|March 10th, 2014||#21|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, February 5, 1988]
Case Against Aid Fails
By Alex Linder
Let's examine two dominant themes of the liberal case for ending contra support as evidenced in the debate leading up to Wednesday's House vote.
The first bit of demagoguery is the liberal adjuration to "let the Nicaraguans decide their future for themselves." This specious appeal to American respect for self-determination, (which, you'll recall, was one of Wilson's Fourteen Points), is pure misrepresentation of the question Congress is deciding in voting to aid the freedom fighters.
When confronted in this manner, the listener is meant to feel shame that his/her country is interfering in the internal affairs of another state wtihout warrant. That is, s/he's supposed to conclude that if we'd pull out, the situation would improve. This formula ignores the fact that the Sandinistas, of their own volition, allied with the Soviet Union and have threatened to spread their political system.
Look at the facts. From 1983 to 1987 the U.S. gave the Contras roughly $200 million dollars. In 1986 alone, the Soviets gave the Sandinistas an estimated $850 million. Over the course of the revolution Soviet aid has amounted to nearly $3 billion. In other words, while we debate around the clock over the extension of niggardly sums ($36.25 million this year), the Soviets give willingly and freely. Yet, have you ever heard a liberal express concern about Soviet involvement in Nicaragua?
Besides ignoring Soviet entanglement in Nicaragua, there is a second, subtler, premise of the slogan "Nicaragua for the Nicaraguans," (to paraphrase mildly). That is that the Sandinistas are a legitimate, democratic government. But how could Nicaraguans, assuming all Soviet and American aid were ended, decide their own future? The Sandinistas, as practically everyone now admits, are Marxists. The leaders of the country, the National Directorate, have said frequently that they'll not hold "bourgeois" elections to raffle off power. When one considers the vast military force they head, these assertions must be taken seriously. Besides controlling a 70,000-man army along with an equally large reserve, the Sandinistas dominate all avenues for internal opposition in the media. They have also consolidated economic power in state-run agencies and unions, giving them vital leverage over workers with divergent opinions. In short, Nicaragua today is a totalitarian society on the order of East Europe rather than traditional Latin Ameriacn society.
The above being the case, is it nevertheless possible that the average man in Nicaragua really does favor the Sandinistas? Well, no one knows for sure because polling is illegal in Nicaragua. Still, we do have evidence from other Central American countries. This evidence shows that the citizens of the region have clear attitudes toward the Sandinista regime. The following evidence comes from a Costa Rican affiliate of Gallup quoted by Susan Purcell in the Fall 1987 issue of Foreign Affairs. In a study of attitudes in Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, it was found that, among other things: 80% in all countries see Nicaragua as a threat to the region. Majorities think the majority of Nicaraguans favor the resistance. Between 54 and 69% believe the resistance, were it to gain power, would hold free elections and establish democracy. Finally, more than two-thirds of the respondents in every country approve of U.S. military aid to the Contras. On point after point, the majorities of the populations of Nicaragua's neighbors express their agreement with the American Right.
The second dominant theme of the Left is the old sixties cant "Give Peace a Chance." Liberals want Reagan to cut off aid to the Contras in return for vague promises of democratization. The problem with this request is simple. It ignores the role of force in furthering Sandinista liberalization. Without Contra pressure, which, as Purcell amply demonstrates, has deepened over the last year, there is nothing to make the Sandinistas change. No army in Central America could dream of forcing them. The only things that worry the Sandinistas are the Contras and their U.S. backers. To desert the Contras at this point, when they are gaining vastly in strength and ability, for the sake of trusting the Sandinistas to abide by the Arias Plan -- a plan with neither means of verification nor penalty for failure to live up to its demands for democratization -- would greatly set back the cause of democracy in Nicaragua and Latin America.
