Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Small Talk

(This is a rough paraphrase of a real conversation over breakfast, with ex-post rationalizing):

The Dude: When was the last time a U.S. backed coup worked out? When's the last time some new pro-U.S. government we supported didn't go to hell in a year or so? Seriously, when have we ever gotten involved in anything that resulted in anything good?

Belle: I don't know. Define "success." As in, fewest number of people killed, roughly non-violent, successful change to democratic rule, resulting in greater stability than previous mayhem? I don't know. Crap, I used to TA U.S. Foreign Policy and Global Security and Cooperation, too. What the hell happened to all of my international relations training. My instinctual response is that undemocratically taking out one form of government to put in another form of government (especially if non-democratic!) never works out. Let me ask The Best Friend, she of masters in IR/DOD training.

The Dude: We should just buy out countries and take them over rather than back coups. We could have everyone in the country to be absorbed vote on whether they want to cede political control in exchange for being a citizen of the U.S. with all rights and protections. We could create a ten year roll-out plan for integration of government and economy, with compensation for each citizen. They would become another state in the Union, or at least a commonwealth incorporated territory like Puerto Rico, Guam, etc., and people born in such states would be citizens with full rights and responsibilities.

Belle: That would never work, international relations are not mergers and acquisitions. That much I remember from my years of IR. Poison pills the size of Antartica could be flipped to defeat such proposals, particularly with countries with strong national identities and independent political systems. It's enough that we have Puerto Rico as whatever politically indistinct thing it is. And this is different from European economic integration, which preserved the discrete national/cultural/political identities of the member nations and didn't really "merge" anything except currency and travel. Despite the receding power of nation-states, they still exist and are important. National identity, sovereignty, the rule of law, culture/language difference--these are all severe impediments to modern day imperialism, which is so, so wrong for so many reasons anyway. I will not support a modern day imperialist Manifest Destiny.

The Best Friend, via telephone: True. Look at what happened between East and West Germany. Even assuming similar language and culture, merging economies/polities doesn't work well. Actually it works very badly. And then you have countries with regions that want to secede through violent resistance and civil war.

Belle, to self: Crap, I forgot to ask The Best Friend about "successful" U.S. backed coups. Fortunately there is the internet, however unreliable. Also, which among this list could be considered "successful"?

Relatedly, Musharraf defends rule by emergency decree that "scrapped the Constitution, dismissed the Supreme Court and resulted in the arrests of 2,500 opposition party workers, lawyers and human rights advocates."

This conversation is to be continued. Comments welcome.


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