Ending Regime Change – in Bolivia and the World

Yves here. The failed US effort to oust the government in Bolivia comes on the heels of other regime changes efforts not going according to plan. However, too many college tuitions depend on these machinations at least being attempted, so don’t expect anything to change soon.

By Medea Benjamin, the cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and the author of several books, including Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection and Inside Iran: the Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. and Nicolas J. S. Davies, an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK, and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq

Less than a year after the United States and the U.S.-backed Organization of American States (OAS) supported a violent military coup to overthrow the government of Bolivia, the Bolivian people have reelected the Movement for Socialism (MAS) and restored it to power.

In the long history of U.S.-backed “regime changes” in countries around the world, rarely have a people and a country so firmly and democratically repudiated U.S. efforts to dictate how they will be governed. Post-coup interim president Jeanine Añez has reportedly requested 350 U.S. visas for herself and others who may face prosecution in Bolivia for their roles in the coup.

The narrative of a rigged election in 2019 that the U.S. and the OAS peddled to support the coup in Bolivia has been thoroughly debunked. MAS’s support is mainly from indigenous Bolivians in the countryside, so it takes longer for their ballots to be collected and counted than those of the better-off city dwellers who support MAS’s right-wing, neoliberal opponents.

As the votes come in from rural areas, there is a swing to MAS in the vote count. By pretending that this predictable and normal pattern in Bolivia’s election results was evidence of election fraud in 2019, the OAS bears responsibility for unleashing a wave of violence against indigenous MAS supporters that, in the end, has only delegitimized the OAS itself.

It is instructive that the failed U.S.-backed coup in Bolivia has led to a more democratic outcome than U.S. regime change operations that succeeded in removing a government from power. Domestic debates over U.S. foreign policy routinely presume that the U.S. has the right, or even an obligation, to deploy an arsenal of military, economic and political weapons to force political change in countries that resist its imperial dictates.

In practice, this means either full-scale war (as in Iraq and Afghanistan), a coup d’etat (as in Haiti in 2004, Honduras in 2009 and Ukraine in 2014), covert and proxy wars (as in Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen) or punitive economic sanctions (as against Cuba, Iran and Venezuela) – all of which violate the sovereignty of the targeted countries and are therefore illegal under international law.

No matter which instrument of regime change the U.S. has deployed, these U.S. interventions have not made life better for the people of any of those countries, nor countless others in the past. William Blum’s brilliant 1995 book, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, catalogues 55 U.S. regime change operations in 50 years between 1945 and 1995. As Blum’s detailed accounts make clear, most of these operations involved U.S. efforts to remove popularly elected governments from power, as in Bolivia, and often replaced them with U.S.-backed dictatorships: like the Shah of Iran; Mobutu in the Congo; Suharto in Indonesia; and General Pinochet in Chile.

Even when the targeted government is a violent, repressive one, U.S. intervention usually leads to even greater violence. Nineteen years after removing the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the United States has dropped 80,000 bombs and missiles on Afghan fighters and civilians, conducted tens of thousands of “kill or capture” night raids, and the war has killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

In December 2019, the Washington Post published a trove of Pentagon documents revealing that none of this violence is based on a real strategy to bring peace or stability to Afghanistan – it’s all just a brutal kind of “muddling along,” as U.S. General McChrystal put it. Now the U.S.-backed Afghan government is finally in peace talks with the Taliban on a political power-sharing plan to bring an end to this “endless” war, because only a political solution can provide Afghanistan and its people with the viable, peaceful future that decades of war have denied them.

In Libya, it has been nine years since the U.S. and its NATO and Arab monarchist allies launched a proxy war backed by a covert invasion and NATO bombing campaign that led to the horrific sodomy and assassination of Libya’s long time anti-colonial leader, Muammar Gaddafi. That plunged Libya into chaos and civil war between the various proxy forces that the U.S. and its allies armed, trained and worked with to overthrow Gaddafi.

A parliamentary inquiry in the U.K. found that, “a limited intervention to protect civilians drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change by military means,” which led to “political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of Isil [Islamic State] in north Africa.”

