Five Important Books on U.S. Foreign Policy—What, Why, and Where?
by Bill Becker
for the modern press, the sentimentalist may beam with
contentment when it is constitutionally ‘free’— the
realist merely asks at whose disposal it is."
The Decline of the West
ALL THE SHAH’'S
MEN, by New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer. In four parts.
NOTE: The original version of this review has been updated to account for Stephen Kinzer's recent book The Brothers. (2013)
The Brothers is a masterful, even moving account of the influence of the Dulles brothers, John Foster, and Allen, on American foreign policy in the late 1940s and the '50s. During the eight years of the
Eisenhower administration, Foster was Secretary of State, and Allen was the Director of the CIA. Their roles are described below as per the original review, and per the new information Kinzer presents in The Brothers.
I do not present a separate review of The Brothers here; rather, I hope the reader will be intrigued enough to purchase and read it.
by former U.S. State Department official Clyde Prestowitz.
HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL,
by Noam Chomsky.
THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE,
by the late Chalmers Johnson, Far East expert and former consultant to the CIA.
My apologies for the disparate lengths of these home-grown reviews. After reading Rogue Nation and
All the Shah's Men, I was literally driven to produce the very long
discussions below. I recently finished Hegemony or Survival
and Sorrows of Empire, and simply did not have the energy to write more, or even better,
than I did. I hope that
the briefer treatment of these two books does not disincline the visitor from reading them.
For those Americans
with an honest desire to understand the hostility felt by millions of global citizens toward the
—not toward them personally—each of the four books is of major value.
Sorrows is perhaps the most unique of this genre to date—it is the
first I know of to
offer the bold suggestion that for the first time in our history, we are on the verge of losing
the republic itself.
Hegemony or Survival and Sorrows of Empire are published by
Metropolitan, an imprint of
Henry Holt Co.
These two books are a part of a new project at Holt:
The American Empire Project.
The AEP website hosts a forum
for the discussion of U.S. foreign policy, and links to interviews with Noam Chomsky and
Comments and corrections are welcome. I reserve the right to post
comments anonymously, with my replies.
ALL THE SHAH’S MEN AN
AMERICAN COUP AND THE ROOTS OF MIDDLE EAST TERROR,
by Stephen Kinzer. (Wiley, 2003)
Part I. (With thanks to Bonnie.)
Stephen Kinzer is arguably the top foreign correspondent
for the New York Times, with extensive experience reporting
from Central America and Europe during those regions’ recent
eras of turmoil. His new book, ALL
THE SHAH’S MEN is a chilling
narrative of the successful overthrow of Iranian Prime
Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in August, 1953.
The people of Iran had for centuries been repressed by
corrupt rulers and foreign powers – in this period, the
British. Mossadegh was a genuinely incorruptible politician –
passionately nationalist, and a secular, pious, and
progressive Muslim. He wanted nothing more for Iran than a
decent life and future for the Iranian people. In 1952 he
committed the unforgivable sin of nationalizing the
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which, in the finest
imperialist tradition, had become filthy rich while
maintaining the vast majority of Iran’s population in abject
poverty. The British government held a 51% share of
Anglo-Iranian. Mossadegh was phenomenally popular with
virtually all Iranians except the de-nationalized elites who
had benefitted from their arrangements with the British:
die-hard monarchists, military right-wingers, and much of the
up-scale business class. Only a heartless wretch can read with
equanimity Kinzer’s contrast between the sumptuous living
standards of Anglo-Iranian’s British managers and the
squalid conditions the company provided for its workers. In
fact, Anglo-Iranian was in direct violation of promises
made to Reza Shah, the immediate monarch’s father, to provide
decent working and living conditions for its Iranian laborers.
The de-nationalized sectors would be instrumental in the plot
to depose Mossadegh, even though many of them had to be bribed
to overcome their fear of reprisal in case the coup failed.
Mossadegh was such a decent man, however, that it is unlikely
that any plotters would have received much more than a slap on
America's first covert action against a soverign
government was code-named Operation Ajax by the
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. (The British retained their
original code name: Operation Boot.) Mohammad Reza Shah
had replaced his father, Reza Shah, as monarch when the
British forced the latter from the throne in 1941. In the
subsequent opening of political space, Mohammad Mossadegh
attained formidable political powers, and effectively
nullified the influence of the younger, child-like monarch.
During the CIA-organized violence against Mossadegh, the Shah
had fled the country; the successful coup returned him to the
Peacock Throne in triumph. But whereas the Shah had literally
been a puppet of the British for over a decade, with a
new-found independence born of the effective end of British
influence in Iran he soon gathered total power in his own
hands and established one of the most brutally repressive
regimes the world has known. Washington loved him. (See
Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Shah of Shahs,
Kinzer’s meticulously researched work is virtually
bullet-proof. The only reasonable conclusion we can draw is
that the post-war anti-communism that gripped America, and
which provided the excuse to remove Mossadegh form power, was
at best a true psychopathology, and at worst, genuinely evil.
That psychopathology went on to beget many other CIA-sponsored
covert actions against progressive Third World governments,
which over time inspired the virulent, global anti-American
sentiment that so puzzles millions of well-meaning but
historically naive Americans today. Kinzer is entirely
correct, and not alone, in his observation that "it is not
farfetched to draw a line from Operation Ajax through
the Shah’s repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the
fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York."
(For example, Monty Woodhouse, the British agent who snuck
into Washington in January 1952 to persuade the Dulles
brothers to support a coup against Mossadegh, observed in his
1982 memoirs: "It is easy to see Operation Boot as the first
step towards the Iranian catastrophe of 1979. What we did not
foresee was that the Shah would gather strength and use it so
tyrannically, nor that the US government and the Foreign
Office wold fail so abjectly to keep him on a reasonable
course. At the time we were simply relieved that a threat to
British interests had been removed." By then, of course, it
was too late. As one of Iran’s top religious leaders, the
Ayatollah Ali Khameinei said, "we are not liberals like
Allende and Mossadegh, whom the CIA can snuff out."
Considering that the Shah’s father, whom the British had both
installed and deposed, was himself a vicious tyrant, Woodhouse
reveals nothing less than colossal stupidity; on his part, and
on the part of the British government. We are reminded of the
not-so-famous quip by [I believe] George Bernard Shaw: "power
does not corrupt; fools corrupt power when they attain to
Like father, like son
"All the world’s a stage," said the Bard, and with the
overthrow of Mossadegh, the U.S. government set on that stage
the first act of a long-running tragic farce. From the coup
against Guatemala’s popular and progressive president Arbenz
the next year, in 1954, through Vietnam, through president
Reagan’s criminal attack on Nicaragua, millions of people have
died, either through direct military action, or through
massively disrupted economies. And for what? For nothing more
than to feed the appetite of the U.S. business community.
