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At least the Cold War made sense.
August 30, 2006 2:00 AM   Subscribe

Now we're faced with a supposedly democratic Russia where the opposition parties are established, crushed, united, their leadership changed, all at the behest of the president. China, now clearly a capitalist state, albeit one without the democratic trimmings, still calls itself communist. Vietnam has gone much the same way.

Some things remain the same, though. America's still meddling in Latin America, just like it did during the Cold War. The US Army is also fighting a guerilla resistance in Iraq, its leaders apparently ignorant of the lessons of history, yet accusing others of exactly that. It's just like the 60s, when it was just as obvious who had learnt lessons and who hadn't.
posted by imperium (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Um, no.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:22 AM on August 30, 2006


re: last link.. Giap is 95 years old. "Gen Giap lived through more than 50 years of war against the Japanese, French, Americans, Cambodians and Chinese." That's a lot-o war. And he won. Look forward to A History of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
posted by stbalbach at 4:38 AM on August 30, 2006


Hey, unfair. Putin is doing a great job restoring order and human rights in Russia.
posted by senor biggles at 4:58 AM on August 30, 2006


I've wondered whether the vacuum created by the fall of the USSR inadvertently caused the problems we're seeing now. It's much easier to hedge against one giant ideology rather than a gazillion small ones. Maybe that's why certain persons of a certain ideology long to replace "communists" with "islamofascists".
posted by rzklkng at 5:09 AM on August 30, 2006


I'm having trouble seeing the point to this post. It's literally all over the map, but for what end?

A little less opinionating and a lot more focus, please.
posted by mediareport at 5:22 AM on August 30, 2006


What a weird post.

I asked if making Vietnam a communist state had been a higher priority than nationalism for Ho Chi Minh.

Gen Giap said: "In August 1945, while Ho Chi Minh was seriously ill, he personally told me: 'We have to win independence at any cost, even if the Truong Son mountains burn.' Our army and our people are determined to unite Vietnam."


I guess people really don't like being invaded! Crazy.
posted by stammer at 5:30 AM on August 30, 2006


Know what the Vietnamese call their 10 year old children chained to sewing machines making the clothes that American 10 year old kids wear to soccer practice? The lucky ones. 'Cause their gonna eat today.

Winning ain't all its cracked up to be, and the lessons of history are rarely what the people who talk about 'the lessons of history' think they are.
posted by Jos Bleau at 5:31 AM on August 30, 2006


Jos Bleau, that's a bunch of BS, the GDP of Vietnam doubled between 2000 and 2005, it is quickly on the rise. And after 50 years of total war you'd think it would take a few generations to catch up. People are not starving Vietnam is doing fine.
posted by stbalbach at 5:47 AM on August 30, 2006


Jos Bleau: What would the better option be? Would they be wealthy and care-free if they had endured as a French colony/client state?
posted by biffa at 5:50 AM on August 30, 2006


GYOB, please.
posted by MarshallPoe at 5:53 AM on August 30, 2006


WTF? What, exactly, is this post about?
posted by antifuse at 6:01 AM on August 30, 2006


Maybe he's trying to say that although we claim to have defeated Communism, there it is, all over the place. This post feels like the first couple sentences are missing.

stbalbach, economic and political systems may live in the macroecon world, but people live in the microecon world. GDP is a piss poor estimate of living conditions when there's inequality. Jos Bleau is unfortunately right. "Better" may not be "good enough", but it's "not as bad as it could be".

And of course we don't know better. That's why the Matrix is about to be CTRL-ALT-DEL again. The last 72-Year Cycle was up last year.
posted by rzklkng at 6:07 AM on August 30, 2006


I'm sorry people are confused by the post, or indeed that some hate it. It was inspired by the simultaneous publication of the article about Putin constructing a phoney opposition in Russia and the piece about US involvement in Venezuela. It made me think about the changes that have taken place since the Cold War, and wish to do a very brief overview of where some of the major players are now. That's all. Now let the shredding continue.
posted by imperium at 6:21 AM on August 30, 2006


Jos Bleau is unfortunately right.