The various Libyan warring factions are now engaged in peace talks aimed at a permanent ceasefire and, according to the UN envoy “holding national elections in the shortest possible timeframe to restore Libya’s sovereignty”—the very sovereignty that the NATO intervention destroyed.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy adviser Matthew Duss has called for the next U.S. administration to conduct a comprehensive review of the post-9/11 “War on Terror,” so that we can finally turn the page on this bloody chapter in our history.

Duss wants an independent commission to judge these two decades of war based on “the standards of international humanitarian law that the United States helped to establish after World War II,” which are spelled out in the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. He hopes that this review will “stimulate vigorous public debate about the conditions and legal authorities under which the United States uses military violence.”

Such a review is overdue and badly needed, but it must confront the reality that, from its very beginning, the “War on Terror” was designed to provide cover for a massive escalation of U.S. “regime change” operations against a diverse range of countries, most of which were governed by secular governments that had nothing to do with the rise of Al Qaeda or the crimes of September 11th.

Notes taken by senior policy official Stephen Cambone from a meeting in the still damaged and smoking Pentagon on the afternoon of September 11, 2001 summarized Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s orders to get “…best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time – not only UBL [Osama Bin Laden]… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

At the cost of horrific military violence and mass casualties, the resulting global reign of terror has installed quasi-governments in countries around the world that have proved more corrupt, less legitimate and less able to protect their territory and their people than the governments that U.S. actions removed. Instead of consolidating and expanding U.S. imperial power as intended, these illegal and destructive uses of military, diplomatic and financial coercion have had the opposite effect, leaving the U.S. ever more isolated and impotent in an evolving multipolar world.

Today, the U.S., China and the European Union are roughly equal in the size of their economies and international trade, but even their combined activity accounts for less than half of global economic activityand external trade. No single imperial power economically dominates today’s world as overconfident American leaders hoped to do at the end of the Cold War, nor is it divided by a binary struggle between rival empires as during the Cold War. This is the multipolar world we are already living in, not one that may emerge at some point in the future.

This multipolar world has been moving forward, forging new agreements on our most critical common problems, from nuclearand conventional weapons to the climate crisis to the rights of women and children. The United States’ systematic violations of international law and rejection of multilateral treatieshave made it an outlier and a problem, certainly not a leader, as American politicians claim.

 

Joe Biden talks about restoring American international leadership if he is elected, but that will be easier said than done. The American empire rose to international leadership by harnessing its economic and military power to a rules-based international orderin the first half of the 20th century, culminating in the post-World War II rules of international law. But the United States has gradually deteriorated through the Cold War and post-Cold War triumphalism to a flailing, decadent empire that now threatens the world with a doctrine of “might makes right” and “my way or the highway.”

 

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, much of the world still saw Bush, Cheney and the “War on Terror” as exceptional, rather than a new normal in American policy. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize based on a few speeches and the world’s desperate hopes for a “peace president.” But eight years of Obama, Biden, Terror Tuesdays and Kill Listsfollowed by four years of Trump, Pence, children in cages and the New Cold War with China have confirmed the world’s worst fears that the dark side of American imperialism seen under Bush and Cheney was no aberration.

 

Amid America’s botched regime changes and lost wars, the most concrete evidence of its seemingly unshakeable commitment to aggression and militarism is that the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex is still outspending the ten next largestmilitary powers in the world combined, clearly out of all proportion to America’s legitimate defense needs.

So the concrete things we must do if we want peace are to stop bombing and sanctioning our neighbors and trying to overthrow their governments; to withdraw most American troops and close military bases around the world; and to reduce our armed forces and our military budget to what we really need to defend our country, not to wage illegal wars of aggression half-way round the world.

For the sake of people around the world who are building mass movements to overthrow repressive regimes and struggling to construct new models of governing that are not replications of failed neoliberal regimes, we must stop our government–no matter who is in the White House–from trying to impose its will.

Bolivia’s triumph over U.S.-backed regime change is an affirmation of the emerging people-power of our new multipolar world, and the struggle to move the U.S. to a post-imperial future is in the interest of the American people as well. As the late Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez once told a visiting U.S. delegation, “If we work together with oppressed people inside the United States to overcome the empire, we will not only be liberating ourselves, but also the people of Martin Luther King.”