President Bush and his advisors are directing the current
act of this farce. Rather than engage in honest soul-searching
toward understanding the sources of global American sentiment,
and genuine effort toward making America respected and honored
once again, the Bush administration instead has effectively
adopted the mentality of our British forbears: military might,
globally deployed, brutally employed if necessary, will subdue
our enemies and ensure our security. Thus has the Bush
administration made it virtually impossible for the American
people to engage in a collective examination of the national
soul — to genuinely understand that other nations have
legitimate aspirations that do not fit the American plan for
them, and that many of them have legitimate grievances against
the U.S. Thus are we, as a nation, kept in an state of
junvenility, continually marching to the drums of war, while
we are lulled into moral complacency by memories of our
quintessential fantasy hero and his blazing six-shooters: John
ALL THE SHAH’S MEN
is a stellar treatment of modern Iranian history.
Kinzer fills in many of the blanks in our knowledge of the
profoundly destructive role America has played in
(With more thanks to Bonnie.)
this important book, Kinzer provides information that should
give even the most fervent anti-communist reason to doubt that
the U.S. action in Iran was either intelligent or necessary.
(Kinzer also provides a useful, and arguably sympathetic,
discussion of Shiism
, the version of Islam predominant in Iran. When the Arabs
conquered Persia, they forced Islam on the population, but
this Islam was modified by the precepts of Persia’s original,
much older religion, Zoroastrianism. Kinzer notes the
Zoroastrian emphasis on social justice and just rule, which is
a major element of Shiism.
learn that after failing to intimidate Mossadegh into
returning the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company under
effectively the same rules that led to its nationalization in
the first place, Britian's newly re-elected, super-imperialist
Prime Minister Winston Churchill tried mightily to persuade
the Truman administration to join Britain in a covert action
to remove him from power. Truman and his Secretary of State,
Dean Acheson, rejected Churchill’s underhanded request out of
hand. Truman and Acheson held British imperialism in contempt,
and while recognizing that Mossadegh was a frustratingly
difficult national leader to deal with, they also approved of
his progressive reforms and his democratic aspirations for
Iran. Contrary to the British, they also took seriously the
fact that Mossadegh had been democratically elected and
enjoyed the genuine support of the vast majority of Iranian
citizens. In essence, they wanted to see Mossadegh
learn that the British did not once invoke a "communist
threat" to the entire Middle East and beyond if
Anglo-Iranian was not returned to them. In fact, the
British and the Russian monarchy had in 1907 formally
partitioned Iran between them, with the Russians taking the
north sector. During WWII, the U.S., the British, and the
Soviet Union worked together in Iran for crucially important
strategic purposes. In 1944, the pro-Soviet wing of Iran’s
first true political party, Tudeh, gained control of the
party, and in 1946 even succeeded in winning a majority in
Iran’s parliament. Tudeh implemented significant progressive
reforms: limitations on child labor, a 48-hour workweek,
guaranteed maternity leaves, and a minimum wage. Tudeh’s
growing political strength led Stalin to attempt a takeover of
Northern Iran in early 1946. He envisioned a "People’s
Republic of Azerbaijan" run by Tudeh. Azerbaijanis resisted,
and the Iranian Prime Minister at the time, Ahmad Qavam,
persuaded Stalin to withdraw his troops as required by the
agreement reached before the end of the war. "Jubilant
Azerbaijanis celebrated by summarily executing all the Tudeh
leaders they could find," writes Kinzer.
suffered in Iran proper. In 1949, a attempt was made to
assassinate Mohammad Reza Shah. In spite of the evidence that
the would-be assassin was a religious fanatic, the Shah blamed
Tudeh, and took repressive measures against it. Thenceforth,
Tudeh was only one of several players on the Iranian political
history hardly speaks of a Soviet Union that presented a dire
threat to Iranian sovereignty, or even to British commercial
interests. The British knew this, and President Truman and
Secretary of State Acheson, both savvy and far more
scrupulous, knew it. In fact, Kinzer makes it clear that
Truman and Acheson believed that the most effective way to
forestall a communist Iran was to bring more democracy,
more education, more freedom, and higher living
standards to the Iranian people. They thought Mossadegh was
the man for the job. Thus the British had no choice but to
keep their mouths shut regarding a non-existent "communist
threat." (More on Kinzer’s treatment of the "communist threat"
in Part III of this review.)
chose not to run for re-election, and Dwight D. Eisenhower,
running as a Republican on a strong anti-communist platform,
won the Presidency in 1952. Even before the inauguration, the
British, knowing of the rabid anti-communist sentiments of
Secretary of State-designate John Foster Dulles, purposefully
played the "communist threat" card. Dulles and his younger
brother Alan, who had been appointed to lead the Central
Intelligence Agency, easily manipulated Eisenhower into
approving a coup against Mossadegh. (Poor Ike: going into his
Presidency, he held the same view of Mossadegh as did Truman
and Acheson. "I’d like to give the guy ten million bucks," he
told British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden before the Dulles
brothers worked their magic on him. Our current President,
George W. Bush, is clearly as manipulable as Eisenhower was,
but in Bush a humanity comparable to Eisenhower’s is much less
Following are a few
pertinent tidbits from All The Shah’s
Men. Kinzer is indented, others are in single quotes.
My clarifications are in brackets.
Iranian Prime Minister and British lackey Ali Razmara tried,
unsuccessfully, to hold the line against nationalization of
Ambassador [Francis] Shepherd went so far as to send him
[Razmara] a letter advising him to take ‘a strong line’
against ingrates who did not appreciate ‘the immense
contributions of the British people in recent times.' p.
1952 Truman finally caved in to Churchill’s pressure and asked
Mossadegh to return Anglo Iranian to the British and
submit to the opinion of the World Court, into which the
British had dragged the nationalization controversy. Truman
offered a bribe, in the form of a $10 million aid package and
the end of the British embargo of Iranian oil, which was
literally strangling Iran. Mossadegh rejected the offer in a
scornful address to the Iranian parliament.
concluded with a telling moral observation: ‘Abiding by law
and respecting the rights of the weak should not only not
diminish, but would greatly enhance the position and prestige
of the strong.’ p. 146.
initial coup attempt appeared to fail, the CIA agent in
charge, Kermit Roosevelt, regrouped and decided on his own to
make another attempt. Just as his second effort appeared on
the brink of success, Roosevelt received a cable from
Washington, ordering him to 'flee immediately.'
mind, chum,’ he told the confused radio man. ‘.... the tide
has turned! Things are going our way! Right will triumph! All
for the best, in the best of all possible worlds!’
Roosevelt and his co-conspirators, this was, as the CIA
post-mortem put it, ‘a day that should never have ended, for
it carried with it such a sense of excitement, of
satisfaction, and of jubilation that it is doubtful that any
other can come up to it.’ p. 188.
opposed the coup were right after all:
[Subsequent events] eerily vindicate those who opposed
the use of force against Mossadegh. President Truman predicted
that mishandling the Iran crisis would produce ‘a disaster to
the free world.’ p. 215.
