As noted in my post on Cambodia a couple of days ago, when Pol Pot seized power in that country in 1975, the U.S. took no military or other coercive action to stop him. And over the next several years, as he conducted his monstrous genocide — in which about a third of the entire population of the country was either directly murdered or intentionally starved to death — the U.S. continued to sit totally on the sidelines and just let things play out. This, even though somewhere in the U.S. government (CIA?), at least some people clearly knew, at least in a general way, what was going on. By the end of its brief dalliance with communism, Cambodia had not just lost a third of its population, but had seen its entire economy devastated, and almost all educated people slaughtered, such that the ability to start rebuilding was set back decades until an entire new generation could come along. As a result, Cambodia is only now starting the long climb up from desperate poverty into a modern economy.
It would be completely fair to ask: How could the U.S. be so completely heartless and inhumane? For some mere several billions of dollars of expenditures, and perhaps a few tens of thousands of military casualties, couldn’t we have obviated the slaughter of millions of people and rescued all of the Cambodians from multiple generations of needless extreme poverty?
These questions take on particular relevance in light of the events currently transpiring in Venezuela. There, the socialist dictatorship continues its brutal repression, with hundreds of new arrests of regime opponents just in the past several days, and millions starving and/or fleeing the country. Why, you might ask, is it not the moral obligation of the U.S. to step in immediately with whatever force is necessary to stop the suffering and restore democracy?
The answer lies in the incredible power of the socialist delusion. Even as you might think it would be completely impossible for anyone to look at Venezuela — or Cambodia, or Cuba, or North Korea, or any of plenty of other examples — and not realize that these are completely avoidable disasters caused by pursuing socialism, the world remains full of seemingly intelligent people wholly willing to forgive all the failures and to go back and give socialism another try. And really, the word “failures” is no where near adequate to describe the catastrophe of socialism.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, I naively thought that that would put an end to anyone ever wanting to try socialism again. Over the 74 or so years of communist rule, the Soviet people had suffered terribly — not just through millions of deaths from executions and starvation and forced labor, but through brutal repression of freedom, spies everywhere ratting out dissenters for deportation to the gulag, and everyone being forced to live in a prison state. But the idea was, it’s all worth it to create a utopia of bountiful production and perfect justice and fairness for all. (“If you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.”) The bountiful production never happened. Instead, it was enforced impoverishment. The perfect justice and fairness turned out to be grinding poverty for everyone except a handful of the top elite, who gamed the system to make themselves rich. Due to the repression and internal spy system, the people were unable to rescue themselves, and generations lived and died under the misery before the system finally collapsed of its own weight.
And yet, in 1998 the people of Venezuela opted to pursue essentially the same course. How could they not have seen what was coming? Yet the forces of the Left cheered on Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro even as the impending failure should have been obvious to anyone with eyes. As we now know, the same results have played out, although thankfully for the Venezuelans it only took 21 years rather than the 74 that it took Soviet communism to collapse.
With Venezuela completely fallen apart, has the Left learned any lessons? Noah Rothman has a demoralizing roundup in the New York Post from January 27, headlined “American stooges for Venezuela’s dictator.” Did you think that the new self-described socialists would try to pitch themselves as something different, rather than letting themselves get associated with these thugs? You would be wrong. From Bernie Sanders to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to new representatives Ilhan Omar and Ro Khanna, they have stepped up to support Maduro. Rothman:
To hear US democratic socialists tell it, however, America has staged a “coup.” “The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries,” said the democratic socialists’ patriarch, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in a statement. “We must not go down that road again.” Newly elected Rep. Ro Khanna of California, meanwhile, insisted that “the US should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, polarized conflict.” Khanna also urged Washington to “end sanctions” against the Venezuelan regime. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez re-tweeted Khanna’s sentiment.
And so forth. And you really need to take a look at the statement on the situation put out by the Democratic Socialists of America, the group with which Ms. AOC and others enthusiastically associate themselves. Excerpt:
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) categorically opposes any and all efforts by the US government to intervene in the domestic politics of Venezuela. The US has a long and bloody track record of actions to overthrow democratically elected governments, stop the spread of socialism, and maintain US imperial dominance in the region. This includes the US government’s support of the 2002 Venezuelan coup that led to the temporary ouster of the legitimately-elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. These imperial interventions must stop immediately; the future of the Venezuelan people, and the broader prosperity of Latin America depend on it.
Meanwhile, yesterday Ms. Ocasio-Cortez made an appearance at the Sundance Film Festival to promote the new documentary about the congressional candidacies of several far-left female candidates, herself featured prominently. Would you think that going out of your way to support a repressive regime like that of Maduro (let alone promoting socialism for the United States) would make you some kind of pariah in polite society? Don’t be ridiculous! She received a standing ovation.
Unfortunately, in the face of this level of delusion, pervasive in the seeming intellectual elite, it is just not possible for some kind of U.S. military action to rescue Venezuela or anywhere else in the grip of socialism. Yes, the U.S. can take some measures in the nature of economic sanctions, and I applaud that. But in the main, there is no alternative to the Venezuelans rescuing themselves. Same goes for the North Koreans and the Cubans and others. Those could have many more years of suffering ahead of them