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34 comments

  1. everydayjoe

    Ironically Trump intervened less than Obama. But this will not change as US citizenry are not informed of our military overreach ( Iraq war , unlike Vitenam, was never broad cast and no news came our of Iraq) by the media . Only a Republican president can change this as Democrats are on a defense as they are perceived to be soft on national security.

    Reply
    1. Oh

      Only a Republican president outside the duopoly who is above corruption can change this as Democrats both parties are on a defense as they are perceived to be soft on national security take big $$$$$$$$$$ from the MIC.

      There. FIxed for ya.

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    2. diptherio

      One problem with your analysis there: to the extent the Dems are “perceived to be soft on national security,” it’s because the Republicans keep pushing that narrative, no matter how many drone strikes and surges the Democrats order. Thinking that a Republican president is going to end our endless interventions is magical thinking of the highest order. And US citizens are indeed informed about our military overreach (which is why Trump’s faux-anti-interventionist stance played so well in 2016). The major difference between now and the Vietnam era, imho, is that today there is no draft, so the foreign carnage is much easier to ignore.

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      1. Susan the other

        I agree that all the political posturing, including Trump’s peace preference, doesn’t amount to much when the ramparts are crumbling. We are running around trying to keep things glued together and we fall back on old habits of speech. But, imo, the difference between now and the Vietnam era is like a sea change. The entire world is wired, communication is quick and reasonably correct; colonialism still has its vestiges (especially French) but all countries are making independent noises and many of them are very sophisticated; China is the new boss because China has the money – we might be a close second; the EU is on the verge of becoming a socialist federation (which just goes to show, as we fought long and hard to keep it from happening during the last half of the Cold War); Russia is proving to be very resilient; the Middle East has come together by slaughter, but at least together – no doubt big oil deals have structured this; the planet is undeniable overpopulated and everyone knows it – nobody is denying this anymore; likewise with the devastation of the environment and CO2. Even Trump sounded somewhat reasonable in the last debate when he pointed out that we can’t do Green if we do not have the oil energy to manufacture the stuff we need. I always suspected that was his position but he couldn’t say so because he has a base that is not just in denial, they are sometimes highly reactionary. And now we see what a problem it has been to rely on the “markets” to solve our problems – it has left the majority of people out, financialized all the profits and extracted wealth; allowing good government to slowly die on the vine – and populations to become reactionary. Who wouldn’t? We know these things now and we are admitting them. If that’s not a sea change, tell me what else we need to keep it going. And this is one reason I can’t tolerate the thought of a militarist war monger in the White House – at this point that would be going foolishly against the tide of history, not to mention I do not want my grandsons used for target practice. Or anyone else’s.

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        1. Euro_bob

          the EU is on the verge of becoming a socialist federation (which just goes to show, as we fought long and hard to keep it from happening during the last half of the Cold War);

          Where on earth did you get that idea?

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  2. The Rev Kev

    I don’t think that Jeanine Áñez thought that she would lose this election. After declaring herself President a year a go and waving around a bible while doing so, she must have thought that the country’s elite had the whole thing sewed up. After threatening MPs with arrest for sedition as well as any journalist – Bolivian or foreign – for being in league with the former government, she and her cohort must have thought that there would be no opposition either. Not only did she have support from the Army but was recognized by the governments of Canada, Brazil, the European Union, Russia and the US as well as the US-run Organization of American States.

    But how do I know that she was not expecting it? Because she has just asked the US for 350 visas for her and her buddies. That fact alone says that her government was Made in the US. If there had been time to plan it better, she could have arranged for visas from not only the US but countries like the UK, Canada, Spain, Columbia, etc. to make it look more legit. Having to ask the US for all of them merely underlines to which country they would actually owed their loyalty too. I would be wanting to leave too after all they stuff that has been done over the past twelve months. I suspect that the Bolivian criminal justice system would want to have a word with them.

    https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Time-to-Flee-Anez-Asks-US-For-350-Visas-After-Arces-victory-20201023-0012.html

    And just to sweeten the deal, Elon Musk is now a laughing stock after tweeting about Bolivia a year ago that “We will coup whoever we want”

    https://www.salon.com/2020/10/20/elon-musk-becomes-twitter-laughingstock-after-bolivian-socialist-movement-returns-to-power/

    Reply
    1. Bon

      Not laughingstock, that word is for people who merely make foolish mistakes. Musk supported mass torture and death and environmental destruction for his personal gain. Come up with a stronger word for that.

