The Foreign Policy and FUBAR Correlation

News Year’s Eve has found its way to Arizona’s outback and, although I haven’t checked,FE_121025_globe425x283 probably to the rest of the world this side of the International Dateline.  While the celebrations wind-up, my thoughts turn to the legacy of the Cold War and what we may have learned.  A likely candidate for consideration is the U.S.’s foreign policy and the accompanying foreign relations.  I love the rich, stand-up comedy fodder the subject offers until thoughts of the millions of affected people sober the tone.  The Cold War became the test bed for ‘new’ foreign policy trials. As newly deployed policies failed and yielded to military adventures, the federal government ‘doubled-down’ rather than admit an error.  As bad foreign policy and relations are implemented they come back to haunt ordinary U.S. citizens and the citizenry is being engulfed by its own government’s fear and paranoia; FUBAR.

FUBAR

This post will discuss wars and some of the dumb decisions (in my opinion) that were made by policy makers who did not have the moral backbones to stand up and take the heat.  It is not about the honor and integrity of American soldiers, who fought; many of whom died or were wounded physically or emotionally.  I am grateful to you for your service. It is also not about the millions of civilians who were carried by the tide of policy into harm’s way.  And it is not about the policy decisions currently in the public debating forums.  The post is about the past that brought us to where we are today.

The Greek army opening fire on guerrilla troops during the Greek Civil War.

The Greek army opening fire on guerrilla troops during the Greek Civil War.

In Greece, the U.S. threw its policy weight and money at the Greek Civil War with the passage of The Truman Doctrine in 1946 by the Republican Congress.  Oops, the Soviet Union had already refused to assist the Greek Communists in the struggle so the Civil War was just that.  The Truman Doctrine set the tone of American interference in other countries’ business going forward, though.

The Marshall Plan in 1947 seems to have worked out well for everyone concerned, although Asia, without a ‘Marshall Plan’, did even better and faster.

The battle over Berlin took a hard turn straight into crisis on June 23, 1948 when the U.S. and

Berlin Partition

Berlin Partition

its allies, England and France, talked about forming a federation with their three slices of the Berlin pie.  The allied discussions spooked the Soviet Union so they closed the Berlin border to allied vehicle and rail traffic.  The confrontation over the closures was passive/aggressive; the Berlin airlift response kept Berlin provisioned-just barely.  The airlift was sufficient, however, for the Soviets to assess the will and capacity of the allies and they came to the table after seven months. The result was years and years of tension over the East-West German borders. Millions of American soldiers’ rite of passage to man and womanhood occurred under the constant, unrelenting threat of World War III at the German border as they stared into the eyes of their counterparts under the same pressure.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Mutually Assured Destruction

The sustained tension at the German border coupled with the assumed military strength of the Soviet Union was the genesis of the nuclear arms race and the Mutually Assured Destruction Doctrine (MADD).  It was the second plank in Eisenhower’s New Look National Security Policy in 1953: “relying on nuclear weapons to deter Communist aggression or, if necessary, to fight a war”.[1]  Both sides geared up and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that could be fatefully delivered on any platform.  It also spurred the unanticipated consequence of everybody wanting a nuke.  Now, twenty six nations are capable of exercising the incredible destructive force of the nucleus of an atom.

Let us not forget NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. sponsored joint military that has grown in both size and strength.  NATO clung to its initial policy of not attacking

NATO

NATO Aircraft

unless attacked as long as the Soviet Union was a force to be reckoned with.  On the sidelines, those of us old enough to remember, watched helplessly and in horror as our Western governments let calls for help from East Europeans challenging the Soviet iron fist go unanswered; Czechoslovakia in 1948, Hungary in 1956, the Czechs again in the Prague spring of 1968 and the Poles in the 70’s.  After the Soviet Union fractured and retreated, NATO changed its tune and went aggressive.  NATO beat up feckless Yugoslavia in Kosovo and sent troops into Bosnia and Afghanistan.  The neighborly NATO took U.S. taxpayer money by the wheelbarrow but decided not to replace or augment U.S. troops in Iraq. NATO has also stimulated a new arms race:

