Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

"the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked"

So at her Smith appearance, Alix Olson said the U.S. has bombed something like 30 places since 1945 and none have resulted in a democratic government. I couldn't remember any of the countries she mentioned except for Guatemala, so i really had no idea where to begin investigating, but then a Smithie posted a list of countries and dates, so i guessed it was referring to that and e-mailed my dad. He, of course, is brilliant.

Here's his e-mail:


I looked over the list, and I'm not sure they are all places the US "bombed," though they are all places the US was involved in militarily somehow.

China (1945-1946, 1950-1953): a little history: Up until 1911, China had been an empire for several thousand years, though with various changes of dynasties and civil wars, and varying boundaries. The Mongol dynasty conquered Korea in 1259 and kept it until 1368. In the 1630s the Manchu dynasty invaded Korea and extinguished much of its independence. Korean kings still sat on the Korean throne but it was understood that they would not do anything to displease their larger neighbor, to whom tribute payments had to be made. When people make maps of this period, they usually show Korea the same color as China. During the 1800s the Chinese Empire declined. It gradually lost control in Korea to Japan, which defeated it in the Chinese-Japanese War of 1894-5. Japan took over completely in 1910 because the Manchus were being overthrown.

The were being overthrown by republican forces, many of whom soon organized into the Nationalist (Koumintang) Party. The last emperor stepped down on June 12, 1912. Years and years of civil war followed. By the 1930s there were two main groups, the Nationalists who were led by Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists, led by Mao Zedong. In 1937 the Japanese invaded in earnest and soon controlled most of the country. During World War II, the United States considered the Chiang government to be the legitimate government of China.

After the war was over, the victorious Allies set up a "United Nations." All governments would be represented in the "General Assembly," which would be pretty much a debating society. The power to actually do anything was given to the "Security Council." It would have 11 members. The 5 victorious Allies (United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France, China) would be permanent members and would have a veto on any action. The idea was that, as the Allies had cooperated to win the war, they would now cooperate to win the peace. (It was similar to the Consort of Europe that Metternich set up to run Europe after the Napoleanic Wars. Except that while the Consort was explicitly conservative and negative--it was to keep bad new-fangled things from happening--the UN was explicitly progressive--it was also to make good new things happen.) Of course, it never worked out that way. It soon became clear that the United States and the Soviet Union had very different ways that they wanted the world to be.

Anyway, the Chinese seat went to Chiang's government. However, the Nationalists were fighting a losing battle to the Communists. In December, 1949, they fled to the island province of Taiwan, where they continued to assert that they were the real government of the Republic of China (ROC). (In 1683, the Qing dynasty had taken over the island of Taiwan and incorporated it into the Chinese Empire. One of the very contentious questions in Chinese anthropology is just how "Chinese" Taiwan was. The answer to that question helps determine whether you consider this 1683 "conquest" or a "unification." It also affects whether you consider an independent Taiwan to be a reasonable idea or not.)

Initially, the Chinese government in exile ruled the province undemocratically. But gradually, as the old Koumintang warhorses died off, the Koumintang rulers began to give up their illusions and allow more and more democracy. The place is now one of the more prosperous and democratic in the world. The government is now controlled by native Taiwanese, and wouldn't mind being an independent state. However, they know the government on the mainland would never allow it.

The Communists have been in control of the mainland, where they use the name People's Republic of China, ever since. They are more democratic than they have been in the past, though I don't think anyone would call them democratic. The US, of course, supported the opposition to the Communists from 1945-1949.

and Korea (1950-1953): After WW II, Japan had to give up Korea. The northern half was occupied by Soviet forces, the southern half by American. The Soviets set up a Communist government, led by Kim Il Sung (whose son, Kim Jong Il, still runs it. It was once a proud boast of anti-anti-Communists that while Communists had done some bad things, they had never set up a dynasty like the Duvaliers or the Somozas. Another one bites the dust.).

In 1950, Communist forces invaded the south. The United Nations Security Council declared this a violation of international law and sent troops to push back the invaders. How is this possible, you say, since the Soviet Union (which was backing the invaders) had a veto on the Security Council? Well, the day the matter came up, they were boycotting the Council in protest of the fact that the Chinese seat was held by the Nationalists rather than the Communists (this changed some time in the 1970s). Of course, it was basically the United States that "declared this a violation of international law and sent troops to push back the invaders." But it was at the time a convenient fiction. Of course, it is always a fiction (convenient or otherwise) to say that the people gathered at the UN represent the people of the world or are the "world community."

Large numbers of Chinese troops were involved in the Korean War on the northern side. Without them, the north would have lost. General Douglas MacArthur, head of the UN forces, wanted to aggressively defeat them but was overruled--and eventually fired--by president Harry Truman (this is one of those historical milestones in civilian control of the military). I don't think there was any bombing of China itself during this time (1950-53).

Anyway, the Korean War ended in a stalemate, with an armistice line and demilitarized zone about where the two parts had previously been divided. The north is presently one of the poorest and most repressive countries on earth. But the south is one of the world's success stories. The people are prosperous and largely free. The place is definitely democratic. In fact, in the presidential race last fall, one of the arguments of the winner was that he would be more independent of the United States than his opponent.