      Question for all: what accounts for the US’ incompetence with regime change these days? Bolivia’s leadership got voted out (how does a military coup get voted out, esp after a year? It’s like they weren’t even trying). Venezuela is still kicking along after almost 1-2 years. In Guatemala In the 50s, the US just gave a new gang a bunch of guns and had them kill lots of people as they took over the government, and that lasted for decades. Also in the 50s, among other things the US trained Iran’s secret security group in torture techniques to help them stay in power. Are such vicious coups/regimes harder to do these days while maintaining the veneer that the US cares about democracy? What accounts for the bizarre regime change incompetence we’re seeing?

      Even regime change is getting crapified. I guess crapification ain’t all bad.

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      1. Paradan

        USSR is gone, so now we don’t look like such a good thing. Before any flaws we had could be brushed off as Cold War pragmatism.

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      2. Mark Anderlik

        If you recall that in 2019 there had been an astonishing number of worldwide populist uprisings, mainly but not all, against neoliberalism. Especially in Latin America. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-story-of-2019-protests-in-every-corner-of-the-globe

        Austerity had driven millions into the streets until the pandemic. That “movement” has begun again in Lebanon, Hong Kong, Chile, Belarus and Bolivia, to name just a few.

        Yes the US ability to effectively carry out imperial rule has been crapified. Thank goodness. Which in part helps embolden populist movements, especially in Latin America – “our” backyard. Add that to ordinary people around the world catching on to the false promise of neoliberalism, which the US is also a foremost proponent.

        My hope is what Benjamin hopes for – a dismantling of the empire. It would do the world and the people of the US good. And greatly help us overthrow neoliberal capitalism here.

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    2. Paradan

      I think the visa thing is a stunt the CIA asked her to do. It makes it look like the MAS is getting ready to do a communist purge, which allows for to go in under responsibility to protect.

      The MAS has been repeatedly telling everyone to not seek revenge.

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      1. Otto B.

        Honest question: Would a purge be such a bad thing? If Áñez has proven anything is that she has the political capital to overthrow the legitimate Government. Just because she lost the election again, it doesn’t mean she’s lost that power, at all. That’s not how power works. You have a hostile group with that kind of power within your borders, your only hope for long term survival is to dismantle that group. Arrest everyone involved who had a position of power in the political, military, and industry classes, together with all their allies, and strip them of all their assets. Send the heads of the coup to spend a couple of decades in remote prisons all throughout the country, everyone else is free to start over as working class.

        The alternative is to give them a few more years to prepare another assault on democracy. Maybe they will fabricate proof of corruption against Morales, rail up their bases to cause chaos, start an international campaign to destabilise the country; weakening Morales’ popular support. They still have the political capital to do that, and you can rest assured they will no be so fussy about punishing their adversaries.

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        1. km

          Not only that, but you must dismantle the stranglehold that the United States and its vassals have over your government, regardless who is elected.

          The case of Ukraine is most instructive. Following the 2014 coup, Poroshenko was “elected” as a relative moderate who promised a negotiated end to the war on Donbass.

          That of course didn’t happen. Instead, Poroshenko escalated the war and presided over a series of stinging defeats, to the point where the Ukrainian junta was forced to rely on a policy of asassination.

          However his American owners were quite pleased with Poroshenko, to the point where he could be prominently featured in The Panama Papers and the American ambassador could more or less openly campaign for him.

          Still, Poroshenko lost reelection by a massive margin to a TV comedian who promised, again, to make peace. Then the nationalist parties got another drubbing in the Ukrainian parliamentary elections a couple months later.

          In each case, the margins were so massive as to make credible rigging impossible. It was as clear a slap in the face of the American empire as one can imagine, other than Iran in 1979.

          What changed? Almost nothing. Even if Zelenskii wanted make peace, his American masters will not allow it, and they have a variety of tools (insurrection, asassination, blackmail or simply ordering the IMF to withhold the latest loan tranche) to force compliance.

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        2. JohnnySacks

          Depends on how quickly Bolivia can convert the value of their lithium resources to universal concrete societal benefits. If it all goes to hell in a massive corruption binge, then public support for MAS is going to go down with the ship.
          In the meantime, the perpetrators of the coup need to at least be jailed to signal zero tolerance for treason.