“…The treaty between west European nations, inaugurated as a barrier to Soviet aggression, graduated to new prominence in 2011 with establishment of a “free fly” zone for Libyan insurgents, and aerial attacks on Libya. The spread of NATO actions to several continents redefines NATO as an arm of western political and military policies, and replaces the policy of deterrence against a defunct Soviet Union. Coupling that with the anti-missile system the U.S. and NATO allies propose to deploy in Eastern Europe, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian First Channel program Cold Politics (Kholodnaya Politika) and exclaimed that this anti-missile system “is undoubtedly aimed at neutralizing the nuclear rocket capability of Russia.”[2]

Russia has fought back with its recently announced initiative to place nukes along its border to defend itself from NATO.[3]  Game On. Continue reading

Nixon: the CIA Loses Access

Nixon’s Watergate extravaganza was, without a doubt, the defining moment of hiswhitehouseconnection presidency.  Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein took their lives and careers in their hands to break the story.[1]  Watergate was bigger and better than the Bobby Baker[2] exposés that almost undid President Johnson and turned ‘investigative journalist’ into a storied title that reporters lusted after. In the intervening years, hundreds of fine analysts have spent untold hours and millions of words exploring the Watergate break-in and what it signifies.  The Watergate is the hole in the dam that emptied the reservoir.  Nixon built the dam, his relationship with the CIA, layer upon layer, beginning as Eisenhower’s Vice-President.

Culminating a political career that began in the House of Representatives in 1947, Richard Milhous Nixon served as the 37th President of the United States between January 20, 1969 and August 9, 1974.  Although he cut his political

William Safire joined Richard Nixon as a speechwriter for his campaign for president in 1968. (The New York Times/File 1968)

William Safire joined Richard Nixon as a speechwriter for his campaign for president in 1968. (The New York Times/File 1968)

teeth on the Alger Hiss[3] case, Nixon won the presidency on the foreign policy credentials earned during his eight years as Eisenhower’s VP.  William Safire, a Nixon speechwriter, came up with election-winning phrase “end the war and win the peace”,[4] which is exactly what the voters wanted to hear about the Vietnam War.

President Eisenhower’s approach to foreign policy differed significantly from President Truman in two areas; the role of the National Security Council and how Vice President Nixon fit into the foreign policy picture.

Under President Eisenhower, the National Security Council system evolved into the principal arm of the President in formulating and executing policy on military, international, and internal security affairs. Where Truman was uncomfortable with the NSC system and only made regular use of it under the pressure of the Korean war, Eisenhower embraced the NSC concept and created a structured system of integrated policy review. With his military background, Eisenhower had a penchant for careful staff work, and believed that effective planning involved a creative process of discussion and debate among advisers compelled to work toward agreed recommendations.[5] Continue reading

Johnson and the CIA

Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was not an easy man.  Bill, a

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States (November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969)

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States (November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969)

colleague with whom I worked on Johnston Atoll in the 1980s, was on the Johnsons’ security detail during their Texas visits.  He spoke of loud, embarrassing, drunken fights between the Johnsons and crude behavior like throwing dishes of jelly beans and popcorn and expecting the security detail to pick it all up immediately.  Ronald Kessler’s book, In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect, confirms much of what Bill told me then.  Regardless of his personal behavior, Johnson was a political sophisticate who understood power at a fundamental level.  By all accounts, Johnson’s rise to power was steady and ruthless.

