Friday, March 27, 2009

Last Comment on Overthrow

I have been reading Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer, and posted once on the book. There are a few major impressions that I am left with:

1. American foreign policy is made by imperfect people, at best working from limited rationality on imperfect and incomplete information, and at worst on the basis of ignorance, superstition, or bullheadedness.

2. In the century in which America had the power to overthrow foreign governments, presidents have used that power more than a dozen times to do so. The exercise of superior military force is not an aberration but a common aspect of American foreign policy.

3. When American government leaders decide to overthrow a foreign government they understand the people living under that government only poorly and barely consider the welfare of those people, who after all are likely to be the most affected.

4. Americans who understand and care about the people affected by the regime change don't have the power to make the policy; people who do make the policy tend not to understand or care about the people.

5. The long term effects of overthrowing a foreign government are almost always negative for the United States and for the people of the other nation, in part because the U.S. does not make the investment in development it would seem to owe the people of the foreign nation.

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