March 26, 2009 by D Stack
I’m proud to be an American. When we live up to our ideals we are at our greatest. During the American Revolution, at a time when prisoners of war were considered fully at the mercy of their captors, George Washington insisted all prisoners captured by Americans be treated humanely. I feel we are at our worse when we fail to live up to our ideals; when, in the words of Dick Cheney on Meet the Press (Sept 16, 2001), we “… have to work sort of the dark side, if you will…. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly….”
One of our greatest weapons is our ideals. The precepts found in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. People in search of democratic reform and republican government have looked to us for inspiration: French revolutionaries, Iranians in the 40s and 50s, Chinese democracy activists in 1989.
Unfortunately we also have the Cold War legacy of being an enemy to democratically elected governments if the government elected is not one we like. Consider the following examples from the 20th century:
- In 1953, Kermit Roosevelt Jr., grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, successfully coordinated a coup d’état against Iranian Prime Minister
. This coup was largely done to protect the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s oil investment. This company has since evolved into BP. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company had a long history of treating its Iranian workers poorly and of poor profit sharing with Iran. (In other words, the desire to nationalize was in response to some serious grievances and not a communist plot.)
- In 1954, the CIA recruited Guatemalan exiles to invade Guatemala and successfully overthrow communist-friendly President Jacobo Arbenz. Beyond the potential for alliance with the eastern bloc, Arbenz’s government was hostile to the American United Fruit Company (now part of Chiquita Brands).
- In 1963 the United States supported a military coup against South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem.
Am I saying we as a nation have to be hopelessly naive when it comes to our foreign relations? No. But we must be very careful. But, as a nation we have an unfortunate history of neglecting to consider the long-term consequences of our foreign interventions.These (and many more) unsavory actions from our past provide the perfect propaganda tools for our enemies.
And it doesn’t event take much work for our enemies to harness anger against us; often the anger against America is there without any prompting of its leaders. In Iran many the firs thing many think of with regard to the United States is our support for the Shah and the 1953 coup. Its been thirty years since the fall of the Shah’s government and over fifty the US overturned Prime Minister
- “Guatemala.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/701217/Guatemala. (Accessed 22 Mar. 2009).
- Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men. (Wiley: 2003).
- “Mohamad Mosaddeq.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/393304/Mohammad-Mosaddeq. (Accessed 22 Mar. 2009).
- “Ngo Dinh Diem.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/413521/Ngo-Dinh-Diem. (Accessed 22 Mar. 2009)