Let us hope then that Congress will do what the majority of those in Central America wish: support the Contras. Let this support, moreover, be at a level high enough to offset Soviet aid to the communist ruling elite. Finally, may the liberals call into question some of their central beliefs about the nature of the regime they presently support in Nicaragua.//
Last edited by Alex Linder; March 10th, 2014 at 08:38 AM.
|March 10th, 2014||#22|
[News article published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, February 26, 1988]
Elie Wiesel Spends and Evening in Big Bridges
By Alex Linder
Holocaust survivor and noted writer and speaker Elie Wiesel defined evil as indifference, especially indifference to suffering, during his brief stop at the Claremont Colleges earlier this week.
Besides various smaller engagements, Wiesel spoke for an hour during "An Evening with Elite Wiesel" at Big Bridges Auditorium on Wednesday, February 24.
The evening started with an introduction by John Roth, a philosophy professor at CMC. Roth briefly detailed Wiesel's history as a prisoner in the concentration camps Buchenwald and Auschwitz and went on to laud the author for the "character and spirit" that govern his work. Wiesel is the author of some thirty books, recipient of over 40 honorary Ph.D.'s and the winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.
Before starting his actual lecture, Wiesel accepted questions from the crowd, saying that he would incorporate his answer into his speech. Questions dealt with varied subjects including the Arab-Israeli conflict, anti-Semitism, and the nature of evil.
After opening with a brief story about throwing out the first ball at the World Series, Wiesel moved on to more serious matters. Noting taht as a Nobel laureate he was "supposed to know everything," Wiesel lamented the perception that "our planet has shrunk, but the problems facing it become more and more complex."
Asking how one can hope, given the desperate nature of the world situation, Wiesel affirmed that madness is "the key word" in describing the 20th century. Nevertheless, he continues to try to find "a spark of hope in madness, and perhaps beyond madness." In particular, Wiesel pointed to the Iran-Contra affair as a prime example of madness.
Moving along to the issue of anti-Semitism, Wiesel said that he naively thought that Auschwitz might turn out to mark the end of anti-Semitism, its deadliest practitioners having been destroyed. But "anti-Semitism is flourishing," stated the author. Furthermore, it has sprung up in places like Japan, where it has "no right nor reason to be." Anti-Semitism has historically been a European phenomenon and the Japanese ought to leave it there, he asserted.
At this point Wiesel turned to Israel and her problems with the Occupied Territories. Tracing the history of that state, he noted that six Arab armies invaded Israel on the day of its inception as a state. Still, he said, Israeli conduct of late has been a "source of anguish" for him. Then he read to the crowd a letter he had written to a young Palestinian back in 1975 -- a letter he said he could rewrite now with even more pain and anguish.
In conclusion, Wiesel said that "mankind needs peace and some kind of compassion more than ever." He said he has drawn a two-fold lesson as a result of his personal experiences; first, that there are no answers -- only the immortal answer; and second, that just as despair can only come to us from others, so does hope. Peace, he said, is not God's gift to his creatures; it's a special gift we can give one another.//
Last edited by Alex Linder; March 10th, 2014 at 08:53 AM.
|March 10th, 2014||#24|
[Senior Speakers candidacy statement, published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, April 8, 1988]
As one who has attended several graduations, let me first assure you that I appreciate your concerns about the speaker. Most importantly, you do not want to pick someone who will embarrass you in front of your parents.
To this end, in my speech I will focus on unifying and uplifting themes, avoidign the divisive political polemics that, while the staples of Opinions pages, are inappropriate in a graduation ceremony.
That said, you also want a speaker who can transcend mere platitude; someone with a bit of insight. My writings in Student Life attest to my ability in this area.
Without getting into the content too deeply, my speech will cover traditional themes in an enthralling and stimulating way. I will, among other things, refer to the words engraved in stone on College Avenue. My speech will have the proper mix of tradition and novelty; a bit of spice, and, although I can't guarantee I'll cry, a bit of sentiment.//
|March 10th, 2014||#25|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, April 8, 1988]
By Alex Linder
Over the last four years it is fair to say that the question of divesting from South Africa has been the biggest and hardest fought issue at Pomona. Although Pomona itself did not divest, it was pressure of the type found on our campus that was instrumental in forcing Reagan to impose sanctions against that country. Now -- a year and a half later -- it is interesting and instructive to look at the change, if any, those sanctions have brought about.
