News & Politics

Wanted: Pro-U.S. Military Dictators and Strongmen for Latin America

In animated conversation outside the home of George Washington in Mt. Vernon, Va., May 5, 1939, are General Anastasia Somoza, President of Nicaragua, left, and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who seems to be listening attentively to his Central American visitor. (AP Photo)

“He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch,” Franklin Roosevelt supposedly said of the Anastasio Somoza, the former dictator of Nicaragua. This apocryphal statement pretty much summed up American foreign policy in Latin America during the Cold War.

Ah, for the good old days. Do you really think Somoza, Pinochet, Torrijos, or any other Latin American strongman in the old days would have allowed these caravans to even form, much less begin a trek to the U.S.? And the conditions that supposedly contribute to people fleeing the countries simply would not exist in most Latin American nations. Drug gangs would be swept from the streets and law and order would be restored.

Of course, most nations would still be poverty-stricken hell holes run by corrupt tyrants who tortured and murdered anyone who opposed them. But how much worse would it have been than it is today?

The people of Central and South America don’t suffer from a lack of government. They suffer from corrupt, brutal governments. They suffer from incompetent governments. If it was a matter of violence and drug gangs, ask yourself why the people of the inner city in Chicago aren’t fleeing en masse to Canada? Or, at least, why aren’t they setting up refugee camps in some of the tony suburbs of the city, demanding to be taken care of?

The answer is, as bad as city government in Chicago and the national government in Washington are, they’re a damn sight better than what people have going for themselves in Honduras or Nicaragua.

Erik Erickson has the right idea:

We need to find future Augusto Pinochets in Central and South America and get behind them, support them, teach them about and help them promote free markets, provide them a few helicopters, and then let them ruthlessly deal with their nation’s gangs, communists, and others who are causing the caravans of people fleeing those failing nations.

We could spend less in one decade solving the problems causing these caravans of migrants than we spend building the wall and, in the process, we would curtail China and Russia’s incursions into the Western Hemisphere. The stakes for hemispheric stability are great. The United States needs to be willing to get its hands dirty again.

Now, everybody breathe.

He’s not truly serious, of course, and neither am I. Erickson suggests dealing with the “root causes” of the problem.

The point in laying all of this out and getting some of you nodding along with it is this — there are real problems in Central and South America that are causing the migrant caravan heading north. Building a wall won’t fix those problems and at some point there will be a Democrat President again who might just fling open the doors even if you have a wall.

The United States needs to deal with the root causes and can actually deal with those causes cheaper over the next ten years than building a wall that remains unfunded and hypothetical.

While we are not dealing with those problems, China is. It has no qualms about backing distasteful autocrats who abuse human rights. We have no competing systems and policies in place to respond. So in addition to not dealing with the root causes of the repeated caravans, we are letting a despotic, communist regime plant roots in the Western Hemisphere and doing little to nothing to respond thereto.

Again, we’re back to the “he’s our son of a bitch” foreign policy. The problem with dealing with “root causes” is that everyone believes it begins with democratic reform. Sorry, but that’s nonsense. No democratically elected government that believes in human rights will ever — ever — be able to clean up the drug gangs and other criminals that make life a living hell for ordinary people in Central and South America.

What’s needed are ruthless, brutal leaders who recognize human rights as a luxury you can’t afford when the only law is administered by gangs with guns and the streets are chaotic and violent. We won’t be able to support the dictators openly like we used to. But that’s why we have a CIA.

It won’t happen, of course. But there will come a time very soon when the governments of these countries will devolve into military dictatorships out of sheer desperation. This will give our presidents and congressmen the opportunity to be outraged about the lack of human rights and brutal way these government deal with dissent.

Secretly, these same people will be praying that the strongmen can restore order that escapes the governments of today.