The dichotomy among historians becomes apparent once Johnson assumes the presidency following President Kennedy’s assassination.  The gulf widens through the nine years of the Johnson presidency.  Was Johnson a model for business executives and a great progressive leader as portrayed by historian Robert A. Caro, who has studied Johnson for the better part of three decades?[1]  Or, at the other end of the spectrum, was Johnson a dangerous, paranoid individual?  According to former Kennedy speech writer and author Richard N. Goodwin in his 1988 book Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties, Johnson’s behavior drove two presidential assistants to separately seek opinions on Johnson’s mental stability from psychiatrists.[2]

Dominican Republic 1965. U.S. troops patrolling the streets of Santo Domingo

Dominican Republic 1965. U.S. troops patrolling the streets of Santo Domingo

What can be said with certainty is that, as president, Johnson drove social engineering to new heights with his ‘War on Poverty’ and ‘Great Society’, which included legislation for public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, and aid to education.  Johnson did not confine his activity to just the home front, though.  He was busy with the CIA, too; the U.S. Dominican Republic intervention in 1965, the Vietnam War, the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War in 1967, and efforts to reduce tension with the Soviet Union.

It took three tries to land a Director of Central Intelligence, DCI, he wanted, but Johnson finally got the job done.  Johnson inherited DCI John A. McCone from Kennedy.  Kennedy asked McCone to head up the CIA following Kennedy’s termination of Allen W. Dulles, a remnant of Wild Bill Donovan’s OSS, after the Bay of Pigs disaster.  McCone was reputed to be an excellent manager and returned balance to an agency enamored of covert activities and nation-building.  Under McCone, the CIA redistributed its organizational energy between analysis and science and technology in addition to its well-known covert actions.  Not everyone in the CIA was a happy camper with this intelligence outsider, but McCone earned his spurs during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Johnson and DCI McCone parted ways in 1965 over disagreements about the Vietnam build-up. Continue reading

COLD WAR COMES TO THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

Author: John Malch

The forty-six year era of ‘The Cold War’ from 1945 through 1991 was not just limited to the Eastern Hemisphere and countries behind the Iron and Bamboo curtains.  The Western Hemisphere shares a lengthy cold war period with its opposite.  Countries in Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador & Nicaragua and Panama; the island countries in the Caribbean: Cuba and Grenada.  In South America: Brazil and Chile.  All of these countries were involved with interventions or coups d’état in toppling governments during the Cold War.

Cold War in Latin America: Guatemala ~ 1954

a. A socialist government, elected in Guatemala, began land reforms which threatened the dominant role of U.S. based corporations.

b. In 1954, the CIA carried out a coup d’etat and turned the government over to a Guatemalan Army officer.

c. A military dictatorship, which received military aid and training from the U.S., terrorized the Indian population for forty years, killing more than 100,000 people.

For more information:  http://www.coldwar.org/articles/50s/guatemala.asp

1954 Coup d’etat and Civil War in Guatemala

1954 Coup d’etat and Civil War in Guatemala

Continue reading

A Lost Highway: Foreign Aid

We, the people of the United States, overburdened with taxes, fighting for survival and a way of life, struggling with out-of-touch and out-of-control politicians from all political bents are, in spite of the odds, generous to a fault. Last night the boys and I watched twelve Israeli Scouts perform in the Caravan Gilad; a celebration of Israel through the eyes of its young people. It was energetic, fun and inspiring to watch these youngsters hail life with such enthusiasm. Following the performance, the boys gathered around to listen to Israeli scout tales and, as I was a stranger at the Jewish Community Center, I sat by myself quietly waiting. One of the young women performers joined me

The Caravan Gilad

The Caravan Gilad

for a spot of conversation. It did not take long for her to share all of the wonderful welcomes and generosity she had discovered in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Tucson. Her story is repeated as complete strangers in the United States donate everything from kidneys to money to other complete strangers just because they want to help. The United States is, indeed, a marvelously giving country. These very same benefactors, the everyday taxpayers, almost to a person, loathe foreign aid. Why?

A cursory evaluation of foreign aid could lead one to believe that it helps people outside of the United States by supplying food or money when they need it. If that were so, I think we’d all be pleased, or at least feel slightly less ill-at-ease. The historical foundation and current application of foreign aid, however, are a case study in unintended consequences. The historical roots of today’s foreign aid can be traced to three distinct acts in the foreign aid play.

