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Sun Mar 17, 2019, 02:00 AM

The Horrific Long-Term Consequences of Regime Change

by Jacob G. Hornberger
March 15, 2019

84-year-old Emma Thiessen Alvarez has never forgotten the day in 1981 when Guatemalan officials came to her house looking for her daughter, a student leader who had escaped from military custody. Unable to find her, the officials settled for Thiessenís 14-year-old son. She never saw him again.

Thiesenís story was highlighted in a recent New York Times article because the Guatemalan legislature is now contemplating granting a blanket amnesty to military officials who participated in the rein of terror that the Guatemalan national-security establishment inflicted on the Guatemalan people for period of some 36 years.

Thiessen and other Guatemalans who were victimized during that period of time are not happy about the proposed amnesty. As Edgar Perez, a human-rights lawyer, put it, ďFor the victims, the sentence is their certificate of truth. It is their history.Ē

Guatemalans are not the only ones who have an interest in what is now occurring in that country. So do the American people. Thatís because it was the U.S. national-security establishment that set into motion the events that ultimately led to the death of Emma Thiessen Alvarezís son, along with 200,000 other Guatemalans, as well as to massive human-rights violations at the hands of the Guatemalan national-security establishment.


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Reply The Horrific Long-Term Consequences of Regime Change (Original post)
Judi Lynn Mar 2019 OP
Igel Mar 2019 #1
Paka Mar 2019 #2
Judi Lynn Mar 2019 #3
Paka Mar 2019 #4
Stuart G Mar 2019 #5

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 05:31 PM

1. Most regime changes end badly.

If we're lucky, the result is little different from what went before, even if there was a bit of chaos in between periods of stability.

If we're very, very lucky then the result is a net improvement for most people.

Quite often it's a long road just back to the status quo.

And it's discounting any progress that would have been made in the *absence* of regime change. So in the Soviet Revolution people took as a baseline the economy when the revolution happened; the economy at the time was that of a war and riven by strikes. If you use the economic growth baseline from before the war, that growth level wasn't reached until a decade after the revolution and it was still years later when the revolutionary economy was where the pre-war economy projections said the economy would have been in the absence of war. In Syria, people will be happy to get back to the status quo ante c. 2011. Of course, it's likely they'd have been better off in most ways given the progress being made on various fronts as of 2010, had they just continued unaltered.

It's not an unreasonable cultural value to value stability over democracy in that kind of a situation, with that kind of a past. Russian surveys, for instance (as well as Turkish ones) have been consist in precisely that kind of ranking. It explains why Putin can be popular even as oppression's tendrils twine around ever-increasing portions of Russian society. During the turbulent '90s when there were more freedoms there was more chaos, for instance, and few there were to defend things or be optimistic. Even when Putin was up for election, few had the guts to point in that in all the wreckage corruption was down, Russian economic fundamentals were finally sorting themselves out, and by the time Putin took office and there were obvious positive gains the gains had been there since before the election. To do that you'd have to tell the Russian populace that their perceptions about how the economy was progressing were incorrect, and to do that you'd be defending El'tsin.

I was in the Czech Republic in 2003 and 2004. They were still actively debating what to do about the secret police records. Some wanted a full expose in the interest of "justice." Others said that so many people were implicated that the first order of business shouldn't be tearing society apart but in just rebuilding. But how can you rebuild when you had all the spies and informants, the persecuted said. To which the only proper answer was that many of the spies and informants were themselves both oppressors and oppressed, which was the trick of that kind of a society: You compel good but weak people to act as proxy oppressors, thereby corrupting society and making it less likely that there'd be a large contingent of the "pure" that would relish having their dark history exposed to friends and families. It neutered a lot of the weaker portions of the opposition in helped oppress the stronger portions.

In the end the result was that they sealed the records. There were leaks, often put out by those who were weak and corrupted against those who claimed some sort of moral purity. It was less "society building" and more "dragging them down to our own mediocre" level, as though a person's error in not meeting some ideal of behavior somehow vitiates that ideal.

Those corrupted through weakness tended to return to their state of weak purity. They toiled on.

Those who led the corruption of the state and of society often lived in fear, but often in greatly reduced statuses. If you were vice-president before the Sametova revoluce you weren't in a position of great power. Moreover, you had to be aware that there were people just waiting for you to screw up.

Years later a lot of the lists of informants, etc., got out. A few were upset. There were a few "revelations" for those who still cared. But after 20 years, those who found out what happened to love ones were just relieved to know. By then the ultimate behind-the-scenes killers were gone or so old as to not matter. Those who were younger and had informed were found to have been pressured and often got pity--they knew what happened to Marie or Marek and why, and had twenty years to think, "Was the threat of being demoted really worth doing that?" Punishment is personal; but the corruption of Czechoslovak was anything but personal. I haven't even heard of any Czech's green card being revoked because of incorrect paperwork being filed.

Then again, the real oppression in Czech society was in the '50s and '60s. By the '70s Czech society was so straitjacketed that the really bloody aspects of repression were limited in scope, so that's older history than in Guatemala, and there wasn't still crushing poverty and the resentment that breeds. (There's also more cohesion in Czech society than in Guatemalan, esp. after the ethnic cleansing after WWII.)

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 09:05 PM

2. K&R

Thanks for the post, Judi Lynn.

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Response to Paka (Reply #2)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 11:05 PM

3. Thank you for taking the time to read the article, Paka.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #3)

Mon Mar 18, 2019, 01:38 AM

4. Well worth it.

It was a good read.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Mar 18, 2019, 11:32 AM

5. K and R

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