Jos Bleau made some polemic comment that if lived in Vietnam your either starving to death or "chained' to a sewing machine serving your American economic overlord. Sorry, it's BS. Sure sounds good though for those with an agenda.
posted by stbalbach at 6:22 AM on August 30, 2006


It made me think about the changes that have taken place since the Cold War, and wish to do a very brief overview of where some of the major players are now

Adding that to the beginning of your post probably would have helped explain where you were going with it tremendously :)
posted by antifuse at 6:25 AM on August 30, 2006


Imperium. Oh, sorry, I see now. I think the thing is that very little has changed on the world scene since 9/11, the end of the cold war, or, for that matter, since the mid-19th century. It's all the working out of nationalism via the doctrine of ethnic ("national") self-determination. Communism is admittedly something of an exception, as is wacky Islamic fundamentalism (though both often had/have nationalistic overtones). But Communism and Islamism are swamped by nationalism. It's the driving force in modern world history, full stop.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:34 AM on August 30, 2006


"Jos Bleau made some polemic comment that if lived in Vietnam your either starving to death or "chained' to a sewing machine serving your American economic overlord"

No I didn't. But do you think that parents put their kids in these nightmarish sweatshops because they missed the sign-up deadline for fat camp and this was the next best weight-loss option? Or do you simply think that there is no child labor or malnutrution in Vietnam today?
posted by Jos Bleau at 6:35 AM on August 30, 2006


Why do people always assume that they're the only ones who read the news?
Better than one scattershot survey of fairly unconnected news stories would be one focused post that, say, looks to changes in post-communist society and uses multiple exampes to prove its point. Like, say, a PoliSci paper on whether the level of Communist Party entrenchment in Soviet states is a good predictor for the level of democracy post-Communism (it isn't).
posted by klangklangston at 6:38 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


I don't know why people are bitching about the post. I understood it as written, and didn't really need it to be expanded more unless Imperium wanted to add stuff.

Unless I didn't realize this was a writers workshop now -- in that case, I apologize.
posted by illovich at 6:39 AM on August 30, 2006


Sorry, but saying it's just like the 60s is useless.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:39 AM on August 30, 2006


it's kind of a meh post, but as someone who has tried and failed to make good political FPPs in the past, I sympathize.
posted by empath at 6:45 AM on August 30, 2006


He was in good health, sitting upright in military uniform, his voice and mind still sharp. His wife, Professor Dang Bich Ha, who is much younger, joined us for tea. They have been married since 1946. She is his second wife: his first died after being tortured by the French.

His wife's name is actually bitch?
posted by delmoi at 6:46 AM on August 30, 2006


Bich is Latin for generosity.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:47 AM on August 30, 2006


Hey, unfair. Putin is doing a great job restoring order and human rights in Russia.

Your linked story is about the Chechnyan government, you know the one Putin is trying to suppress. I'm confused, are you criticizing Putin for the actions of the people's he's trying to kill, or was your snarky sounding comment meant to be taken sincerely?
posted by delmoi at 6:49 AM on August 30, 2006


I still don't quite get this post, but I'll take the opportunity to point out that Giap nearly wiped out his army trying to fight conventional battles against the French before finally learning the hard way that guerrilla warfare was the only way he'd get anywhere. It's the same lesson soldiers from George Washington on down have had to learn; it's very hard for the military mind to accept the idea of hiding out, sneak attacks, etc. They all want to be moving masses of men around on open plains, like Napoleon.
posted by languagehat at 6:52 AM on August 30, 2006


Why do people always assume that they're the only ones who read the news?

because they're almost right -- they certainly belong to a minority. most of the public is either blissfully uninterested in / unaware of what's going on, or they're just too busy watching nonexistent "breaking news" about lame child murders from the 1990's
posted by matteo at 6:53 AM on August 30, 2006