Act I occurred at a meeting of representatives of forty five countries in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944. The Bretton Woods conference,[1] also known as the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, turned the world on its fiscal ear including the effective elimination of the bothersome gold standard, which required nations to take the nasty deflation medicine when their economies got out of balance. At the same conference, this group laid the cornerstone of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, an organization which pegs the exchange rates to the U.S. dollar. This is also called the par value system. Nineteen countries eventually signed the original Articles of Agreement and the IMF went into business in 1947.[2]  Additionally, this august body also established the foundation for the World Bank, to assist in the reconstruction of Europe following WWII. France became its first customer when the country borrowed $250 million for reconstruction, in 1947.[3]  The IMF and World Bank evolved and changed as they defined and re-defined and expanded their missions. Their tentacles reach around the world, seducing countries and influencing the geopolitical play. For the most part, their losses, which are significant, are underwritten by the taxpayer in the United States.

At the time, Henry Hazlitt, a leading editorialist for the New York Times argued against the Bretton Woods model stating that it would break down over time. In a stroke of genius or prophesy, Hazlitt maintained that “…the result of trusting governments and tying their fates together would be inflation and the collapse of what remained of sound money.” He opined that, to achieve stability, each country should maintain its own monetary system. Hazlitt’s position on the Bretton Woods model eventually cost him his job. He later published From Bretton Woods to World Inflation: A Study of Causes and Consequences; a collection of the articles.

Act II, The Marshall Plan[4] or the European Recovery Program resulted in $13 billion in aid over a four year period from 1947 through 1951. Sixteen of Europe’s war torn nations were the beneficiaries of the original package including technical assistance as well as food, fuel and machinery from the United States. Later there were direct investments in Europe’s industrial sector. President Truman appointed General Marshall as Secretary of State in 1947. The new secretary’s challenge was to address the reconstruction of Europe. Marshall probably already had the roadmap in his head because The Marshall Plan came together quickly and solidly. During a speech rolling out the plan at Harvard, Marshall gave a preview of how the aid would politically benefit the U.S. as it entered the Cold War (1947-1991). Marshall posited that political stability in Western Europe was vital to countering communist expansion in that region, and he believed that political stability was integral to the recovery of Europe’s national economies.

Act III, the Truman Doctrine, was simple and succinct. In February 1947, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson introduced the domino theory when he explained that more was at stake in the Greek crisis than Greece and Turkey during a meeting with members of both houses of congress. If those two key states fell, he clarified, then communism would likely spread south to Iran and as far east as India. Using the set point of Rome and Carthage, Acheson explained the extent of the polarization of power. The legislators believed, and quickly cut a ‘deal’. They agreed to endorse the program if President Truman would emphasize the severity of the crisis publicly in an address to Congress and in a radio broadcast to the American people. Truman complied. He set the doctrine in few words as he asserted, “It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” The Republican Congress sanctioned the aid to Greece and Turkey, which marked the beginning of a long and enduring bipartisan cold war foreign policy.[5]

Currently U.S. foreign aid is divided into two broad categories: military and economic assistance. The State Department is no longer directly responsible for handing out the civilian half of the direct U.S. foreign aid. That task was handed to the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, in 1961 and it is the only place where a firm number can be obtained. In 2013, USAID, under the State Department’s budget requested $51.6 billion. According to the USAID web site[6] this money is invested in agricultural productivity, combating maternal and child mortality and deadly diseases, providing life-saving assistance in the wake of disaster, promoting democracy, human rights and good governance around the world, fostering private sector development and sustainable economic growth, helping communities adapt to a changing environment, and elevating the role of women and girls.

The total cost of foreign aid is tough to grasp since the only firm number is the USAID budget request of $51.6 billion. The U.S. military currently has a presence in 78 per of the world’s countries. Some of the cost of occupation is in the DoD budget but much of it is funded directly through other congressional appropriations. The cost of the IMF and World Bank is mired in mirrors and misdirection. The only thing certain is that the U.S. taxpayer funds most of it and most of their extensive losses. At least the military still does what the military does. The World Bank is currently directing most of its effort to ‘alleviating poverty’ (See Footnote 3) and USAID is engineering societies.

