Good article. I’m willing to hear out critiques of American policy (after the total clusterf*** in Afghanistan, we need it), but waxing rhapsodic about Communist China is a good sign that one’s arguments are not to be taken seriously.

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Feb 13Liked by Misha Saul

Well the US did save Australia's bacon in WWII.

Although I have become more sympathetic to some of Chomsky's critiques after the failures in Iraq (which I, to my shame, vehemently supported) and the current world craziness (including the Ukraine war and our failed attempt to mollify Iran), I always thought of him as halving half-opinions. One can lament our support of Indonesia very brutal treatment of Timor but then how can you make apologies for Pol Pot or Mao? The US is far from perfect but to think it would be better if China was the hegemon seems, well, naive to say the least. Let's think what happened during the era of US hegemony

1. World wide poverty fell by the most ever in history

2. China was allowed to prosper and become powerful (perhaps a mistake)

3. Democracy thrived in many areas which it had long been absent.

China is currently committing a real genocide against the Uighurs (and not for the first time in its history). How can you imagine that their hegemony would be anywhere near as benevolent as ours was? The US may often suck but you need to show a better realistic alternative before throwing it out.

One last story, when I was in grad student, a friend of mine who is now a very distinguished economic historian and Marxist went into a long harangue about how bad the enclosures were in 18th century England and that perhaps 20,000 people died because of them. I then said that it sounded similar to the holodomor in the Ukraine in the 1930 (which incidentally killed off my relatives who hadn't emigrated to the US). He said, no, collectivization was necessary in Russia and those deaths were inevitable. I was so shocked by that I couldn't reply.

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Feb 11·edited Feb 26Liked by Misha Saul

A bit of a pet peeve of mine, but

“Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) also helped the CIA overthrow the democratically elected government of Chile in 1973.”

The US did not overthrow the Allende Government. Certainly, the CIA tried to do so in 1970, when he was first elected, but found only tepid support among the military class. The CIA maintained those military contacts, and because these people later found themselves highly placed in the Pinochet Regime, one could correctly state that the CIA’s influence over Chilean politics was higher under Pinochet than Allende. However, this is a Rube Goldberg argument*: it is patently obvious that the Chicago School-loving dictator would be more closely aligned with the US than the socialist receiving covert Soviet support.

Blaming the US for the 1973 coup is simply the common delusion found among leftists that only the United States has agency. Certainly, it is impossible for them to conceive that Allende played the game of politics so poorly that a few million dollars the CIA spent on propaganda (ironically, much of it directed at supporting striking truckers) made a difference.

The strongest argument is that the perception of US support among the pustchists, bolstered by the direct connection of many informants in the military and police forces to the CIA, made them confident of American support if they succeeded. But again, this is an argument which hardly accomplishes more than is patently obvious. US support for anti-communist governments in 1973 could be readily expected (also, amusingly, the CIA attempted to use these connections to get Chilean military to stop torturing people, since this harmed pro-Pinochet propaganda efforts—it didn’t work).

The coup itself came as somewhat of a surprise to the United States, albeit a welcome one (although not as welcome as one might presume, the CIA had spent millions destroying Allende’s reputation, and was confideng of his defeat in the next election). Declassified documents and intelligence reports reveal no direct American involvement in Pinochet’s takeover, and a great deal of incompetence and lack of information-sharing within the CIA.

The simplistic and wholesale attribution of blame for the 1973 Chilean Coup d’etat to the CIA is so gross a distortion that it is essentially a lie. The truth—that the CIA used propoaganda to oppose Allende and infiltrated the Chilean military, while the US overtly put economic pressure on his government—is too boring and weak for leftists to use as an anti-American cudgel. The result is that an ahistorical and paternalistic-colonial perspective (what else can you call the utter abrogation of Chilean power over their own affairs?) has become commonplace belief in online leftist circles, and even the internet at large.


*In that it appears to be complicated, but is functionally quite simple. The claim is that the US opposition to Allende and later support for Pinochet constitutes “overthrowing” the Allende government. In reality, the causality of the situation is far more difficult to assign.

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Have you read "Unholy Fury" by James Curran? Whitlam seemed to try breaking out of this role

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Feb 11Liked by Misha Saul

Excellent summary :)

I can already hear the Paul Keating/ Bob Carr talking points 😂 on our ABC

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Feb 11Liked by Misha Saul

> (We might take this critique further: most (all?) subjects can be understood by a smart and interested layman and the ‘secret knowledge’ of experts is generally overrated. Nothing is beyond your ken!)

I'm a trained mathematician, and even just what the mathematicians in the next field over are doing is usually quite beyond my ken. To really understand it, I would typically go beyond the interested layman, and become quite the expert myself.

A surface level, pop-sci understanding of many fields is possible for the interested layman, of course.

I feel confident that I could get a good layman's understanding of civil engineering pretty quickly. It's a fascinating topic after all. But I wouldn't feel confident claiming enough understanding to be able to sign off on a proposal (or otherwise find flaws in it) from a a trained civil engineer planning to eg build a bridge.

Or have a look at what professional Star Craft players or chess players are doing.

Political policy doesn't have the kind of causal feed back you get from the fields I mentioned, mostly because you can't really run controlled experiments. So the claimed experts might not be experts at all.

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