Kinzer’s own statement:
It is not
farfetched to draw a line from Operation Ajax through
the Shah’s repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the
fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York.
1984, I heard former CIA agent John Stockwell speak at a
meeting of activists opposing President Reagan’s war against
the people of Nicaragua. Stockwell had been the CIA station
chief in charge of the not-so-covert action against Angola,
conceived by President Nixon and his Secretary of State – or
National Security Advisor, I don’t recall which – Henry
Kissinger. Stockwell later wrote a book about the Angola
operation, In Search Of
talk, Stockwell said that CIA recruits were taught how to
get a handle on the enemy-designate’s core persona and values
by imagining him or her as a 5-year-old child. Kinzer’s
description of Kermit Roosevelt and the Cold War CIA agents
makes clear that this method is also useful in understanding
many of America’s so-called defenders of freedom.
in those days shared a profound idealism, a conviction that
they were doing the vital dirty work of freedom. Many combined
the best qualities of the thinker and the adventurer. None
epitomized that combination more fully than did Kermit
Roosevelt surreptitiously entered Iran:
barely contain his excitement: ‘I remembered what my father
wrote of his arrival in Africa with his father,
[Theodore Roosevelt] ... It was a great adventure
and all the world was young! I felt as he must
have felt then. My nerves tingled, my spirits soared as we
moved up the mountain road....’"
play: cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians. To those who opt
for violence as the first response to serious international
issues, the advice of peace activist Alice Walker will forever
carefully at the present you are constructing.
look like the future you dream of."
All The Shah’s Men
was obviously a labor of love for Kinzer. Early in the book he
reveals his respect for the famously eccentric Mossadegh, and
for the Iranian people: "In intellect and education he towered
above almost all of them [his countrymen], a drawback for a
politician in some countries but not in Iran, where those who
do not live the life of the mind have always admired those who
do." (Alert readers will naturally wonder what countries
Kinzer had in mind.)
In 2002, Kinzer went to Iran "looking for
traces of Mohammad Mossadegh." On August 19, 49 years to the
day Mossadegh was overthrown, he is alone at the compound
where the incorruptible Iranian democrat spent the last eleven
years of his life, under house arrest. Leaning against a back
wall of the compound, Kinzer finds "the tall double doors of a
sturdy iron gate." It is the only artifact remaining of
Mossadegh’s home in Tehran. "What history this gate has seen!"
Kinzer writes. "The house before which this gate stood was
wrecked and burned on the night of August 19, 1953, and later
the debris was bulldozed to make way for an apartment
building. All that remains is the gate. This gives it great
historical importance, ... an almost spiritual aura. I placed
my hand on it and held it there for a long time." [I was quite
moved by Kinzer’s words myself. B.B.]
NOTE: The following section contains my original comments on All The Shah's Men, before I read Kinzer's new book The Brothers. I kept them for historical reasons.
The short "update" reflected in the title of this page, "Five Important Books," appears in Part IV.
All The Shah’'s Men
is a very painful read, but it is of enormous value just
because it presents in one compelling narrative a monumental
event in U.S. foreign policy, and because it comes at a time
when Americans are critically in need of understanding such
events. I recommend it without reservation.
Nevertheless, All The Shah’s
Men cannot be entirely satisfying
to those of us who had already become familiar with much of
the information Kinzer presents. For reasons we will probably
never know — and to the detriment of his account — Kinzer
withholds useful information.
As noted earlier, John Foster Dulles and his
younger brother Allen joined the Eisenhower administration as
Secretary of State and Director of the CIA, respectively. In
fact, Kinzer gives an inadequate account of their history.
Kinzer correctly reports that the brothers were born into
wealth. Later, before being tapped by Eisenhower for
government work, he tells us that they were both lawyers for
the "legendary firm of Sullivan & Cromwell." Kinzer notes
that "the Dulles brothers developed a special interest in
Iran," and that "Foster always mentioned Iran when he spoke
about countries he believed might soon fall to communism."
What Kinzer fails to reveal is that Sullivan & Cromwell
represented two of the world’s largest companies, Exxon
and Mobil (each controlled by the Rockefeller family),
and that each company had large contracts for oil with
Anglo-Iranian, the super-greedy, and blatantly
exploitative British oil company nationalized by Mossadegh. No
wonder the Dulles Brothers were so concerned about
The cynical reader will say "So? Nothing new
here. Everyone knows that self-interest is what drives
businessmen. That’s just politics as usual." Just so.
Nevertheless, it is certain that many of Kinzer’s readers will
be well-meaning, uncynical Americans who might naively
attribute the Dulles brothers’ anti-communism to a sincere
desire that the Iranian people be truly free. Contrasted with
Truman’s, Acheson’s, and even Eisenhower’s original view that
patience, and even assistance to Mossadegh was the best way to
prevent a communist take-over in Iran (which, as we will see,
under Mossadegh was not in the cards in any case) the Dulles
brothers’ choice of violent covert action against him comes
across as pathological. There is no valid reason for leaving
this information out of any account of the coup. (The
lamest excuse would be that there wasn’t room for
Kinzer compounds this narrative
lacuna by failing to make proper
journalistic use of his long-departed New York Times
predecessor, Kennett Love. Love was the Iran correspondent for
the Times at the time of the coup, and Kinzer’s highly
selective, even mysterious, references to him make for an
interesting story in itself.
Mossadegh’s tolerance of Tudeh, the Iranian
communist party, played right into the hands of the rabidly
anti-communist Dulles brothers. Kennett Love, on the other
hand, was equally clear that Mossadegh was firmly
anti-communist, and that he had severely suppressed Tudeh when
the occasion called for it. But the reader will not learn
about this from Kinzer.
To learn more, and more that is interesting,
of Kennett Love’s experience in Iran, we must go to a
different book, written by Wall Street Journal reporter
Jonathan Kwitny seventeen years before the "fireballs that
engulfed the World Trade Center in New York": Endless
Enemies -- The Making of an Unfriendly
World. (Congdon & Weed, New
In the chapter Upsetting the Balance:
Iran and Afghanistan,
us that in 1960, Kennett Love wrote a forty-one page report on
the coup. We learn that the report was not published, but was
instead handed over to then Director of the CIA, Allen Dulles,
the same man who directed the coup from Washington seven years
earlier. Ultimately, Love’s paper disappeared, with all of
Dulles’s papers, into the bowels of the Princeton University
archives. At the time Kwitny wrote, the Dulles papers were
administered by a panel headed by a former CIA legal counsel.
