The conditions during the Cold War period were exceptional and they asked for rather exceptional measures. The foreign policy of the U.S., as a hegemonic power of the world was under a tremendous amount of pressure. On one hand there were the fear of the worst possible enemies of democracy: communism and the fear of the atomic war that could have destroyed the world in minutes and on the other hand there were the economic factors that influenced a great deal of the U.S. policy making on the international arena and its role as the impartial judge in conflicts around the globe. The dream of helping building a democratic world where peace and justice, especially, social justice were at home were left in the utopian societies described in the books. The realities of the twentieth and the approaching twenty first Century were much more practical and lacked the romantic spirit of “democracy for everyone, at all costs.”
The reality shows the U.S. implicated in wars to support authoritarian regimes because its policymakers at the time thought best in its personal interest and that of maintaining stability in a region with minimum costs. Economic advantages for the U.S. economy were often above civil liberties in the countries experiencing internal movements and thus authoritarian regimes that facilitated the foreign investments were supported for decades, even if they violated civil rights and favored the creation of insurmountable gaps between a small elite of the privileged and the rest of the society. One of the examples in this respect is that of Ferdinand Marcos. He used the U.S. support in the crisis determined the rebellion of the masses against his government, in 1972. The U.S. supported his regime that was highly authoritative during the 1970s and the first years of the 1980s. His government assured the stability need by the economic investors to penetrate and found businesses connected to the globalized economic world in the country. The decision makers in Washington changed their views after Marcos the regime culminated his discretionary acts with the killing of the leader of the opposition, Benigno Aquino, Jr.,in 1983. Washington turned one hundred and eighty degrees and supported the opposition forces to win elections against Marcos. The change was not miraculous and the new government, led by Aquinos wife as president as in debt to the internal military forces as well as to those of the U.S. The new instrument of political aid developed at the beginning of the 1980s proved effective in Philippines. The success was far from being complete and undebatable. Further inquiries in the development of the country showed how politics remained a domain of the privileged and the inequities between social classes still in place. Chile, Nicaragua and Haiti are other countries that experiences authoritarian regimes supported by the U.S. For decades and then overthrown by the same U.S. when they became a real threat for the regional stability and for the global economy. Nicaragua and Chile finally came to see the light of the democracy after decades of authoritarian regime, the former under Pinochet and the latter under Samosa family first and then under the Sandinista government. Haiti is a special case that is still debated over and not yet eluded.
After sustaining the Duvalier dictatorship and shifting in sides, the U.S. failed to help create the favorable conditions for installing a democracy. The void of power due to the lack of success in imposing either the authoritarian elite or the opposition perpetuated till today.
The world would certainly look different today if the U.S. stayed away from hundreds of domestic conflicts. The reconstruction of Germany and Japan due to massive economic aid from the U.S., the fall of the Berlin wall were bound to happen someday, but without the U.S. efforts in economic and political aid, that would have taken a few years or even decades more. Countries in Latin America had dictator reigning for decades with the explicit support of the U.S., but that cannot be blamed on the ill intentions of the hegemonic power in relationship with one nation. Self-interest and economic interest will always be difficult to overcome by ideological reasons. The numbers may not show a decisive result in the respect of success of the U.S. foreign policy to promote democracy around the world, but they are not showing the balance inclined the other way either. The world along with the U.S. still has to overcome experiences such as crimes against humanity and violation of the human rights that are still happening in some countries. Some of them surprisingly, on the right track of the globalization, but still under totalitarian regimes. The perfect instrument in fighting dictatorship has not been invented yet.
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