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          1. Susan the other

            Just thinking about the reported multiple billions Elon Musk “earned” last year – that would go far to improve social services in Bolivia. Too bad the MAS can’t do a claw back to compensate for the real value of the lithium. That really should be a new branch of international law, no?

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      2. lyman alpha blob

        Good to know. Sounds similar to Maduro’s strategy with Guy-Doe. Hard to claim Maduro is some evil despot when he’s letting the fake president wander around trying to drum up supporters, to the point where he’s about at the Jeb Bush ‘Please clap’ stage. About the only ones still clapping are the US Congress at Trump’s SOTU address.

        In most other countries, including the US, treasonous usurpers would at least be in prison, if not drawn and quartered.

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    3. Expat2Uruguay

      Perhaps part of the reason that it failed so quickly was because the coup sponsors in the US had already gotten what they wanted from the exercise. What I’m about to say is real tinfoil-hat territory, but perhaps the whole operation was a tabletop exercise for playing out the possibilities around stealing an election. Perhaps the people who orchestrated this from the US were interested in running some scenarios regarding the upcoming US election. I’m surprised no one suggests this, which makes me think it must be a really stupid idea.

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  3. Thuto

    “Bringing democracy to the world’s oppressed people” is starting to sound like a tired pretext to effect regime change and install puppets who, as the post so poignantly lays out, go on to become even more corrupt and repressive than the supposed tyrants they replaced. Democracy itself is becoming a tough sell to young people, especially in its current, corrupted, “bedmate with crony capitalism” version. I watched an interview the other day with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek was commenting on the results of a wide ranging study where millenials in multiple countries simply stated that they don’t believe democracy as it’s currently practiced is the best way for governments to govern. He sees a future where mild forms of authoritarianism are going to thrive as democracy continues to be paralyzed by partisanship and capture by special interests. The system has degraded into an oppression of the marginal minority by the marginal majority.

    It’s often said that the will of the people is sacrosanct in giving elected governments a mandate to govern against, but the question has to be asked whose will is being represented, the 49% or the 51%? I don’t pretend to have the answers, nor am I a fanboy for authoritarianism, but what I do know is that the current version of democracy has been so thoroughly weaponized by the US and its allied financial elites that any resemblance to what its founders had in mind is purely happenstance.

    It’s beyond me why anybody thinks it’s worth exporting.

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    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think the worst aspect of this is that the weaponising of ‘democracy’ as a tool of power is spreading widespread cynicism and providing a weapon for authoritarians to say ‘hey, see what they mean by democracy? Things aren’t so bad under my rule’. For many people now it seems that various types of autocracy look pretty good – and why not, when countries like Vietnam and China are doing pretty well without bothering too much with complicated things like elections or independent judiciaries or free speech. To make it worse, the appalling mess Europe and the US has made with Covid has I think hugely undermined the worlds faith that open western style democracies do things better.

      There are worthy models of countries which have either in the past or more recently dragged themselves out of authoritarian models – South Korea, Taiwan, Portugal, various East European countries, or smaller countries such as New Zealand or Denmark who have developed stable long term systems. I’m afraid I don’t follow African politics closely, but under the radar I know some small countries such as Botswana have adopted pretty successful (if always to some degree flawed) models. But in almost all cases pressure came from the bottom up, its rare to find a genuine, top down model of sustainable democracy, at least since the aftermath of WWII (and even then, the examples of Germany and Japan are pretty complicated).

      Like you, I don’t know the answer to this. Bottom up democracy systems seem to be hopelessly vulnerable at their early stages to outside manipulation, and if you are unfortunate enough to be within the ‘sphere of influence’ of one of the big powers, then that manipulation will certainly happen unless you have the good fortune to have extremely skilled leaders.

      But I do think that right now US interference has become the biggest enemy of democracy worldwide, not because they are so much more busy undermining democracies than other countries (they only do so when convenient of course), but because the sheer cynicism of the approach ensures that all terms relating to democracy or openness lose all meaning. At least when other powers crush inconvenient movements inside or outside their borders they are usually pretty unambiguous about their motives. This, I think, is one reason Trump is so loathed by the neocons – he isn’t smart enough to hide the power play behind the language of democracy.