They were made available only to selected researchers, on
condition that "any articles to be based even indirectly on
material from the papers" be submitted to advance review
(read: prior censorship). Kwitny says that the Wall Street
Journal was refused access to the papers several times, just
because it would not agree to advance review.
But, the truth will out, as the saying goes.
Kwitny received a copy of Love’s paper from an independent
source, and thus did not feel bound to submit Endless
Enemies to prior censorship, In
fact, Kwitny and Congdon & Weed were pretty
Kwitny did not give the title of the Love
document in his possession, but Kinzer’s bibliography refers
to it follows:
Love, Kennett. The American Role in
the Pahlavi Restoration on August 19, 1953
(unpublished), the Allen Dulles Papers, Princeton
As we will see below Kinzer is familiar with
On May 28, 1953, Mossadegh asked President
Eisenhower for help in breaking the British-led boycott of
Iranian oil, which was strangling Iran. Instead of helping
Mossadegh, Eisenhower waits until June 29 to suggest that he
cave in to the British. In the following sections from
Endless Enemies — indented,
Love is in double quotes, with Kwitny’s clarifications in
square brackets. Italics are Kwitny’s, for emphasis; they do
not appear in Love’s original paper. My intervening text is
"Thus far, Dr. Mossadegh had taken no positive
steps to suggest to the United States that it had better help
Iran or the country might turn to the communists....
He had been anticommunist throughout his
career. During his first year in
office the outlawed Tudeh [Communist] party fought him with
the bitterness the communists usually reserved for Social
"There was no real abatement of Dr.
Mossadegh’s anticommunism until after [the denial of] his
appeal for aid to President Eisenhower... 28 May 1953
"The letter was a blow to the Iranian premier.
It was evidently intended as such....
"There are several theories as to why he
[Mossadegh] did not resign ..."
After a nicely objective presentation of the
self-serving theories of Mossadegh’s foreign and domestic
enemies, Love suggests, au contraire:
"Dr. Mossadegh may also have felt
responsible for carrying to completion his campaign to make
the Shah a truly constitutional monarch, limited
to reigning rather than ruling. He often stated
this principle as well as his loyalty to the
Further on, Love reinforces the impression
that Mossadegh was a nationalist first and foremost:
regime was as vigorous as any in suppressing overt communist
activities and in combating the party in the streets until
receipt of President Eisenhower’s letter [which
came after Eisenhower and the Dulleses
had ordered Mossadegh’s overthrow]."
Later, Love describes the behavior of Tudeh,
the communist bogey-man that Washington evoked to justify the
coup. Mr. Carroll is the CIA agent in charge of recruiting
street thugs to create the chaos that would be blamed on the
"It is conceivable," he says, "that the Tudeh
could have turned the fortunes of the day against the
Royalists. But for some reason they remained completely aloof
from the conflict. ... As it turned out, Mr. Carroll’s bands
had the streets largely to themselves. Resistance was
concentrated at government buildings.... My own
conjecture is that the Tudeh were restrained by the Soviet
Embassy because the Kremlin, in the first post-Stalin year,
was not willing to take on such consequences as might have
resulted from the establishment of a communist controlled
regime in Tehran."
So far, then, we have a report by the New York
Times’s man in Iran that Mossadegh opposed communism as much
as he opposed British hegemony, and that the communist party
in Iran might well have been a paper tiger. While certain of
Love’s conjectures may well have been the product of seven
years’ hindsight, the events on the ground in 1953 Iran were
known to him, and these conclusions might easily have been
drawn then. At the least, it is certainly of interest to the
modern reader of All The Shah’s Men to know that even in 1960, Love’s observations
suggested that the fanatical American anticommunists were
wrong; wrong about the Soviet Union and wrong about
Mossadegh. It is of interest to know that these observations
were, and still are, being kept under lock-and-key. Truman and
Acheson were right, and Kinzer does us a disservice by not
giving them stronger posthumous support for their views
through Love’s comments.
It gets worse. Kinzer refers to the Love paper
just twice in the notes, each time conjoined with a
public reference to the same event. (Interestingly, in
the notes Kinzer also refers to Love’s forty-one page paper
for Dulles as an "article.") The first reference is about a
CIA-recruited Iranian thug, Shaban the Brainless. Kinzer
includes with it the reference to Love’s New York Times
article of August 23, 1953, in which he mentioned Shaban. The
second reference to Love’s "article" is about Love’s secret
meeting with Ardeshir Zahedi, the son of General Fazlollah
Zahedi, Mossadegh’s replacement-designate. Included with it is
a reference to a book by Stephen Dorril, M16: Inside the
World of Her Majesty’s Secret Service (New York: Free Press, 2000). (Dorril does not appear
anywhere in All The Shah’s Men, but he apparently revealed Love’s meeting with Zahedi
in his book.) Let us now look at how Kinzer and Kwitny treat
this event. (The two authors are either indented and/or in
double quotes. My comments within quotes are in square
Kennet Love appears in All The Shah’s
Men three days before the coup
succeeds. On Sunday, August 16th Kermit Roosevelt
was desperately trying to recover from an attempt that had
failed the night before. He had in his possession two
firmans, "decrees that the Shah had
signed dismissing Prime Minister Mossadegh and naming Zahedi
to replace him." The firmans were of
questionable legality, but the army was used to respecting
royal power, and "the firmans gave the plotters of
Operation Ajax a way to wrap themselves in that
tradition." (Much as American politicians wrap themselves in
Old Glory when they want to deflect attention from
their questionable behavior.) The plotters decided to
distribute the firman naming Zahedi prime minister "throughout
the city, especially in the tough southern neighborhoods where
mobs were recruited [by CIA operatives]." As Kinzer tells
"To be sure that the firman reached as wide an
audience as possible, Roosevelt sent a message to the two
American news correspondents in Tehran.... Both eagerly
Upon arriving at the safe house, Kennett Love
and Don Scwhind of the Associated Press were
"‘Lo and behold, there was a huge copying
machine,’ Kennett Love of the New York Times recalled later.
‘Now this was 1953, and a copying machine is about the size of
two refrigerators. But at that time neither I nor most
American journalists or most American people would have been
able to tell you what the initials CIA stood for.’" (In fact,
Love’s quote here is not from his Dulles "article" but
from a History Channel video Anatomy of a
Here Kinzer leaves us hanging. We do not learn
from him if, or how, the two newsmen helped to ensure that
"the firman reached as wide an
audience as possible." Kwitny is more forthcoming (Love in
"Ardeshir told us about the Shah’s issuance of
the two firmans. He showed us the one appointing his father
premier. Then he handed it to the occupant of the house who
took it into the adjoining dining room where there stood a
large photoduplicating machine... As Ardeshir talked, two
operatives made sheafs of copies of the firman. Each of us
took a handful back to town. I distributed mine at the Park
Hotel, except for one copy, which I still
We can be sure that some copies of this firman
found their way to the streets, where CIA hooligans could
force passers-by to read them and shout their hearty approval.
