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To take on Tom's thought experiment and be tangential, I agree: Chavez needs an enemy. I'd be interested if one could draw a correlation between declining commodity revenues and increasing rhetoric directed at "others," be they external or internal.* The curve might be non-monotonic. Democracies have little need to blame external regimes, because their democratic nature makes retaining rule less tenuous, and truly authoritarian regimes (eg, North Korea or Stalin's Russia) have suppressed opposition so thoroughly they need not take it into account. But mixed-regimes - like one which is both theocratic and democratic and run by a demogogue, or one in which a leader for life is "democratically elected" - might have the most tenuous grip on power, and thus the greatest need to mobilize support by any means necessary, including the construction and perpetuation of an other or others. One could extend this to regimes that are (say) economically open but politically largely authoritarian - Syria comes to mind as a possible candidate. At the same time, I'd be curious to see whether democracies are equally susceptible to blame others (remember Freedom Fries?) - the counters to the democratic peace literature (see Christopher Layne or John Lynn Owen on this) probably get into this. And at the other end of the spectrum, I think Stephen Krasner's account of sovereignty gets into (!!!) the potential instability of Hitler and/or Stalin's regime(s). I doubt US aid would make much of a difference. My suspicion is that the Venezuelan people as a whole would be smart enough to give credit where credit is due, but population distributions don't always follow a perfect Dahl-ian bell curve distribution, and thus pro-Chavez radicals at the right-end (left-end?) of the curve would fail to credit the US, either because they're simply cognitively incapable of accepting an "enemy" could be "friendly," or because they recognize the objective consequences of doing so, and reject (rationally) the consequences of doing so. And just because Venezuelans give credit for foreign aid hardly means foreign aid only could disempower Chavez (not that Tom argues this). Still, it's interesting to speculate what, if any, soft power would be useful in dealing with Venezuela. I don't know about Luna. Everyone is happy a former union leader of a large nation seems to fit so well with the World Is Flat Davos Consensus, and Goldman Sachs et al are happy to harp on the market potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China. But from my perspective: Brazil cannot provide basic rule of law in the most basic of senses (eg, security) in its capital and largest cities. Russia is a state that depends on commodity revenues, ruled by an authoritarian leader, with scant history of democracy and arguably a deracinated (and deracinating) civil society. India is a democracy, but one which seems to contradict the prediction that democracy leads to economic growth and equality - I suspect the caste system somehow inhibit Indian "success," as well as (perhaps) colonial legacies. China has the potential for a social revolution as it transitions from a rural, agrarian economy to an urban, industrial/post-industrial one. If I worked at Goldman Sachs and had to bet on one of the four BRICs, I'd bet on China: Communist Parties (far stronger than Putin's rule) have tremendous ability to shape and control social change (to induce perestroika and then introduce glastnost, resulting in a stable transformation). But I'd be a hesitant bettor. And if I were an investor, I'd be wary of investment banks lumping together different emerging markets with significant risks, using simplistic "straight line" extrapolations, to market their products (have Lehman, Bear Stearns, and AIG - among others - taught us nothing?). As for Russia, its power projection capability is minimal at best. The biggest I think it could accomplish would be to perhaps transfer small arms and military knowledge - perhaps something as "grand" as sophisticated air defense systems or aircraft, or perhaps some military doctrine that would prove useful, although here I am more skeptical - but it cannot maintain any permanent presence in the Americas. And I imagine while some of Russia's motivation might be to irk the US in its own backyard, perhaps as retribution for American actions in the Russian "backyard," hard cash might also be important - and of course, the hard cash motivation probably derives from the decline in commodity prices. JW * No rest for the resource curse theorists, I suppose - which is probably more a good than a bad thing.
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