Thursday, December 14, 2006

If This Doesn't Get Your Hackles Up, I Just Don't Know What Will

The other day, my roommate remarked to me that she has no idea why people would shed a single tear over Pinochet. I think we can find an answer to that question if we take a little moustache ride on the Robert J. Samuelson express. If you follow along with him, you too can go straight to the obliteration of human rights in the name of some specious ideal.

C'mon! Our fun and games await us!

Stop One: Where I Throw A Fucking Fitsville!
"Ever since World War II, the United States has used its military and economic superiority to promote a stable world order that has, on the whole, kept the peace and spread prosperity."

Um, Cold War much? School of the Americas? Sandanistas? Rwandan genocide? Darfur genocide? 1968? Burma? Apartheid? Taliban? Iranian Revolution? I'm sorry, did I miss something? Is there actually peace in the middle east these days? Did Art Brut finally write that song? Furthermore, even if you ignore pretty much all of the past 70 years of history, he still makes no logical argument for the U.S.'s causation of this ostensible peace and prosperity.

Stop Two: Manipulating Statistics to Make A Logically Invalid Argument- AGAIN!
"Prosperity has been unprecedented. Historian Angus Maddison tells us that from 1950 to 1998 the world economy expanded by a factor of six. Global trade increased twentyfold. These growth rates were well beyond historical experience."

If you look at the correlating population boom, the growth of the world economy is hardly a surprise; it's an inevitable result: more people, more supply and demand, more world economy. However, just because the world economy grows does not mean that individual prosperity has correspondingly grown. Maddison's statistic doesn't address the distribution of such wealth between poor and rich nations, nor the individuals within those nations. And again, there is simply no argument here that U.S. foreign policy caused this ostensible prosperity.

Stop Three: We'll Attempt Some Rudimentary Causation And Fail Miserably:
"Since the Marshall Plan, the United States has been a stabilizing influence -- albeit with lapses (the Vietnam War; the inflation of the 1970s; now Iraq)."

First of all, those are some pretty big fucking lapses- in what he accounts for, that's about thirty years of this seventy years-long "Pax Americana". But more importantly, he's discounting some very, very important world events: I would hardly call the Cold War and the era of McCarthyism a "stable world order", nor would I call the Civil Rights Era when the streets were exploding "stable". If we're really, really generous and discount military action in Yugoslavia and Kosovo (which the U.S. participated in, but did not actually lead), we still have to take into account the civil wars in Africa and the unrest in Central America and the former Soviet Union that was FUNDED BY THE U.S., and therefore partly caused by the U.S. (and a spoon that stirs up trouble is hardly a stability-inducing presence), that gives us about THREE YEARS of this magical "Pax Americana". Let's just be perfectly honest here, you could really only enjoy the benefits of "Pax Americana" if you were white and wealthy.

Is this ride nauseating you yet? Let's take the final stretch here:

Samuelson doesn't consider that this supposed "Pax Americana" actually caused the ensuing shitstorms of the twentieth century. For example, perhaps the global economy was stabilized from a purely economic standpoint, but he ignores the cultural consequences of such hegemony- 9/11, to name the pretty fucking obvious one. It's arguments like this that make us as Americans look foolish and ignorant of world events in the wake of unfathomable tragedy, scratching our collective head, wondering, "Why do they hate us?"

Which brings us full circle to Pinochet. As Samuelson would have us do, accepting the grossly oversimplified and specious macroeconomic explanation of world events allows people to ignore human rights to champion a painfully myopic view of economic success, and the next thing you know, you're crying over a dispicable mass murderer.


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