Too bad Kinzer doesn’t let us in on this little secret,
The reader may think that I am being too hard
on Kinzer. Me too, at first. After my initial annoyance with
him, my softer instincts kicked in and I surmised that he had
probably agreed to the same requirement of prior censorship
that Kwitny had successfully skirted, and was thus forced —
reluctantly, I hoped — to omit unsavory details of Love’s
"article." Then I reviewed some materials I had downloaded
from the New York Times archives in anticipation of this
On April 16, 2000, the New York Times printed
a by-line by Kinzer’s colleague, James Risen: C.I.A.
Tried, With Little Success, to Use U.S. Press in
Coup. There, Risen fearlessly
shares with Times readers precisely the same information found
in Endless Enemies. Risen is
indented, Love in double quotes:
In a 1960 paper he wrote while studying at
Princeton University, Mr. Love explained that he ''was
responsible, in an impromptu sort of way, for speeding the
final victory of the royalists.''
Seeing a half-dozen tanks parked in front of
Tehran's radio station, he said, ''I told the tank commanders
that a lot of people were getting killed trying to storm Dr.
Mossadegh's house and that they would be of some use instead
of sitting idle at the radio station.'' He added, ''They took
their machines in a body to Kokh Avenue and put the three
tanks at Dr. Mossadegh's house out of
Risen checked with Love on this meaty
Mr. Love, who left The New York Times in 1962,
said in an interview that he had urged the tanks into action
''because I wanted to stop the
According to Kwitny, "Kennett Love later
explained, rather lamely perhaps, that he acted as he did
because of ‘misguided patriotism.’" In any case, if Risen can
quote Love without fear, so Kinzer could have quoted him in
far more depth than he did.
But Kinzer, clever guy that he is, does indeed
refer to Love’s direction of the tanks to Mossadegh’s house.
In the text, the event is sandwiched between CIA chief Kermit
Roosevelt listening to the takeover of Tehran Radio by his
minions, and his departure to "fetch" General Zahedi for a
triumphal entrance as the new premier. As Kinzer describes the
action (my italics):
Military units led by anti-Mossadegh officers
had already begun converging on the house. Inside, loyal
soldiers built fortifications and prepared for battle. They
were armed with rifles, machine guns, and Sherman tanks
mounted with 75-millimeter cannons. Late in the afternoon the
assault began. Defenders beat back wave after wave, leaving
the sidewalks littered with bodies. Then after an hour of
one-sided combat, the assailants gave a great cheer.
Friendly army units had arrived with tanks of their
own. A close quarters artillery duel soon broke
out. Operation Ajax was approaching its
Virtually every jot and tittle of Kinzer’s
narrative has a reference note. He provides such a note for
Roosevelt’s listening to the takeover of Tehran Radio, and for
his "fetching" of General Zahedi. Why then, is there
no reference note at all given for the
arrival of "friendly army units ... with tanks of their own" —
obviously the same tanks Kennett Love has publically admitted
directing to Mossadegh’s house. How did Kinzer know that "the
assailants gave a great cheer" upon their arrival? Kwitny
doesn’t mention it. Did Kinzer learn of it in an interview
with Kennett Love while researching for the book? Did he make
it up to provide some extra color? Whatever the case, we must
admit that Kinzer’s little gambit here is very, very
(Patience, dear reader; the end of this review
is in sight.)
In his penultimate chapter, wherein he
discusses the joy felt by the Dulleses and other plotters at
the success of the coup, Kinzer shows signs of the strain he
has been under while presenting such an overwhelmingly dark
picture of U.S.-British greed and duplicity. It is as if there
is a program running in his head that tells him he has gone
too far. There is a danger that readers of All The
Shah’s Men might conclude that the
coup was actually a mistake. Even worse, they might conclude
that it was morally wrong. So, Kinzer "goes academic."
He presents a masterfully "objective" and "unbiased" account
of why the Dulles’s violent approach was chosen over Truman’s
and Acheson’s recommendations of patience and assistance. He
uses what I call the "he believed, she believed" variant of
the "he said, she said" school of reporting. Here is how he
"From the vantage point of history, it is easy
to see the catastrophic effects of Operation Ajax. They
will continue to plague the world for many years. But what
would have been the effect of not
launching the coup? President Truman insisted until his last
day in office that the United States must not intervene in
Iran. What if President Eisenhower had also held this
We then read somewhat over a page of accurate
presentations of what Eisenhower’s plotters [purportedly]
believed, and suggestions by other analysts that they were
mistaken. The scales are perfectly balanced. Thus, Kinzer is
able to conclude:
"The crucial question of whether the American
coup was necessary to prevent the Soviets from staging a coup
of their own cannot be conclusively answered. No one will ever
know how the Soviets might have acted or how successful they
might have been. The coup certainly had disastrous
aftereffects. What might have been the effects of not carrying
it out must remain forever in the realm of
Of course it must. All conclusions following
counterfactual historical premises are by definition
speculative. It is also speculation that I will roll snake
eyes with each of my next 100 throws of the dice. In fact,
there is nothing in either Kinzer’s or in Love’s narratives
that suggest the Soviets were planning a coup, or that they
would have had the chutzpah to even
make an attempt in the face of honest and massive U.S. support
In effect, Kinzer seriously proposes here that
if Eisenhower had squashed the British oil embargo,
had helped Mossadegh and his millions of passionately
devoted supporters build Iran into a modern nation, had
let it be known that America would defend true
democracy in Iran (as opposed to corporate-friendly oligarchy
or tyrannical monarchy), the Soviets would nonetheless
have found the same fertile ground for subversion as if
America had remained at arm’s length. This is preposterous on
its face, and I think Kinzer knows it.
As I said above, I am deeply, and personally
grateful to Kinzer for giving us this fine book. But, the coup
against Mossadegh was a monstrous crime, even given the
ambiguities of the day. In my view Kinzer should have said so.
My best guess is that he has spent too long a stretch as a New
York Times reporter.
Buy and read All The Shah’s
Men, and Endless
Enemies. (Get either the Viking or
Congdon & Weed version of Endless
Enemies — even without the
references to Love, the Viking version is highly educational.
It would be a nice tribute to one of America’s finest
journalists. Tragically, and at great loss to our country,
Jonathan Kwitny died of cancer in 1998. ) Draw your own
First, I am not sure, but perhaps I owe Kinzer an apology for accusing him of "withholding" important information about the Dulles brothers, and of being "slick" in All The Shah's Men. I don't know. But,
whatever his lapses there, he has more than compensated for them in The Brothers.
Second, The Brothers makes clear, on the basis of more recently available evidence, that Eisenhower was not so much an unwitting, doofus-like pawn of manipulative Cold-warriors, as he was an
active and enthusiastic player in the game of toppling foreign governments and even plotting ot assassinate their leaders. Eisenhower comes off very badly in The Brothers.
