Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Ahead of the curve

Some folks are just ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to strategic thinking. One of those people is columnist Mark Steyn. The proof? This answer to a complaining letter writer who took a jab at President Reagan's Central America policy. And because Steyn is both two steps ahead of the letter-writer, and a step ahead of the rest of the world, he can link Latin America of the 1970s to the Middle East of today:

. . . even by the most pessimistic reading, an area [Latin America] that 30 years ago was wall-to-wall dictatorships is now overwhelmingly democratic. Whatever the continent’s fate, it won’t include a return of the puffed-up bemedalled El-Presidentes-For-Life, like General Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, who abolished Christmas and banned Donald Duck.

That’s what makes Latin America relevant to the Bush project in the Middle East. For much of the last century, the region was mired in the same dead-end victim complex as the Arab world. The celebrated Brazilian sociology professor Fernando Henrique Cardoso was a famous proponent of “Dependency Theory”, which blamed the woes of everybody south of the Rio Grande on Uncle Sam, in much the same way that Arab regimes, invited to explain why they’re sewers of corruption and brutality, bore on about the Great Satan and the Zionist Entity.

In the Seventies, the west’s foreign-policy elites were happy to take the losers at their own estimation: just as the so-called “realists” insist today that Islam is incompatible with liberty, so three decades ago there were wise old birds who said the same thing about Catholicism. Easy to scoff now, but back then, remember, the dictators ruled not just Latin America but also Spain and Portugal. Cultures can change.

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