First, consider the course American policy followed under Reagan up through around 1985. Chester Crocker developed a policy called constructive engagement by which America could use her admittedly minor political influence to encourage South Africa to promote political progress through the expansion of individual rights to minorities. Further, American companies employing South Africans would be encouraged to sign the Sullivan Principles, guaranteeing they would treat their white and black employees equally.
Around 1984, the political pressure for sanctions and divestment began to grow. Although there was little actual change in the internal conditions in South Africa, in the wake of America's economic upturn and decommunization of Grenada, American liberals needed something to attack Reagan with. Hence, sanctions.
Surely, it seemed, sanctions was an issue we could all agree on. Is not South Africa's a racist government? Do not we Americans support, however indirectly, this racism by allowing companies to invest there? Finally, on purely utilitarian grounds, is it not wiser to go along with the wishes of those who will inevitably take power - the black majority? Those favoring action against South Africa answered the questions this way: 1) South Africa has a racist government, thus we must try to get rid of it. 2) Doing business, even through firms that have signed the Sullivan Principles, shows support (through taxes, etc.) for the racism that is South Africa's hallmark. 3) The majority of black South Africans favor sanctions, and to be moral we must go along with what they want. Conclusion: We must try to get as many nations as possible to declare sanctions against South Africa.
Which brings us back to the initial question, now slightly refined: Have the sanctions declared on South Africa changed the sitaution for the better? ("Better" is here defined as more democratic.) In a word: No. To understand why not, we must look at what people expected sanctions would do. First, many people thought that sanctions would put enough pressure on the ruling white elite to force them to change their ways, i.e., enfranchise blacks and other racial minorities. Second, some hoped that sanctions would hurt blacks so much that they would rise up and overthrow the whites. Thirdly, many in favor of sanctions just wanted to do what they felt to be morally correct.
Regarding the first rationale, it is clear that sanctions have failed. Listen to the words of Stoffel van der Merwe, the deputy minister of information and constitutional planning and a leading reformer within the National Party: "Sanctions have not hurt our ability to survive, but they have limited our ability to do reform," (L.A. Times, March 13). Van der Merwe also said taht sanctions had slowed the pace of reform by "engendering a major backlash against any progressive measure." The economic statistics bear him out. In 1987 South Africa had a $3 billion surplus in its balance of payments; her gold holdings and foreign reserves have doubled from 1985; her economic growth rate has gone from a modest decline (-1.5%) in 1985 to 2.6 percent in 1987 and continues to rise. Thus, the effects of sanctions were relatively weak. South Africa simply shifted her trade to Japan and other Asian countries away from the U.S. and Europe. Although the calling back of short-term loans by some Western banks did result in increased unemployment and general economic slowdown, South Africa has by most measures rebounded.
Regarding the second motive, it is equally clear that this has failed. Blacks have not risen up and overthrown the whites. The much-heralded revolution is hardly imminent; if anything the situation is less heated and emotional than three years ago. And, as previously stated, the South African economy is growing, not declining.
It is the third motive, the question of being morally correct that is most interesting. Having answered the question of the effects of sanctions from the world in general, let us examine the effects of the American sanctions.
Listen to Fleur de Villiers, former associate editor of the Johannesburg Sunday Times: "Of the nearly 170 U.S. companies that have quit South Africa in the last few years, more than half have sold out -- at firesale prices -- to South African companies or local managements, thus creating some 100 new instant millionaires, all of them white." Further, de Villiers points out, under new South African ownership, many of these firms abandoned the costly measures required them as signatories of the Sullivan Principles and fired their black employees. Black South Africans also suffered because more government money had to be spent on developing oil and arms reserves in response to sanctions.