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      1. Thuto

        I agree with much of what you say PK. Liberal democracies are scoring own goal after own goal and undermining the credibility of the system in the process, and as you say, spreading cynicism (to say nothing of making authoritarianism look more palatable in comparison). Covid has been the “emperor is wearing no clothes” moment for western style liberal democracies vis a vis provision of something as basic as healthcare to the most vulnerable people during a global pandemic. In the US, democracy emboldens nationalist zealots to stridently display antisocial, if not outright sociopathic behaviour under the banner of claiming constitutionally enshrined rights to e.g. not wear a mask. All these things poke holes so big in the democracy sales pitch that authoritarians are driving trucks through them emblazoned with stickers advertising their form of governance as a better and more effective way to rule.

        Re: African politics. South Africa is the country that has by far the most fertile soil for western style democratic rule to germinate and sprout, and sprout it has. While it’s the most developed country on the continent, it also has the world’s highest inequality due to a wholesale embrace of modern democracy’s close cousin, neoliberal economics. Other countries like Botswana are stable, in part due to leaders that know how to placate their citizens and make it known that taking on a “law and order” hardline is not out of bounds should dissenting, mutinous elements disrupt said stability. Francophone West Africa on the other hand is to France what the world is to the US (as they see it), they do with it as they please and French colonialism never ended in those parts, it just moved into stealth mode.

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          1. Susan the other

            I do agree and it is very ironic because both democracy and capitalism work together very nicely at the local level. Almost like capitalism is a good accounting method for equality and democracy. But take it up a notch and nothing holds together. I’m for localism, democracy; equality and good social services – and capitalism – on a very small local level. But for coalitions of governments, I think we need a very good set of rules and open accounting and the ability to enforce democratic distribution. At the global level – look out Elon – you might be required to actually pay what lithium is worth! I wonder why the term “democratic economics” has never emerged.

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      2. The Rev Kev

        I have been reading a bit about what is happening in Belorussia and it sounds like most people there are under no illusion what would happen if this colour revolution succeeded and ‘democracy’ was introduced. Read the same at MoA so it goes like this. You are a factory worker and want democracy instead of an authoritarian leader. But, and this is a very big but – what happen next under this ‘democracy’? Well your factory get sold to insiders in the new regime for pennies on the dollar and most people are sacked. Or maybe a western company will buy your factory and close it so that it cannot compete with it as happened in East Germany. For confirmation of what could happen they would only need ask the Ukrainians. Really any of the eastern Europeans for that matter. And of course this would be only the beginning of a very long downslide so I would say that already ‘democracy’ has lost its luster. It is now damaged goods.

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      3. Bazarov

        Much of millennial discontent with “democracy,” especially in America, is really millennial discontent with Lockean “paralyzed government” liberal republics. To call the United States a “democracy” is laughable–in my lifetime, two candidates who lost the popular vote became president. A state like Wyoming gets the same representation in the extremely powerful upper house as a state like California. The lower house is a gerrymandered “house of incumbency” and rotten-boroughs. The country has one national “plebiscite” every four years in the presidential election, and then whoever’s elected can do what they want without consulting the people at all.

        This is not “democracy”–the people’s will is not respected. Hell, the people aren’t even consulted.

        So, I confess to being one of those millennials disillusioned with “democracy” in the form of the Lockean republic constructed so as to create the illusion of representation while keeping the holders of power at great distance from the actual people.

        Moreover, Lockean liberal Republics seem made so as to govern as little as possible, which is great when there’s general prosperity (and therefore less need for good government). As recognized by Hobsbawm, “liberal democracy” resurged after WWII during good times, but he predicted as times get worse and worse, liberal democracy–being crafted to frustrate government–will be shown to be ill-suited to a period of crisis, when decisive government (not gridlock!) is needed most.

        Hobsbawm predicted that, like during the Great Depression era, there would be a global retreat of liberal democracy during the next crisis of capitalism. What will replace it? He predicted a “strong man” style government legitimized by the occasional plebiscite similar to that of Napoleon III.

        In any event, when my generation hears “democracy,” they hear “the government” as it actually exists today in the United States. Now, if you asked my generation “What would you think of a government where the people’s will actually rules?” they would be enthusiastically in favor–but that government, perhaps a true democracy more akin to ancient Athens (where, say, positions in a Great Congress are chosen by lot and not by rotten elections), would not resemble our own.