Both missions are a far cry from reconstruction following a world war. But, while the fruits of reconstruction are still visible, the aid of today rarely reaches the people it claims to help. As a person who has lived and worked in many of the places foreign aid claims as victories, I will bear witness that foreign aid does more harm than good. It creates incentives for dishonesty and lines the pockets of corrupt politicians and crony capitalists. It does little for the people. I stood on the docks in Antofagasta, Chile, while wheat from the U.S. was being unloaded to help the Chilean people following the huge earthquakes there in the early 1960s. The wheat was loaded into government trucks and transshipped to the highest bidder. I survived a 1966 coup d’état in Ghana and the foreign aid for education and democratic systems along with food poured directly into the hands of General Ankrah  and his coup cronies; nothing much reached the thousands in need. I lived on Guam in the 1990s while the State Department turned a knowing blind eye to slavery, while sending foreign aid money to the government to stop it. In the Congo, the U.S. backed Mobutu had bank accounts approximating the sum of the World Bank and IMF loans and grant while his people died of starvation during the many famines. To add insult to injury, we underwrite our enemies with foreign aid. On June 8, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry released of $1.8 billion in military foreign aid to Egypt[7] even after the release of a video in which they denounced the U.S. as an enemy[8].  Foreign aid is a travesty, another secret pipeline for politicians to use for whatever agenda is on their minds.

Perhaps the American taxpayer is uncomfortable with foreign aid because, while each taxpayer makes a choice to be generous, foreign aid takes taxpayer money by force and spends it to promote political agendas.

 



[1] This PDF is a selection from an out-of-print volume from the National Bureau of Economic Research; http://www.nber.org/chapters/c6867.pdf

[2] International Monetary Fund; History; http://www.imf.org/external/about/history.htm

[5] Harry S. Truman Library and Museum; The Truman Doctrine; http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/doctrine/large/index.php

[7] Al Arabiya; 8 June 2013; Kerry quietly releases $1.3bn military aid package for Egypt; http://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/economy/2013/06/08/Kerry-renews-1-3bn-military-aid-package-for-Egypt-.html

[8] The Blaze; Jun. 12, 2013; Hot Mic Catches Egyptian Politician Discussing ‘War’ with ‘Enemies’ Israel and America; http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/06/12/im-very-fond-of-battles-egyptian-cabinet-minister-caught-on-hot-mic-discussing-war-with-enemies-israel-and-america/

Chile’s Cold War Political Dance: A Cueca of Ideas

Chuquicamata

Kids are still fascinated by Chuqui and the adventure it can be.

The two years spent roaming the great piles of overburden from the mine, abandoned morgues, high walls, ancient mining sites, and back alleys of Chuquicamata, Chile before the 1958 elections allowed me an acceptance by the miners’ families denied many gringos. “Familiarity breeds contempt” according to my little tiny German Lutheran grandmother who had a saying for every occasion and seemed to possess the wisdom of the ages. In this case, familiarity bred a nice long stay in my room staring at the ceiling and wondering about adults.

The winter of 1955 was busy for our family. My father’s announcement that we were off to Chile during dinner one cold, snowy evening prompted a brief flurry of animated discussion followed by hasty packing. We lived, at that time, in a little log cabin with all the modern conveniences on the north shore of Lake Superior in Schroeder, Minnesota. Dad, an electrical superintendent on a taconite project, had been offered the same job with a considerable raise at the Anaconda mine in Chuquicamata, Chile. I was the eldest of their three children and my brother was just an infant, which means my Mom probably didn’t get much help with the overwhelming task of preparing to leave the U.S. The memory of the terrible series of immunizations we received and of losing my cat is still vivid in my mind as is boarding the train in Two Harbors, Minnesota for a trip to New Jersey. The stop at my Aunt and Uncle’s place in New Jersey was a short, high energy shopping trip. Mom bought and packed everything three rapidly growing children, two girls and a baby boy, would need for the three years Dad’s contract would run.