Perhaps the most insidious victory of the pro-sanctions crowd has been their successful convincing of the average American (or college student at least) that sanctions are what the blacks in South Africa want. (Their wishes, it is commonly accepted, deciding which course is moral for America to take.) In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The blacks in South Africa who favor sanctions are the hierarchies of the unions as well as those perceived by Western media as leaders (i.e., Bishop Tutu). Poll after poll has found, however, that when the average workers are asked, only 25 percent favor sanctions if it means they will undergo hardship. The people who favor sanctions are the ones who are not affected -- people like you and me and Tutu.
So here we are. When I last wrote about sanctions (fall semester 86/87) I said that we would be where indeed we are today: After having imposed sanctions and finding South Africa still non-democratic, facing the question of renewing sanctions or choosing another path. Clearly, we must side with the average working black South African and eschew sanctions, focusing instead on rebuilding economic leverage with an eye toward encouraging the evolution of South Africa into a more perfect democracy with respect for individual rights.
Finally, a point about demonstrations in general. It's wrong to get involved with things you do not understand. A couple hours out of your Friday afternoon may not be much to you, but to that black South African with six dependents, Ford's divestment may be a matter of life and death.//
Last edited by Alex Linder; March 10th, 2014 at 09:36 AM.
|March 10th, 2014||#26|
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life, Friday, April 15, 1988]
Liberal Sex Mores Debase
Sex is the Everest in the mountain range of human experience. Sex, however, is treated much too casually in the post-fifties world.
One major slogan of the sixties was: If it feels good, do it! The lack of self-restraint implicit in this lifestyle typifies the childishness of the age of the hippie; a childishness defined by George Will as an "inability to imagine an incompatibility between one's appetites and the world."
Attitudes like this, along with advances in medical technology, combined to change mores. With the Pill, men and women could have sex without worrying about pregnancy.
But, from the standpoint of 1988, the new-found sexual freedom came with a high price. the consequences of the prevailing attitude toward sex -- I will do anything I want with my body and trust medical science to find a cure -- resulted in record numbers of sexually transmitted diseases. And then came AIDS.
The lethality of AIDS brought sexual behavior into sharper focus. The balance of discussions excluded the moral questions and focused on the technical aspects. Why was this? Primarily, because enlightened opinion is that any sex between consenting people (including minors) is a good thing.
Look at the approach to sex education. Who will deny that the message to high schoolers is that if you are going to have sex, then use contraceptives to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases? Occasionally the educational establishment makes a bow toward pre-marital abstinence, but its heart is not in it. Secretary of Education William Bennett is the only major public figure directly concerned with education who adamantly supports emphasizing the morality of abstinence as the basis of sex education.
So how does Pomona fit into this? Basically, we Pomonans have easy access to birth control, educational materials, etc., and, as opposed to high school students, are adults with presumed abilities to run our lives. The problem is that we treat sex as a toy. Sex is just another way of plugging into something pleasurable -- like a Walkman. This approach to sex cheapens it, trivializes it, and debases the participants.
The point of life is to be a good citizen. This traditionally involves marriage and raising a family. The real pleasure in life comes from living out your allotted tiem with your one faithful partner. With the person you marry you are free to reveal your innermost self, the part inside the shell that protects you from an often hostile world. Sex is the deepest and most emotionally and spiritually fundamental way to relate to another person; accordingly, within marriage it is most natural and fitting.
If sex were only a physical thing, it would hardly be such a divisive question. If it were easy to deal with, every culture on earth would hardly have created intricate customs and taboos surrounding it. But the emotional, physical, and spiritual fusion that makes sex the most fulfilling human activity also make it the most dangerous, and when we reduce sex to the purely physical, we demoralize ourselves.
It is a fast world with much pressure to conform. In relation to sex, conform means losing virginity around seventeen. Maturity -- that is, self-restraint -- requires that we step back and slow down.
The upshot of the sixties is that some men and women tend to use one another as mere tools for their own physical gratification. Marriage, the basic institution of society, is weakened, seemingly pointless and detrimental because it gets in the way of any new sexual experience. The high divorce rate attests to this assertion. In conclusion, sexual mores do not change overnight, but over a generation. I call on my peers to help contribute to a renewed societal respect for the proper role of sex (inside a marriage), and conduct themselves as responsible citizens.//