Friday, January 08, 2010

The Little Matter of the Monroe Doctrine

In his latest New York Times column, currently the most e-mailed article on, Nick Kristof "asks,"
Hmmm. You think it’s a coincidence? Costa Rica is one of the very few countries to have abolished its army, and it’s also arguably the happiest nation on earth...Costa Rica’s national decision to invest in education rather than arms has paid rich dividends. Maybe the lesson for the United States is that we should devote fewer resources to shoring up foreign armies and more to bolstering schools both at home and abroad.
Costa Rica really does sound like a great place, and the U.S. does spend way too much on military hardware and so forth, as Dwight Eisenhower predicted we would. But couldn't Kristof at least throw in a little sentence or two on the fact that perhaps one reason Costa Rica doesn't need an army is because of security externalities provided by the United States?

Hegemons do a couple of things, among others:

1. Tell other countries what to do.
2. Keep things relatively stable.

The U.S. has meddled and invaded and killed all over Latin America and its conduct in the hemisphere has often been deplorable. But deplorable compared to what? Compared to the Spanish and the Portuguese and the British and the French and the Dutch? Or compared to a hemisphere with no hegemon at all — a counterfactual about which we can only speculate?

It's just more of the shallow tsk-tsking that passes for liberal internationalism these days. I don't blame Kristof so much as I shudder at the thought of the legions of jackasses in coffee shops who will read this column and say,"Wow, Costa Rica really has it all figured out, why can't Obama make us more like them?" And meanwhile the Dick Cheneys of the world are still out there, plotting their return to power.

1 comment:

Karlissimo del Banco said...

Couldn't one argue that Costa Rica is as much at the mercy of the US as it might be of other powers if the US didn't have military control of the hemisphere? And if so, couldn't the abolishing its army be seen as them taking a huge risk that the US, or some US-supported neighbors might invade or take over in some way? So, I'm not sure that one could simply say that the main reason Costa Rica is able to do this is simply because they have the luxury of the stability provided by the implicit "protection" of the US military hegemony in the region...and regardless of the feasible application (or lack thereof) of that policy in the US, the fact remains that there might be a good lesson to be learned from this: maybe we should start looking at that ol' Peace Dividend again?....while making that Dick Cheney never, ever comes back to power ever again.

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