Think Tanks Wrap-up

March 22, 2002 at 6:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- The UPI Think Tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering brief opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks.

Center for Strategic and International Studies

WASHINGTON--Bush Trip To Latin America: President's Visit Demonstrates Region Remains a U.S. Focus Post-9/11

CSIS analysts made the following statements about President Bush's attendance at the international aid conference in Monterrey and his subsequent Latin America visit:

*Sidney Weintraub, CSIS Simon Chair in Political Economy.

"President Bush does have business to conduct in Mexico, Peru and El Salvador, but the main motive of the trip is probably to emphasize to the leaders and population of Latin America and the Caribbean that the region has not disappeared from the U.S. substantive map as a result of the events of September 11. The limited itinerary is apt to force another trip in the near future - to Brazil, the largest country of the region in population and economic terms." [Weintraub's monthly newsletter on international political economy can be found at]

*Sherman Katz, CSIS Scholl Chair in International Business.

"The United States must be more engaged in the world to help create conditions for more individuals to have every opportunity to make the most of their potential. By increasing foreign assistance, the Bush Administration has taken a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go to do our fair share."

*Miguel Diáz, director, CSIS Mercosur/South America Project.

"With regard to Washington, Latin America can be divided in two. There are the Chile's of the world who are on the verge of entering into a more mature, mutually rewarding relationship with the United States and the likes of Venezuela, an old ally who apparently has lost its course and has been distancing itself more and more from us. In going to Peru, President Bush is rewarding those countries that despite many serious challenges have opted for democratic government and a closer partnership with Washington. Bush's visit says that we, as a country, are willing to take risks, including personal risks in light of the recent car bomb in Lima, to build closer ties to the region. The onus is now on the region to take risks, including going against long established domestic interests, to meet the outstretched hands of the United States. "

*Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, director, CSIS Mexico Project.

"President Bush's four-day trip to Mexico, Peru and El Salvador signals a refocusing on the U.S.-Mexico relationship, and on the Bush Administration's vision toward the rest of Latin America."

CSIS notes that these are the views of the individuals cited, not of CSIS, which does not take policy positions.

Institute for Public Accuracy

(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)

WASHINGTON--Bush's Latin America Trip: Interviews Available

*Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

"Bush's trip is more about ginning up enthusiasm for the 'war on terrorism' and the 'drug war' than aimed at promoting meaningful progress at democratization and human rights. Bush's heralded $5 billion in aid carries stiff conditions mandating that recipient countries accept the Treasury Department's economic game plan and is almost insignificant given the magnitude of world poverty -- over 40 percent of the population of Latin America lives below the poverty line.... Bush's call to remove restrictions on military aid to Colombia despite human rights abuses by its armed forces undermines efforts to restore democracy in Colombia; it also serves to remove the firewall which

authorized U.S. forces to fight against drug producers and traffickers, but

not against the leftist guerrillas."

*Richard Clinton, professor of political science at Oregon State University and a specialist in Latin American affairs.

"Bush is pushing privatization and shrinking government, but this will increase inequality

and make the local oligarchies stronger.... It's telling that Otto Reich,

who ran disinformation campaigns for the Reagan administration, has been

put in as Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs."

*Jacqueline Downing, member of the advisory group to School of the Americas Watch. "Bush doesn't need to go to Latin America to find sponsors of terrorists. He could start in Georgia at the School of the Americas [now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation]. It has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen. Among its graduates are many of the continent's most notorious torturers, mass murderers, dictators and state terrorists."

*Carlos Salinas, vocalist for the band Blowback and former director of government relations for Amnesty International.

"If Bush is trying to accomplish more of the same U.S. policy of unfettered corporate

globalization as well as his tired old pump-priming of perpetual war, he

shouldn't bother. Latin Americans don't want it. Latin Americans know

better than perhaps most people that the U.S. government is one of the

biggest sponsors of terrorism."

Phillip Warf, research associate with the Program on International Policy Attitudes and

contributor to the report "Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger."

"When we asked people in the U.S. what percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, their median estimate was 20 percent. When asked what they think an appropriate percentage would be, the median response was 10 percent. When they are told that, in fact, foreign aid is about 1 percent of the federal budget, only 13 percent of them think

that's too much."

Pacific Research Institute

(PRI promotes individual freedom and personal responsibility as the cornerstones of a civil society, best achieved through a free-market economy, limited government, and private initiative. PRI researches and analyzes critical issues facing California and the nation, and crafts strategies for policy reform.)

CAMBRIA, Calif.--Walzer's Razor

by Steven Hayward

Fifty years ago a few of the leading intellectuals on the left, such as Lionel Trilling and Dwight MacDonald, began to perceive growing weaknesses in the dominant liberal ideology of the time, and began to look hopefully for the emergence of a reasonable, responsible conservatism. Today, the shoe is on the other foot, as conservatives wonder whether a reasonable, responsible left is possible.

As David Brooks has pointed out, being on the left in recent years has meant being for freeing Mumia and cheering infantile leftists when they throw bricks through windows to protest globalization. September 11 made the position of the radical left even more acute, and brought out the worst instincts in many.

It has also provided a clear dividing line between two kinds of leftists: those who genuinely love America but who are confused, and those who resolutely hate America; between those who now fly the flag, some for the first time in their lives, and those who still want only to burn it. A number of prominent leftists, such as Christopher Hitchens and Paul Berman, have responded splendidly in the aftermath of September 11, while many of the usual suspects -- Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky, and Norman Mailer -- have reacted according to script.

Which brings us to Michael Walzer's immensely important article in the spring issue of Dissent magazine, entitled "Can There Be a Decent Left?" (The article can be seen at: Walzer, a professor at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, is the author of numerous books, including Just and Unjust Wars and Spheres of Justice, and thus is a serious man of the left. His chief complaint about his fellow leftists is that they are not serious. The leftist critique of American power, Walzer says, "has been stupid, overwrought, grossly inaccurate." Not all uses of American power are evil, Walzer points out. The left conducts itself on this point with "willful irresponsibility" that Walzer thinks is "pathological." David Horowitz would be hard pressed to exceed this critical vocabulary.

"The radical failure of the left's response to the events of last fall raises a disturbing question," Walzer writes; "Can there be a decent left in a superpower?" Walzer thinks there can, but only if the left jettisons most of its frivolous intellectual contrivances and emotional extravagances. Patriotism is not politically incorrect, as an earlier generation of leftists (George Orwell and Mary McCarthy, for example) understood. More fundamentally, Walzer calls on the left to find "something better than the rag-tag Marxism with which so much of the left operates today -- whose chief effect is to turn world politics into a cheap melodrama."

This may turn out to be the most difficult step for the left. Consider that the hottest book on the left today is Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire, which argues, among other risible ideas, that terrorism is merely "a crude conception and terminological reduction that is rooted in a police mentality." So long as Empire is a guiding light for the intellectual left, Walzer's noble project has little chance of success.

Responses to Walzer's article will appear in a future issue of Dissent. Their tone and substance will reveal whether the left is participating in the post-September 11 sobriety.

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