It was in Central America, remember, that President Ronald Reagan first actively faced off against the "Evil Empire." It was through Central American policy that the previously distinct strands of conservatism and neoconservatism first broke foreign bread (and foreign heads) together. It was the anvil upon which the ideas and constituencies that drive Bush's aggressive foreign policy today were first hammered out. It was the place that secular neocons and anti-communist militarists came together with the Christian New Right to oppose Catholicism's Liberation Theology, which, for them, was the radical Islam of its moment -- at a time when Reagan's CIA director was playing footsy in Afghanistan and elsewhere with the Islamic jihadists who would later be melded with the "axis of evil" into the War on Terror.
Central America was also where Republicans first embraced the idealist language of spreading "democracy" abroad as a key justification for an aggressive, violent, preemptive foreign policy. It was in relation to Central America that, through the Office of Public Diplomacy, the executive branch first used a full range of PR "perception management" techniques to sell a war -- again anticipating the media manipulation that led to the invasion of Iraq. Finally, it was in what became the Iran-Contra scandal that Republicans first tried to bypass many of the restrictions on the presidency put into place (however feebly) after Vietnam and Watergate, foreshadowing the vast, half-secret expansion of executive powers in the last five years. Not for nothing did so many of the current administration's officials and hangers on -- John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams, Otto Reich, Donald Kagan, Michael Ledeen, even John Bolton -- come out of Central America. It is a story that must be read, as must Grandin's piece on U.S. war-planning in recalcitrant Latin America.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Grandin on Rumsfeld's Latin American Wild West Show( click on the link above to read more)