Thursday, June 16, 2005
Those few who have commented on him suggest he is the new Castro. Actually, in my view, he is far worse. He is an oil-financed Peron. Now many Americans view Peron in a benign light, thanks to Broadway and this rather bizarre heroine treatment his Evita gets. Actually, he destroyed Argentina and set it on the course which today has bankrupted the country, impoverished its people and made it a global financial pariah. Between Peron's direct rule and today, the country experienced genocidal military rule, went to war with Great Britain, and went broke. Oddly, I am lucky enough to have been born in America because of Peron. His rule convinced my Argentine parents to emigrate to the US in 1954. Phew.
Why is he worse than Castro? At least Castro is generally accepted by everybody but the most ardent knucklehead as a very bad guy, a revanchist tyrannical holdout who oppresses and impoverishes his people. Chavez is sneakier. He is a National Socialist (I specifically don't use the loaded term Nazi here because I don't want to instantly suggest he is behind a holocaust, or anti semitic, or anything like that. He could become all those things, but that's not the point). I mean it in the political sense. He merges a number of ugly extreme elements of both the left and right in a highly centralized way. He portrays himself in Robin Hood fashion as the defender of the worker by bribing the unions which represent them. He utterly guts the middle class, and either destroys the wealthy, runs them out of the country, or selectively aligns with certain ones. As a result, he will eventually destroy the productive capacity of the country -- but thanks to oil, it will take many years.
In sum, he is the new Peron. And just as Peron left a disastrous legacy for Argentina which persists today, Chavez may leave Venezuela similarly tattered. Argentina could have been, by far, the most prosperous nation (per capita) in Latin America. When run by the British, Argentina grew its economy by 8% per year for forty years. The British left a brilliant educational system (which my parents experienced). The raw capability of Argentina's people, and especially its European immigrants, gave Argentina extraordinary potential. Instead it remains at core an agricultural economy, with no industrial base, and a population which generally fails to keep its talent at home.
What should the US do?
1) Align itself with democrats in Venezuela and support them. Chavez is an oppressor, and he will get worse, and more brutal, over time.
2) Watch carefully for signs of Iranian and other terrorist infiltration. This may seem like folly. It's not. The Iranians were aligned with Carlos Menem (the Peronist disaster who ran Argentina in the 90s), and were behind the bombing of the leading Orthodox Jewish Temple in Buenos Aires. Chavez is much worse than Menem. He was not ultimately a centralizing autocrat. He was more of a pure thief, interested in stealing the country's wealth. Because of the Argentine military junta's failure in the war with the British, the uniform in Argentina is fairly well laughed at. Chavez in this sense is more dangerous, and more like Castro. He wears a fancy military uniform with lots of medals (from what battles of course, know one knows). Venezuela's military is for show and domestic oppression, God knows, not for real war. He intends to stay for a very long time.
3) Be ready to invoke the Monroe Doctrine. It's a time tested policy. Don't let the bad guys mess around in our backyard. Chavez has already made clear his intentions. We should have human intellgence networks developed and working on the ground. It's worth it. If we don't contain this guy, he will spread trouble to other important places...Mexico, for instance.
I am sure there are many other ideas.
It's a good thing Jimmy Carter raised Chavez's right arm, declared the elections "clean," and high-tailed it outta there.
The man is at his best when he swings a hammer and picks peanuts; he should stay away from foreign policy.
The not-so-secret secret that most Lefties don't want to hear is that by almost every measure, former British colonies were much, much better off as colonies.
Most former colonies went to shit after Britian left. Too bad colonies went out of fashion; the Brits were really, really good at it.
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