Third, I mention above that Kennet Love, the CIA officer in charge of the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, fit perfectly the profile of the 5-year-old boy whom CIA trainees were taught to imagine
their targets to be. The only conclusion I can draw from The Brothers is that CIA Director Allen Dulles was himself little more than a 5-year-old in an adult body. Allen was not interested in the effective and efficient management
of his sprawling clandestine empire, but revelled in the "down-and-dirty" details of espionage and covert action. He spent hours with even "lowly" case officers, planning and refining the action of the day
against whatever foreign target he had chosen. He was also completely indifferent to the fates of the many unwitting and idealistic
young foreign expatriots and refugees whom the CIA recruited and trained to gather information and foment discord in their home country. In spite of their training and forged IDs, they were quickly caught and executed.
Finally, Kinzer places the blame where it should be placed — with us, the American people. A people less fearful; less arrogant; more knowledgeable about
the history of the exploitation of the Third World peoples whom the CIA targeted under the specious rubric of "bringing them freedom;" a people more sympathetic to their aspirations for
freedom on their own terms, would not have tolerated a CIA of the type created by the Dulles brothers.
"The half century of history that has unfolded since Foster and Allen passed from the scene suggests that they share responsibility for much that has gone wrong in the world. The blame, however, does not end with them.
To gaze at their portraits and think "They did it," would be reassuring. It would also be unfair. Americans who seek to understand the roots of their country's trouble in the world should look not at Foster and Allen's portraits,
but in a mirror.
"Foster and Allen exemplified the nation that produced them. A different kind of leader would require a different kind of United States."
HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL AMERICA'S QUEST FOR
GLOBAL DOMINANCE,by Noam Chomsky. (Metropolitan, 2003)
Henry Holt makes it easy to request permission to quote from its books, and I
was granted permission to quote up to 750 words, with the following credit line:
"From the Book HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL: Americas' Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky.
Copyright (c) 2003 by Aviva Chomsky, Diane Chomsky, and Harry Chomsky.
Reprinted by arrangement with Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company,
LLC. All rights reserved." I used about 300 words.
Chomsky makes it clear that, like elites throughout history,
American elites have no interest in true democracy, and only
allow so much democracy as will allow them to accumulate
wealth and power while disarming efforts by true democrats to put more power in the hands of
the people. This fragment from Chapter 1 makes the point:
"Those who want to face their responsibilities with a genuine commitment to
democracy and freedom—even to decent survival—should recognize the barriers that stand in the way. In violent
states these are not concealed. In more democratic societies barriers are more subtle. While methods differ sharply from more
brutal to more free societies, the goals are in many ways similar: to ensure that the 'great beast,' as Alexander Hamilton
called the people, does not stray from its proper confines."
But the ‘great beast' must be persuaded to support the elites' drive for
hegemony. Thus, Chomsky notes:
"... no matter where we turn, there is rarely any shortage of elevated ideals to accompany the resort to violence."
But, when it came to assessing the purported noble ideals of other great powers, the early American imperialist
Thomas Jefferson was quite clear:
"We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting for the freedom of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for
the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth, and the resources
of other nations."
The blind spot regarding America's own ambitions persists to the present.
"A century later," writes Chomsky,
"Woodrow Wilson's secretary of state, Robert Lansing ..., commented scornfully on ‘how willing the British,
French, or Italians are to accept a mandate' from the League of Nations, as long as ‘there are mines, oil fields,
rich grain fields, or railroads' that will ‘make it a profitable undertaking.' These ‘unselfish governments'
declare that mandates must be accepted ‘for the good of mankind': ‘they will do their share by administering the
rich regions of Mesopotamia, Syria, &c.' The proper assessment of these pretensions is ‘so manifest that it is
almost an insult to state it.'"
Certainly one reason the United States Senate refused to ratify U.S. entry into the League of Nations was because
American capital wanted freedom of unilateral action to pursue its own "lofty" global pretensions, which
unilateralism is now the baldly stated and defining characteristic of U.S. foreign policy.
Further on in the book, Chomsky suggests that elites will seek hegemony
even at the cost of survival. (As it happens, the liberal Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galibraith agrees with him:
of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage." Los
Angeles Daily News, Oct or Nov '88.) In his final chapter A Passing Nightmare?, taken from his closing quote of the pacifist philosopher Bertrand Russell, Chomsky observes:
"One can discern two trajectories in current history: one aiming toward hegemony,
acting rationally within a lunatic framework as it threatens survival; the other dedicated to the belief that "another world
is possible," ... challenging the reigning ideological system and seeking to create constructive alternatives of thought,
action, and institutions. Which trajectory will dominate, no one can foretell. The pattern is familiar throughout history;
a crucial difference today is that the stakes are far higher."
Hegemony or Survival will perhaps be more satisfying to his loyal fans (count me as one such)
than to those who are not familiar with his earlier work. Many of Chomsky's citations are not easily
accessed, in the sense that they often refer to his earlier books, wherein the original citations
can be found. Moreover, many quotes have no references, and it is unclear whether they come from
a just-cited source, or are Chomsky's own rhetorical fragments from earlier work. It is something of a tough read
for the non-specialist.
In Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson focuses on the inextricable ties between imperialism and militarism, and suggests that America will
go the way of Rome:
"Roman imperial sorrows mounted up over hundreds of years. Ours are likely
to arrive with the speed of FedEx."
A simple list of Johnson’s four sorrows, encyclopedically described
in the text, should suffice to suggest the meaning and importance of the book.
1. Perpetual war. On purpose?
"In fact, given the widespread political unrest and a strong revival of militant Islam, the United States
seems inexplicably intent on providing future enemies with enough greivances to do us considerable damage."
2. Threat to democratic government. Johnson documents the attacks on our civil
rights and on Constitutional guarantees for the survival of the republic. Brings to mind Ben Franklin’s answer to a
question as to the kind of government the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia had given Americans: "A republic, if you
can keep it." Whether Franklin meant that the "great beast" was not responsible enough to "keep it," or whether he foresaw
that elite interests, or perhaps the military, would recreate autocracy is unclear.
Indeed, an internal threat to the republic has not been unthinkable:
"The most illustrious of World War II's militarists, General Douglas MacArthur, chalenged the donstitutional authority of
President Truman during the Korean war, writing that it was 'a new and heretofore unknown and dngerous concept that the members
of our armed forces owe primary allegiance or loyalty to those who temporarily exercise the authority of the Executive
Branch of the Government rather than to the country and its Constitution which they are sworn to defend. No propostition
could be more dangerous.'" Truman fired MacArthur for insubordination on April 11, 1951.
Or, perhaps Franklin had a different threat in mind.