Instead of the Cold War, now we've got Islam vs. the largely and increasingly secular West. IOW, instead of one incredibly stupid, ultimately pointless confrontation, we've got another. Oh well, an an enemy is a useful thing to have I suppose.
posted by pax digita at 6:55 AM on August 30, 2006


and by the way, Ho Chi Minh back when he was a student used to have dinner at my local restaurant. they still have his portrait up
posted by matteo at 6:58 AM on August 30, 2006


One time Ronald Reagan ate at a cool little diner where I went to college, and they have a plaque about it over the table where he sat.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:01 AM on August 30, 2006


delmoi, the article is about the government Putin installed in Chechnya and the criminal misbehaviour of the police and security services of that government. So yes, it was a sincerely snarky comment.
posted by senor biggles at 7:07 AM on August 30, 2006


delmoi, the article is about the government Putin installed in Chechnya and the criminal misbehaviour of the police and security services of that government. So yes, it was a sincerely snarky comment.

Ah, I see. Still it seems like the people there would be a lot worse off under hardline islamic rule. In Saudi Arabia the woman would have been stoned.
posted by delmoi at 7:10 AM on August 30, 2006


>>China, now clearly a capitalist state, albeit one without the >>democratic trimmings, still calls itself communist.
China is indeed communist. Politcally it is pure communist. Eonomically, while capitalism has a large presence, 90% of those capitalist businesses are owned by the PRC.
posted by allelopath at 7:15 AM on August 30, 2006


Jos, your comments on Vietnem are woefully uninformed. Vietnam has made great strides in combating child labor in the past 10 years. You should have picked another country to make your point (as facile as it was).

Child labor in Vietnam.
posted by Falconetti at 7:23 AM on August 30, 2006


I'm having trouble seeing the point to this post. It's literally all over the map, but for what end?

JUST LIKE AMERICA!!!!
posted by Artw at 7:35 AM on August 30, 2006


I've seen the data you cite - yes, child labor has decreased due to changes in rice farming practises.

So of course, those changes in the ag sector means that all the sweatshops went away. And the rising price of rice has now meant that more marginalized and desperately poor people can find what they need to eat, rather than in the bad old cheap rice days.
posted by Jos Bleau at 7:39 AM on August 30, 2006


Jos, you should know when to give up. Your original comment was dumb and now you're just digging a whole deeper. Your point, that Vietnam is some failed state where most children are starving, is just wrong. Accept it, move on. Foreign investment is continually increasing in the country and most people consider it in a pretty good spot, economy-wise.

As for the post, it's an interesting point with some merit. In many ways, the Cold War never ended. There was just a bit of lull while the pieces moved around. You've still got the same people in the same places with the same mindset. The bloated military-industrial complex and the talk of "client states" and "domino theories" is all the rage again. It's like the 40 years after WW2 were so much fun everybody has decided to do it again.
posted by nixerman at 8:40 AM on August 30, 2006


"because they're almost right -- they certainly belong to a minority. most of the public is either blissfully uninterested in / unaware of what's going on, or they're just too busy watching nonexistent "breaking news" about lame child murders from the 1990's"

And that minority makes up the majority of Metafilter users. I know it's such a fucking drudge to enlighten the benighted savages, but maybe, just maybe, most of us on this website (and indeed, far more people than you'd think in general society) already fucking get it and don't need the weekly round-up of garbled leftism and vague political points.
Certainly not here.
posted by klangklangston at 8:52 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


alleopath, I think a more accurate description of China would be of an authoritarian neo-mercantilist state.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:36 AM on August 30, 2006


"Your point, that Vietnam is some failed state where most children are starving, is just wrong."

Did I say that? Nope.

I never said that Vietnam was a failed state. I never said that most children are starving. I did say that the alternative for the kids chained up in sweatshops is malnurishment.

I'm willing to bet such conditions weren't what the revolutionary generation had in mind when it started its struggle. The point of "winning ain't all its cracked up to be" is not that the Vietnamese should regret their independence, but that it hasn't worked out exactly as they'd hoped.