Guatemala (1954, 1967-1969): I think Guatamala is today one of those countries that has a democratic form and has even had some free elections. But no one is never sure whether it will last.

Indonesia (1958): A few years ago, the dictator Suharto was overthrown. I think there has been one election since then.

Cuba (1959-60): In 1959 Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista dictatorship and he has ruled as the undisputed strongman ever since.

the Belgian Congo (1964): has had various wars and coups and name changes (Zaire) and maybe a few elections, but definitely not democratic

Peru (1965): has had several democratic governments and several overthrows of those governments. The last democratically elected president, Alberto Fujimora, eventually became a dictator and was overthrown. I'm not sure if there have been elections since then.

Laos (1964-1973): one of the countries taken over by a communist group as part of the Vietnam/Indochina war. not democratic.

Vietnam (1961-1973): The United States fought a big war here,as well as in neighboring Laos and Cambodia, and lost. The present government is not democratic, though they are less repressive than they have been.

Cambodia (1969-1970): The Pol Pot faction of the Cambodian communists took over this country in the early 1970s and showed that it was possible to kill one-sixth of your population in only a few years. He was eventually overthrown by other factions of Cambodian communists, helped by troops from neighboring communist Vietnam. not democratic today, though they've seen a lot worse.

Grenada (1983): a little island in the Caribbean. The Reagan administration overthrew a Marxist government there. I think they may well be democratic today.

Libya (1986): Muammar Qadhafi (spelling varies) overthrew King Idris and made himself dictator in 1969. He still is.

El Salvador (1980s): a big civil war in the 1980s, with an American-backed government battling the Communist Farabundi Marti Liberation Front. The FLFM lost. They have had a number of elections. In the most recent ones (just last week), a lot of people affiliated with the FLFM were victorious.

Nicaragua (1980s): Another 1980s civil war, with the Communist Sandinista government battling American-backed "contras." Eventually, an election was agreed to, with the Sandinista president, Daniel Ortega, running against Violetta Chamorra. This was one of the first elections that Jimmy Carter monitored. He was shocked when Ortega lost fairly convincingly. Since then there have been a number of elections, in some of which the Sandinistas have done well, and in some of which they have done poorly.

Lebanon (1982): Presently, Lebanon is basically a colony of Syria. not democratic.

Panama (1989): A US-led invasion overthrew the dictator Manual Noriega in 1989. I know there has been at least one election since but I think this is another one of those countires where no one is surprised when a government is overthrown.

Iraq (1991-2001): not democratic. Of course, one of the complaints of many on the right was that Bush should not have stopped after forcing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait but should have continued on to Bagdad and overthrown Saddam Hussein. He, however, considered it too much of a risk (and many of his coalition partners were against it) and instead encouraged Iraqis to overthrow him themselves. Those who did try were ruthlessly suppressed. The emir of Kuwait was put back on his throne, with the hope that he might democratize as time went on. That has happened a little, but the pace is glacial.

Bosnia (1995): A number of elections since 1995.

Sudan (1998): definitely not democratic, with a vicious civil war going on right now. At least 1,000,000 people have died. After several United States embassies were bombed in 1998, Clinton bombed a suspected chemical weapons site in Sudan (it may have been an aspirin factory), but that has been the extent of American military involvement.

Yugoslavia (1999): Since most of the country had seceded, it was recently renamed the republic of Serbia and Macedonia (and Macedonia may eventually secede). had an election which people have pretty much accepted the results of. the prime minister was recently assassinated, but a new one was democratically appointed (most everyone heaved a sigh of relief)

Afghanistan (2001-2002): not democratic.

I'm not sure the above is completely correct. Much of it is off the top of my head. The extent of, and reasons for, the bombings or other military action, vary considerably.

I just reread the original question and I see I didn't really answer whether American military action "resulted in a democratic government." So let me try. It's more than a little difficult. You have to guess what would have happened without US military involvement. And you have to decide how much credit to give the involvement for whatever happened later. So, for example, US action in Korea kept the South from becoming a totalitarian dictatorship like the North. But for a long time, the southern government was not democratic. It eventually became so, partly because of pressure from the United States.

China: on the mainland, no; on Taiwan, yes
Korea: yes, eventually.
Guatamala: in 1954 no, in the 1980s yes
Indonesia: no
Cuba: no
Belgian Congo: no
Peru: I can't find anything about American military action in 1965
Laos: no
Vietnam: no
Cambodia: no
Grenada: yes
Libya: no
El Salvador: yes
Nicaragua: yes
Lebanon: no
Panama: yes
Iraq: no
Bosnia: yes
Sudan: no
Yugoslavia: yes
Afghanistan: no

Of course, most people would also say that US bombing (and everything else involved in WW II) resulted in Italy, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Germany, and Japan becoming democratic after that war. Certainly they would not have been democratic if Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo had stayed in power.

But since WW II ended in 1945, that is outside the scope of the original assertion.
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