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    2. John Wright

      The late Australian Alex Carey wrote a book “Taking the Risk out of Democracy” that argues populist democracy is NOT something the corporate elite truly want to be effective in their countries.

      The risk is that a people with a strong democratic form of government will vote themselves economic benefits, which will come from the elites’ hides.

      This could well explain the elite school, think tank, media, and corporate/favored foreign donor dominated US political “democracy” in evidence.

      “In 1988, Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman published their Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media in dedication to the memory of Carey.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Carey_(writer)

      Donald Trump was the unanticipated virus that the US media and MIC system had a violent immune response against as he raised valid questions about US manufacturing job loss and US foreign military actions in the USA version of democracy.

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  4. Daniel Raphael

    I confess that I don’t see any connection between the article and the mention by Yves in the lead-in about “college tuitions” depending on attempted regime change. Care to enlighten?

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    1. DJG

      Daniel Raphael: Many people in the government bureaucracy at places like the State Department, CIA, and National Endowment for Democracy, along with various denizens of think tanks and lobbying firms, along with their fans in the media who have never seen a war that they didn’t like, would all be unemployed: War generates a lot of money to throw around. That’s why the U S of A is addicted to it.

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    2. apleb

      Someone in the US has to facilitate, start, shepherd all these coups. Many people in the US have to benefit from them directly or indirectly. Like Elon Musk, all his employees and all his shareholders in the case of Bolivia and its lithium resources.
      Those people all have families and children in turn. Children that need college tuitions, paid by their parents and ultimately by Bolivia selling cheap, slave-labor like, environment destroying mined lithium in high priced, gaia friendly, planet saving electro automobiles.

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  5. pjay

    This is a fine critique by two veteran opponents of US foreign policy. Although I agreed with almost everything, there was one strikingly incongruous section:

    “Senator Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy adviser Matthew Duss has called for the next U.S. administration to conduct a comprehensive review of the post-9/11 “War on Terror,” so that we can finally turn the page on this bloody chapter in our history.”

    “Duss wants an independent commission to judge these two decades of war based on “the standards of international humanitarian law that the United States helped to establish after World War II,” which are spelled out in the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. He hopes that this review will “stimulate vigorous public debate about the conditions and legal authorities under which the United States uses military violence.”

    The idea that any “independent commission,” “US administration” – or Matt Duss for that matter — could or would “stimulate a vigorous public debate” on any of this is beyond ludicrous. Though this is a good essay, I have been reading such critiques since the 1970s. I have no hope that anything will change in the US. The optimism I do have is based on what other commentators have noted: that our ability to pull off such “regime change” coups successfully seems to be slipping. Let’s hope *that* trend continues to develop.

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  6. Rod

    Yves states:
    For the sake of people around the world who are building mass movements to overthrow repressive regimes and struggling to construct new models of governing that are not replications of failed neoliberal regimes, we must stop our government–no matter who is in the White House–from trying to impose its will.

    emphasis mine, to reinforce my take away(in Bolivia/Venezuela/Ukraine/and now Belarus) that “bottom up” is the system that has the most power and impact and needs to be deliberately developed. (As in a System built around the concept of Participatory Democracies, fostered by compunction (itself nurtured by that system).

    imo, in the America I see, the significance of Participation (Military Service to Voting) is virtual signaled, left to the individual(to find a way and then engage), and very passively discouraged.
    If only Americans felt compelled to Civic Engagement as a Proud *oy was to show of their gun, things would get better faster.

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  7. Thor's Hammer

    Ironic isn’t it that the Greatest Democracy On The Face Of The Earth can’t even conduct elections with a degree of credibility that a 11 year old child would accept as legitimate.

    Even more ironic that while being subject to economic warfare, coup attempts and assassinations a country like Venezuela could implement a fingerprint backed, paper ballot verified, computerized voting system that the vast majority of citizens view as legitimate.

    https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/2018/05/25/The-real-Venezuela-is-not-what-you-think/stories/201805240020

    https://www.globalresearch.ca/former-us-president-carter-venezuelan-electoral-system-best-in-the-world/5305779

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