If you think there are no sweatshops or malnurishment in Vietnam, your simply ignorant - or fooling yourself.
posted by Jos Bleau at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2006


China is indeed communist. Politcally it is pure communist. Eonomically, while capitalism has a large presence, 90% of those capitalist businesses are owned by the PRC.

This is defining communism as any elite class in control of the state call themselves communist by virtue of their name, the CCP.

China has a capitalist economy largely driven by this elite class, so if anything it's just a starker, more naked version of the United States. (oh, no I didn't!)
posted by linux at 10:16 AM on August 30, 2006


Imperium, I think it is a fine post, and I enjoyed travelling the train of thought. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. By the way, the US started overthrowing established governments in Latin America in the early 1900s with Nicaragua (we didnt want competition for our canal) and Honduras (we felt that bananas were of such vital national interested that the Hondurans should not be trusted to run their own country and threaten the vital banana supply). And on throughout the 20th Century (Dominican Republic, Haiti in the Carribean, Gutamala, El Salvador, and well, you likely know the depressing rest of the story). Thanks again for the post.
posted by Gaius Gracchus at 10:25 AM on August 30, 2006


[expletive deleted] said:
alleopath, I think a more accurate description of China would be of an authoritarian neo-mercantilist state.

I, for one, welcome our new authoritarian neo-mercantilist overlords.

Man, I've been waiting to do that.
posted by Mister_A at 10:32 AM on August 30, 2006


By the way, the US started overthrowing established governments in Latin America in the early 1900s with Nicaragua...

Actually, we started overthrowing them in the 1800s. Remember the Maine! And before that there was the Mexican War; yes, it was a land grab rather than a coup, but the result was the overturning of the government as well.
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on August 30, 2006


But that's all in the past! This century's gonna be totally different! This century it won't be about foreign intervention and messing around. It's going to be more about staying home, knitting and doing crossword puzzles.
posted by storybored at 11:55 AM on August 30, 2006


"I never said that most children are starving. I did say that the alternative for the kids chained up in sweatshops is malnurishment."

Or labor reforms. Or a different model of capitalism. Or NGO help.

Part of what makes your statement so objectionable and so ignorant is the ignorance toward the myriad of other options that exist on a broader scale. Further, many of those kids aren't likely to starve if not in sweatshops, rather they are in sweatshops because the parents feel that this is the best avenue for the kids, or because the parents think that the kid is getting a real job in the city.
posted by klangklangston at 12:00 PM on August 30, 2006


Ignorant/ignorance? Bad rhetorical form, Josh.
posted by klangklangston at 12:00 PM on August 30, 2006


Good points languagehat. I'd suggest our first regime change was taking Hawaii in 1893 from the existing consitutional monarchy to benefit American planter interests. And I agree that the Mexican-American war was more of a land theft than a regime change. After Hawaii, we did take Cuba, the Phillipines and Puerto Rico, but we stole those territories from Spain, not from indigenous governments (although we did claim to be helping the independent movements in Cuba and the Phillipines in order to goad the US public into supporting these new imperial adventures, and then when the war was over, oops, independence, not so much, colonization that's the ticket).

TR, the revisionist saint, fomented a fake nation of Panama to steal the Isthmuth territory from Columbia (in order to preclude the Nicaraguan Isthmus canal project from ever taking place - bizzarely at the behest of some French interests). Stealing the territory that would become Panama wasnt a regime change, it was again (shock! gasp!) a land grab.

Sorry for the anal-ness of the response. I think its important that we recognize that the imperialists who have periodically help power since 1893 have had a full service menu of options at their disposal: regime change; land grabs; direct military interventions etc.
posted by Gaius Gracchus at 12:23 PM on August 30, 2006


Actually, the alternative to children chained up in sweatshops is children working the street corners selling trinkets to tourists, or working in their parents' shops or farms. In short, helping their families survive and prosper.

Still, a majority of children go to school and lead normal lives. My relatives, while poor even by Vietnamese standards, manage to send their kids to school, and my cousins are by and large a happy, well-adjusted lot.
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:42 PM on August 30, 2006


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