Candidate Bush, during the second presidential debate in 2000:
"If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the
A year later President Bush tells it like it is
to reporter Bob Woodward,
"I’m the commander—see, I don’t need to explain—I
do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being president. Maybe somebody needs to
explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
Under the protection of the Praetorian Guard, Roman Emperors didn’t
think they owed anyone an explanation either.
3. "...the replacement of truth by propaganda and disinformation and an acceptance
of hypocrisy as the norm for declarations coming from our government." Where’s the WMD?
4. Financial ruin. To paraphrase Porgy: "Oh, Lord, we’re on our way."
Johnson neatly sums up the exquisitely Roman attitude that underlies
the Bush administration’s foreign policy. "From Cato to Cicero, the slogan of Roman leaders was
"Let them hate us, so long as they fear us" (Oderint dum metuant).
Top of Document
Table of Contents
ROGUE NATION AMERICAN UNILATERALISM AND THE FAILURE OF GOOD INTENTIONS,
by Clyde Prestowitz. (Basic Books, 2003)
[Note: Most quoted material is indented without quotation marks. So as not to mislead the reader, I try to identify all
of Prestowitz’s commentary as specifically his, and thus distinguish it from my own opinions. I hope I have not done
him injustice. (Prestowitz is a much nicer guy than I am.) B.B., August 23, 2003]
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us;
To see ourselves as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
And foolish notion.
To A Louse (1786) Robert Burns, Scottish poet
If ever a nation needed the Pow’r to see itself as others see it, it is America today. And, we’re in luck.
In Rogue Nation, “rock-ribbed” conservative Clyde Prestowitz makes it his mission to provide that vision out
of his own extensive and expert experience with the diplomats and peoples of other countries.
His credentials are
unassailable — as a State Department official stationed in Europe in the ‘70s, he “remained a supporter of the
[Vietnam] war long after many conservatives had abandoned it.” Later, he became a “trade hawk” for President Reagan
in negotiations with Japan. Prestowitz is now deeply concerned about the direction the Bush administration is taking
Thus, Rogue Nation is not a rant by a mush-headed, bleeding-heart liberal like the owner of this site.
Hillary-haters are out of luck, though - Prestowitz does not mention Hillary Clinton even once in the book.
This book is a gift to the American people, and we ignore its message at our peril.
Footnotes are plentiful, and there is a comprehensive recommended reading list.
Clyde Prestowitz is president of the
Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Trading
Places (Basic Books, 1989). He lives in Potomac Maryland.
Rogue Nation is arranged in a sequence of chapters with telling titles and catchy subtitles.
At Odds with the World - and Ourselves;
America’s Game: including Do as I say, not as I do, Steel is forever, But America owns the sandbox,
Running on Empty: including Bubba’s Birthright, Bubba Mortgages His Freedom,
Changing Bubba’s Ways
In Arms We Trust: including Sowing the fields with mines, Sovereignty trumps human rights,
the armed economy, Teach them to fight-not to write;
Peaceful People, Endless War;
This review is organized around two themes emphasized in Rogue Nation: first, How Others See Us, and
Why They See Us As They Do.
How Others See Us
The Guardian of London, writing in the spring of 2001 in response to President Bush’s decision to reject the Kyoto
treaty on global warming:
America, the ‘indispensable nation,’ begins to resemble the ultimate rogue state. Instead of leading the community of
nations, Bush’s America seems increasingly bent on confronting it. Instead of a shining city on a hill ... comes a
nationalistic jingle: we do what we want ... and if you don’t like it, tough.
A British ambassador:
America always preaches the rule of law, but in the end always places itself above the law.
Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf:
The United States has had such a fantastic asset in the world’s identity of it’s interest with U.S. interests, but all
that is now being thrown away. The United States today is frightening because it won’t be constrained. The left has
always thought of the United States as a rogue state, but now the center is thinking the same way.
Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt:
The nation-state is dead as an independent actor. [An oblique swipe at the U.S., included by Prestowitz as a
dose of reality. -- B.B.]
French columnist Dominique Moisi:
1970s anti-Americanism was a reaction to what America did, but today’s anti-Americanism is a response to what
America is. [My emphasis. - B.B.]
Prestowitz, on America’s self-image as a peace-loving nation:
The United States is widely seen to have interests but not friends, and to be primarily interested in material
gain and power. It is in no way seen as peace-loving. Indeed, another Latin American ambassador to the United
States asked: "Peace loving? Are you kidding? No one believes that nonsense in Latin America."
Why They See Us As They Do
America’s current violent streak is the primary reason why millions of people around the world, consider President Bush
to be a greater threat to peace than was Saddam Hussein. But the loss of respect for America, the sense that America
has turned its back on its most hallowed values (at least on what America says are its hallowed values), has a
different source: the clear understanding by foreigners - an understanding of many decades duration -- that the U.S.
is fundamentally a hypocrite. Three major themes make this clear: The Paternal Attitude, Subsidies, and
The Paternal Attitude
An important subtext of the Bush administration’s reasoning in deciding that America will "go-it-alone" in dealing with
the terrorist issue (and many others as well), is the accusation that the rest of the world is really not "grown-up"
enough to handle important global problems. Only the U.S. has the maturity; the means; the will; and above all, the
moral force, to tackle these problems (on behalf of all the world’s people’s, of course). Bush is not alone in this
attitude. For example, in spite of its popularity as a vacation destination, Europe is held in contempt by millions
of American patriots, who note that we "saved Europe’s ass" twice, but since WWII, it has been content to prosper
behind the American defensive shield even while bashing American prosperity and culture. Ungrateful SOBs. The hell
with Europe, they snort.
The truth is, though, that while historic inter-European rivalries and hostilities have delayed European unification,
the U.S. has purposefully kept Europe in a state of arrested development, much as a neurotic father might stunt the
growth of a son who he fears might someday challenge his authority. As Europe stumbles its way toward unification, the
U.S. imperialist lobby makes it clear that no rival to U.S. power should be tolerated.
Senator Jesse Helms called the proposed "Euro army" a "dangerous and divisive dynamic within NATO." President Bush’s
transition team "called the rapid reaction force [apparently another term for the 'Euro army'] a dagger aimed at
NATO’s heart." (NATO, of course, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the U.S.) National Review editor John O’Sullivan
warns of Europe’s "drift to a rival and hostile set of policies." According to O’Sullivan,
"There is no need for a European security force or policy. It is a pure expression of bourgeoning statehood and
nationalism masquerading as anti-nationalism."
Prestowitz presents a corrective to the popular view. He explains how the U.S. "systematically moved to hobble
European weapons development," and how the U.S. "uses NATO as a way of trumping the EU (European Union) in Europe."
