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« THE EVIL EMPIRE SPEECH: The full story of Reagan's historic address | Main | Remember Ronald Reagan »

December 04, 2003


Crawford Kilian

You say:
"No two democracies went to war with each other in the entire 20th century"...
...but the US has done its energetic best to subvert democracies it finds inconvenient. Examples include Iran under Mossadegh (1953), Guatemala under Arbenz (1954) and Chile under Allende (1972). Post-WW II European and Japanese democracies have been dominated by CIA funding of US-preferred political parties. A national election in Vietnam was forestalled by the US in the mid-1950s when it became clear that Ho Chi Minh would win it.

The US did nothing to thwart the military overthrow of South Korea's first democratic government, and it has supported numerous other military regimes.

As a Brazilian blogger put it today: "If gringo democracy is so good, why do the Americans give it to their enemies and impose military dictators on their friends?"

Frank Warner

Democracy is by no means perfect, and unfortunately there is no direct route to freeing the world.

But please don't forget there was another side to the Cold War, a totalitarian side that was trying to clone repressive police states in one nation after another. As bumpy as the road was from 1945 to 1991, the United States was leader of the side pushing ahead for freedom.

And just as the United States temporarily allied itself with Stalin during World War II to defeat Hitler’s more immediate threat, the U.S. also made some temporary deals with authoritarian dictatorships during the Cold War in order to counter the greater threat of Soviet-style totalitarian expansion.

Throughout the Cold War, as it is now, America’s goal was democracy in every country. The U.S. did major work to protect freedom in Western Europe, to build democracies in Germany, Italy and Japan, and to turn back a totalitarian dictatorship's invasion of South Korea.

South Korea and Taiwan are infinitely freer today than their counterparts, principally because of U.S. protection.

President Eisenhower did oppose an election in Vietnam in the mid-1950s, because Ho Chi Minh was the only well-known Vietnamese leader at the time (he had other leaders killed) and because Eisenhower feared that if Ho, a Communist little interested in democracy, were elected, Vietnam would never see a second election.

The United States tried to give South Vietnam a chance for democracy and freedom, but for a good number of reasons, that bloody battle didn’t work out. However, on U.S. insistence, the North Vietnamese promised in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords to allow free elections in South Vietnam. Two years later, North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon. Here it is 2003, we still haven’t seen those free elections.

Eisenhower was right.

Contrary to the impression given in most discussions of Guatemala, Iran and Chile, the United States didn’t go to war against those struggling democracies. I wish the U.S. had kept its hands out completely in each of those cases, but the fact is U.S. involvement amounted to little more than encouraging local people already inclined to remove leaders they didn’t trust.

The end of the Cold War has cleared the air on most of this kind of thinking. There is no Soviet Union setting up police states anymore. And in case you haven't noticed, the U.S. has been able to encourage democracy in a lot more places since 1991. With U.S. help, every nation in the Western Hemisphere except Cuba has been able to hold free elections (some freer than others, but there's hope) in the last dozen years.

Ask that Brazilian blogger who supports the dictator in Cuba. Not the United States.

Without a Soviet Union to worry about, the United States also was able to go into Iraq and remove that totalitarian regime. If democracy now takes root in Iraq, the whole world will benefit, and so will the Iraqis. If Iraq can blossom in freedom, the example itself would be major leap forward for liberalism and progress.

That no two democracies went to war with each other in the 20th century is proof we need more democracies. Democracies don’t even have to like one another. With their openness and accountability, even an angry democracy is amazingly unlikely to attack another democracy.

For individuals, democracy is the best guarantee of the right to freedom, security and a chance for a fulfilling life. The evidence is in.

The route to a fully free world remains full of obstacles, partly from terrorists but principally from dictatorships that have, or hope to acquire, nuclear weapons. Those dictatorships will be hardest to move.

The race isn’t over between the forces of freedom and repression. And as encouraging as some trends are, liberty isn’t guaranteed success, particularly if antidemocratic ideologies are not countered by the facts on freedom.

There is no time to lose. Let’s free this world as fast as we can.

Andrew R. H. Jones

Hello. My name is Andy Jones. I am a first semester history and film major at Southern Illinois University. I am in a History class and I like it quite a lot. We learned about Allende, Arbenz, and other Latin American governments. We also recently learned about Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. I am quite interested in this.

Anyway, the point in me posting this is that I was wondering if either of you have any suggested reading where you are getting this information from (and if there is anything online I could get access to). It's not that I don't believe your facts; they sound reliable. But as a future researcher, I am interested in finding out as much as I can about these topics. To be honest, eventually I hope to do research on war in general and find alternate solutions to every American war in history. This would be ideal for me, because I truly believe that virtually any conflict can be solved without violence. The only bits of supporting evidence I have for this are Gandhi's revolution in India (which, to be completely honest, I know little about), the bloodless coups in the Eastern bloc, and ideas of alternate solutions in World War I (such as cutting off trade with Europe completely and saying to Hell with business in the process). I understand that I am not the most educated on any of these subjects, but I am very interested and would like to know more. So, if you have any suggested readings for me, please give me an e-mail at


If you don't feel like it, that's okay, too. I just thought I would ask.

Andy Jones.

Andrew R. H. Jones

By the way, when I say I want information, in particular, I mean that I want information on Ho Chi Minh and Allende, as well as other Latin American governments. For example, I would like to read about Minh having opponents killed.

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