National Security

Applying the Lessons of History

When asked why he turned from late-60s anti-war radical to brilliant conservative, famed polemicist David Horowitz once said (and I’m paraphrasing here): It takes years of long hard work, failure, struggle, and compromise to make the world a better place. You can make it worse in an afternoon. History agrees.

He realized that good things are rarely easily achieved and the left’s dream to immanentize the eschaton is a fantasy that can lead to disappointment, bitterness, and death.

Such as it is with two recent issues that some on the right have pinned their hopes upon: Venezuela and tariffs.

Yes, “people power,” backed by the U.S., has worked before. The Philippines under Marcos for instance. But Marcos was right-wing and a U.S. ally. We had leverage. The situation is not the same in Venezuela. All the street theatrics in the world, also like in France, will not get a determined government of any stripe to turn tail and run. Did Richard Nixon unilaterally pull out of Vietnam in a heartbeat because scruffy-class and draft-dodging children told him to? Not quite. There were massive protests for the Equal Rights Amendment and No Nukes. Either come to pass? And communists? Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 tell a tale there.

Plus, if Venezuelans are as stubborn as the Latin Americans I grew up with, they’d rather feast on broken glass than admit they are wrong.

With Russian and Chicom backing, Maduro is safe for the moment. Juan Guaidó, as correct as his cause is, now looks to outside military power; his people are meeting with our Southern Command, to effect regime change. Bad idea, at least when it comes to us yanquis. Won’t belabor since we’ve gone into it in a recent column. Yes, merely because we want Maduro to go, as would any person who believes in freedom, doesn’t mean he will. We must be cautious and not permit confirmation bias to affect our thinking. Because sometimes, the bad guys win. Understanding that is one of the facets of intellectual adulthood.

I wonder if the same holds true for the president’s policy on trade and tariffs? Sure, it is emotionally quite pleasant to hold Chicom feet to the fire on trade. And it is smart politics, as industrial (perhaps, post-industrial) battleground states such as MI, WI, and PA love sticking it to foreign competition and the resulting U.S. job picture. However, we’re not only employees, we are consumers and high tariffs are a tax. Go to any Walmart and look to see how many of the products on the shelves are Chinese-made. A bunch, huh?

Well, all those prices are going to go up, certain ones significantly, if we continue to pursue a trade war with China. The price hikes won’t matter to many who can afford it and shrug it off. Though for Walmart shoppers and others who rely on low consumer prices to make their household budgets work it could be a big handicap. History has shown more than once; Britain in the 1840s is a good example, that free trade benefits everyone.

A trade war benefits none, as we saw yesterday when the Dow lost over 600 points on news the Chinese are leveling their own tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods starting on the first day of June. This is after we recently hit them with tariffs on $200 billion of their goods.

You don’t have to be a Hans Morgenthau fan when it comes to realpolitik and Venezuela, or a Milton Friedman acolyte on trade, to comprehend the potential dangers to our foreign policy in this hemisphere and to our consumer-based economy if we fail to heed empirical evidence.

To get it you just have to read a history book.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
David Kamioner

David Kamioner is a veteran of US Army Intelligence, serving with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked as a political consultant for over fifteen years and ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia for four years. He is a public relations consultant in Washington, DC and lives in Annapolis, MD.

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