He observes that "if the Europeans are living in fantasy land, it is a fantasy land created and maintained by the
United States," and suggests "if we are not willing to let them take on the responsibilities of full-fledged sovereign
powers, we can’t simultaneously gripe that they are wimps." Prestowitz sums up the hypocrisy of U.S. paternalism:
The term "adult supervision" has been to describe America’s relation with Europe and Japan. Other observers ... argue
that these countries are living in an artificial paradise that enables them to indulge in empty posturing and selfish
cosseting because they leave to America the burden of dealing with the real world. ... What goes unsaid, as I have
suggested, is that the United States prefers to keep them in a state of extended adolescence as a condition of its own
dominance. Unfortunately, we buy this dominance at increased cost.
The U.S. mantra today is that, among other policies under the rubric of what is called the "Washington consensus," the
"free flows of capital, goods, and services" between nations will bring peace and the good life even to the tiniest
Third World hamlet. Secretary of State Colin Powell:
"The reality is that free trade and globalization promote worker and human rights over the long run, one that helps the
environment and improves economic equality for greater wealth for all."
Concomitantly, the U.S., and millions of its citizens, demand that other countries open their markets to U.S. products, and that the governments of these nations refrain from subsidizing their own agriculture and industry.
Too bad that all this lofty rhetoric is part of a massive scam. Two examples from Rogue Nation make the
Despite the (NAFTA) agreement [North American Free Trade Agreement], strict quotas prevented most Mexican sugar from
entering the U.S. market. Meanwhile, Mexican sugar workers lost their jobs as heavily subsidized U.S. corn sweeteners
replaced sugar in Mexican soft drinks.
Prestowitz points out that America is the largest exporter of cotton in the world, competing with poor cotton farmers
in countries like West Africa’s Mali. This in spite of the fact that American cotton is the highest production cost
cotton in the world. American subsidies make up the difference between the American cotton farmers production cost
and the world price. As a result of a recent agricultural subsidy act signed by president Bush, Mississippi Delta
cotton farmer Ken Hood expects to receive a nearly $1 million subsidy. While the family of the poor cotton farmer in
Mali goes hungry, subsidies bring the "average net worth of American cotton-farming households" to $800,000.
And, as if to rub salt in the wound, figuratively speaking, it is not uncommon for conservative American patriots
(very likely including Mr. Hood) to look with contempt on the failure of poorer nations to "lift themselves up by the
bootstraps" as we did. As if to prove American good-will, this same patriotic American might well point to the
$40 million in annual aid that the U.S. spends in Mali on "education, health, and other development programs." But,
says Prestowitz, "that sum is almost totally negated by the state cotton company’s loss of $30 million caused by
sinking world cotton prices." "So much for trade, not aid," as another critic remarks in a different context.
Prestowitz suggests that America’s economic hypocrisy should not be dismissed lightly:
... the impoverished citizens of West Africa are increasingly crowding into European cities, and those who stay behind
are seeing more mullahs from Pakistan and the Middle East in their mosques and Quranic schools, ...
In West Africa, the face of American-style globalization and free trade is not the hope-inspiring one of Colin
Powell, but a harsh, hypocritical one that inspires a drift toward radicalism and perhaps to more terrorism.
The cost of dealing with that would, of course, far exceed anything spent on subsidies or aid.
He quotes the fall 2002 comment, made directly to him, by former Mexican Finance Minister Angel Guria:
There is a huge weapon of mass destruction located just south of the U.S. border, and it’s about to explode.
It’s called Latin America.
As suggested above, Americans who believe that the United States is a peaceful nation, which resorts to force only
as a last resort, are living in a dream world. The examples of U.S. military pro-activity on the global scale
are also too numerous to discuss here,
but one from Rogue Nation suffices to capture the spirit of U.S. methods and goals. That it occurred over
100 years ago does not detract from its symbolism, as many of today’s Third World countries can affirm.
In 1898, the U.S. had finally decided to expel Spain from Cuba. The mysterious
sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor provided one excuse. Undoubtedly real brutality by the Spanish
in suppressing Cuban revolutionary fighters provided another excuse.
U.S. troops were dispatched to Cuba, and after defeating the Spanish in what Secretary
of State John Haye called ‘that splendid little war,’ the United States came into possession of the Philippines.
"Ironically," writes Prestowitz,
"American control of the Philippines entailed both refusing
to recognize a Filipino Declaration of Independence modeled on America’s and putting down Filipino independence
fighters with at least as much brutality as the Spanish had used in Cuba. But it did give us the chance, as
President William McKinley said, to 'Christianize' the Filipinos who had been Roman Catholics for 350 years."
My own experience is as an opponent of President Reagan’s Central America policy, particularly the contra
war against the poorest of Nicaragua's people.
They overwhelmingly supported the Sandinista government that had led the insurrection against the psychopath Anastasio
Somoza, who had fallen from Washington's favor during President Carter's term. Unwilling to tolerate the slightest
challenge to U.S. power, the Reagan administration hired thugs and human rights violators of the nastiest
stripe to do America's dirty work. And dirty it was. Naturally, it was sold to the American people as necessary to
contain the evil Russkies.
In pursuit of the contra war, the Reagan Administration was more than willing to destroy Costa Rica’s
democracy, with the virtually certain result that the only nation in Latin America without an army would
have become a military dictatorship—eager to dance to Washington’s tune, of course.
Today, it is universally
understood that these movements, including that of the Vietnamese, were nationalistic in character. The only threat that
Nicaragua, for example, posed to the U.S., was the threat of a "good example," namely a government that actually
cared about its people.
Reprise: Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, two among the former architects of Reagan’s violent
Central America policy, and deeply implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal, are now serious players in the present
Bush administration. That does not bode well for the world or for America.
By the end of Rogue Nation, the reader understands perfectly why the U.S. rejected the jurisdiction of
the International Criminal Court. Al Capone would have been jealous.
Prestowitz opens Rogue Nation with an epigraph by Governor John Winthrop, who led the Puritans to Massachusetts:
"Consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill, the eies of all people upon us."
He closes with a chapter of that name, City on a Hill, in which he summarizes his eloquent plea for a
more decent, more honest
American foreign policy, and for less jingoism from the American public. On the moral cost of Washington’s intent to
impose American values on the world, Prestowitz warns:
"... an American crusade won’t work because it will increasingly involve us in the kinds of alliances of convenience
and ruthless actions that only complicate our lives in the long run even as they corrupt our character and institutions."
Prestowitz closes the book with something like a prayer:
"An America that stressed its tolerance rather than its might, its tradition of open inquiry rather than its lifestyle,
and that asked for God’s blessing on all the world’s people and not just its own, would be the America that the world
desperately wants. It would be something else, too. I’ll never forget my first glimpse of Assisi, home of Saint
Francis. As I turned a curve in the road just before sunset, there it was, white and shining on the hill."
America needs more patriots like Clyde Prestowitz.
Created March 7, 2004
Revised August 5, 2014