The smell of the New York Harbor was overwhelming and our ship, the SS Santa Maria, looked huge. She was a tramp steamer and one of her cargoes was a few passengers. We steamed passed the bright lights of Cuba, off loaded molasses in Panama, transited the canal, picked up bananas in Buenaventura, Columbia, and steamed on. Each time we stopped to off or on-load cargo, we went ashore. Each time the ritual was performed, my eyes and dreams of life’s wonder and adventure grew larger. My brother’s first birthday was celebrated as we lay anchored in Chile’s Antofagasta Harbor. Except for the backdrop, a nearly vertical rock wall looming into the sky, Antofagasta looked like most of the harbors we’d seen. The launch picked us up and, following several days of customs and other bureaucratic nightmares, the family boarded an old DC-3 to fly into Calama, a town not too far away from Chuqui. I thought it was great that we could see through the seams on the airplane but my mother wasn’t nearly as impressed and, for a moment, I thought the great adventure was over.  Safely aboard we made the short flight from sea level to 10,000 feet. I learned about puna, altitude sickness, shortly after our arrival in Chile.

Puna is a very simple illness. The body grabs a breath of the air at 10,000 feet to do its thing, discovers the air is seriously lacking in oxygen and takes corrective measures. After several more samples of the air, corporal chaos theory kicks in. Headaches, stomach issues, and dizziness combine with whatever other horrors the autonomic nervous system can find to test the environment. A willful soul, choosing to ignore the warning signs, is simply rendered unconscious until the body’s brain can figure out what on earth is happening. Your body will simply take you out of the equation while it sorts itself out. Arriving back to a conscious state, I discovered the high, dry Atacama Desert in all of its glory. I loved Chuqui.

It is surprising that by 1958 I was not incarcerated permanently in my room.  I assembled a chemistry lab in that room and pretty much contaminated the house with my experiments, which I took from library books. A group of us, we kids travelled in groups back then, entered an abandoned morgue through a boarded window. It was slated to be covered by tailings. I took a skull I found and stashed it in my closet in a shoebox. Our beloved Rosa found it and the resulting domestic hysteria went on for days. Chuqui was built on the side of a steep hill so all roads either went almost straight up and down or across on the level. I built a go cart out of roller skate wheels and scrap lumber. To obtain additional control of the vehicle, I needed weight it back end. My baby brother was the perfect weight so I strapped him on and we zoomed off on a wondrous, exhilarating ride down the hills at breakneck speed; competing with work trucks for road real estate. It wasn’t long before the reports started coming in and a hopping mad parental search party located us. I am truly thankful I was allowed to live long enough to go to the movies with friends that night in 1958.

The movie theater disgorged us about 9:00 P.M., that fall high-desert 1958 night and, while we were awaiting pick-up by the parental limousine, I noticed a ‘party’ going on close by. Being of short attention span, I wandered over to check it out and discovered it was two parties. At one, people were holding torches and listening to a speaker and, close by, was another with a band and people waving white napkins while dancing the Cueca. The Cueca is the national dance in Chile. Its genesis is clouded but I like the version that it originated in the early 19th century bordellos of South America, as a pas de deux facilitating partner finding. I was, of course, located and, once again, was counting the spots on my bedroom ceiling. The next morning at the breakfast lecture, I learned that I had witnessed a union campaign rally for the Chilean presidential election. I also learned that the baby sister of a friend of mine in the workers’ camp had been killed during the ruckus that followed. The direction was for me to keep my nose completely out of this business and my body at home. I was devastated and my parents finally agreed to take me to the child’s wake so I could see Graciela, my friend. What I learned frightened me.

