicated procedures that all conflict with the security need to respond to violations quickly, before they become dangerous."

Legal instruments being too unwieldy and unreliable for the liberal mentality, and proxy terror having failed, the United States should turn to "frankly intimidating and pushing Nicaragua around with our own military power." After all, "the U.S. Navy still rules the waters off Central America" and "Nicaragua is defenseless against American air and sea power" if intimidation does not suffice. "If Ortega and Company have a healthy sense of self-preservation, Americans should be able to bring Nicaragua to heel without slogging through its jungles -- especially if it is clear that good behavior will bring a postponement of the regime's rendezvous with the ash heap of history." Latin Americans may object to the show of force, but "it is unreasonable to expect the United States to await a favorable consensus to develop among its politically fragile neighbors before acting to protect itself," and "the hemispheric bargain proposed here would permit a modicum of mutual respect but would also reflect power realities."

We should announce "general guidelines" for Central America, but should not be too specific in our demands: "Vagueness in Washington can keep Central Americans looking over their shoulders -- and to the skies -- and more likely to err on the side of caution." Thinking along similar lines, the Reagan White House announced that it had formulated a list of demands for Nicaragua going well beyond the August 1987 peace agreements, but "the list has not been published or formally given to the Nicaraguans or to Congress," the New York Times reported in a front-page story. The subsequent sabotaging of the despised cease-fire talks follows the same script, with the constant invention of new and often outlandish demands when Nicaragua, always "pesty" in these matters, accepts the previous list.24

We should avoid "paralyzing debates," Tonelson continues; "the verdict must be left up to the president." The doves need not fear that some president will "order air strikes just for the fun of it, without genuine provocation"; the American people will ensure that in this case, he "will pay politically," which should satisfy any hapless victims, or at least, any surviving friends and relatives. With a properly orchestrated campaign of intimidation and with adequate force at the ready, Washington can "return Central America to the obscurity it so richly deserves."

Both the tone and the substance provide further understanding of the prevailing political culture in its more moderate and liberal range, as does the absence of any reaction to such thoughts in the left-liberal community they address.

These samples are, to my knowledge, representative. There are differences between the hawks and the doves. Given the scale of American power, even small differences translate into large effects for the victims. Illusions about the political culture generally will impede the one mechanism available to deter the resort to intimidation and violence and other means available to a superpower faced with "pesty, puny" adversaries that stand in the way of its "needs" and "wants": an unmanageable public at home. That lesson has been taught over and over again, and should not be forgotten by those concerned with their fate.

Go to the next segment.

23 TNR, Oct. 5, 1987.

24 Joel Brinkley, NYT, Oct. 4, 1987. On the strategy of demand escalation to prevent a political settlement, see "Cease-Fire Primer," International Policy Report, July 1988. For a review of the demolition of the accords through 1988, see Necessary Illusions. On subsequent steps, see chapters 2, 9. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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