Salvador Allende was among the candidates in 1958. His Marxist party had brought in agitators from Bolivia. Graciela’s parents and all their friends were terrified. People who dissented were disappearing and having accidents. The union, always their uneasy ally, was now adamant that the membership comply with its political position. As we joined the others mourning the little child sitting in her chair, her life interrupted by adult insanity, my heart broke. I listened to the whispers of what had happened and smelled the fear. I complied with my parents’ wishes and stayed away from the gatherings and defied them by maintaining my friendships. I heard that people judged not to be supportive, even if it were as simple as not shouting as loudly as they should at a rally, were marked. A person would nudge against them leaving a white mark of flour on their back. Many vanished without a trace. Some of the bodies were found and others suffered mining accidents that left them unable to work. The rage I felt was impotent and I didn’t understand. My friends from the workers’ families withdrew from me and blamed the United Sates. As fall yielded to winter on the Atacama Desert, it was very cold. The wonderful world I knew changed forever.

Salvador Allende lost the 1958 election to Jorge Alessandri but not by much. He lost again in 1964 to Eduardo Frei. In 1970, Salvador Allende won the Presidency and, since then, the country has elected socialists. In the purges that followed Allende’s election, several of my Chilean friends and their families sought asylum in the U.S., went to school in the U.S. and have, subsequently, repatriated. Other friends stayed to fight for their country and died in camps. There was, of course, the little matter of Pinochet, an extreme right wing dictator. In both cases, left and right, the path chosen was violent and devastating to a beautiful country with more than its fair share of brilliant, hard-working, creative individuals and entrepreneurs. Pinochet brought in the Chicago Boys; “University of Chicago-trained or affiliated economists, including Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, who recommended and implemented the liberalization and stabilization policies of the military government.”[1] Finally, the markets began to open and the people could breathe just a bit.

While I did not understand at the time why my friends blamed and, later, hated the United States. It is clearer today. What happened to Chile was Cold War (1947-1991) Policy. In 2008, Harvard’s Richard N. Cooper published Economic Aspects of the Cold War, 1962-1975 [2]in which he wrote, “The principal instruments for preventing the spread of communism by non-military means involved building an international economic system conducive to economic prosperity; engaging in persuasion, providing incentives, and occasionally imposing economic sanctions; and, not least, promoting a robust US economy that could serve as a stimulant to others and as a beacon for the benefits of a free, enterprise-based, market-oriented economy.”  The U.S. had its big nose in Chile in 1958 and kept it there through the 1980s.

While Cooper covers the period between 1962 through 1975, the policy dates back to Roosevelt and the Marshall Plan aid to Europe. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was supposed to free the marketplace. Truman’s “Point Four,” provided the basis for aid to developing countries. According to Cooper, “The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, created in 1946, were also important features of the international economic architecture. The United States, with the sometimes reluctant cooperation of others, tried also to penalize countries within or too close to the Soviet orbit.

The U.S. spent over $130 million in 1958 to help the little known Jorge Alessandri win the election and much more than that in 1964.  Maybe it worked. Chile became very dependent on the U.S. as the successful U.S. backed candidates changed the tariff laws. The CIA effectively overthrew the government to bring Pinochet to power. Chile went from a normally developing country to social disaster and has, once again, climbed out and found its own soul and stalls in the global marketplace.

I have read and listened to how horrid the Pinochet government was; read of the atrocities and paid attention to the communist lawsuits. No doubt, it was a terrible time politically. What happened, though, is the Communist pot calling the capitalist kettle black. The purges under Allende killed countless thousands of dissenters, closed the schools, and leveled the economy so that everyone starved equally. Few rail about that period and those of us who lost friends to this regime mourn in private. The idea of the individual was lost for a while and it all happened very fast and furiously. I was thrilled when the Chicago Boys gave gold and silver mining back to hard working individuals. I am thrilled to see the rise of hope, education, and the individual in a country with such potential.

The Cueca of ideas with its flying white napkins, clubs and guns rocked my world. The dance was intense and so were the times.



[2] Economic Aspects of the Cold War, 1962-1975; Richard N. Cooper; Harvard University; February 2008; http://www.wcfia.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Cooper_Economic.pdf