Regime Change? We've Been Here Before (And It Wasn't Pretty)





Mr. Ryan, a writer for the History News Service, is a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer, an associate of Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and a member of Clare Hall at Cambridge University.

Regime change is a trendy new term for an old and special kind of intervention, the kind President Bush has in mind for Iraq and its unsavory leader, Saddam Hussein.

Don't confuse it with preventing takeovers, restoring ousted leaders, removing ethnic-cleansing marauders or overthrowing governments that help terrorists attack us. We have done all of those things since World War II, but regime change consists exclusively of toppling an existing regime that displeases or worries the United States government.

Since World War II there have been at least four cases of classic regime change: the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran (1953), Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala (1954), Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam (1963) and Salvador Allende in Chile (1973). An effort aimed at Fidel Castro in Cuba (1962) failed.

These earlier ousters of heads of state are not encouraging. Regime changes have a terrible way of backfiring. The Bush administration, pundits and Iraqi expatriates tell us constantly that Iraq is ripe for revolution. This notion, promoted largely by exiles, brings to mind our disastrous attempt to invade Cuba with an exile army forty years ago. Our leaders had convinced themselves that the moment the Cuban people spotted a liberating force they would rise up against Castro. Nothing of the sort happened. It proved a total misreading of Cuban sentiment.

The same thing could happen in Iraq, where the people may well prefer the devil they know to American, mostly Christian, invaders. Even worse, the potential invaders have allied themselves with Britain, the discredited colonial power that Iraqis assumed had gone forever. Surely some will respond, but we cannot assume they will be numerous enough to help an invasion and occupation.

One thing will be different. In Iraq, the administration plans to use enormous force from the start. The Cuban expedition was far too small, under-equipped and under-supported. In fact, the hallmark of all the classic American regime changes has been the tiny amount of effort and resources provided by the United States. In Guatemala, Washington relied upon armed exiles; in Iran, Vietnam and Chile, upon covert U.S. government support for opponents of the local regime.

The overthrow of Diem began our descent into the hellish quagmire of the Vietnam War. Our involvement grew steadily into a disastrous conflict that still haunts the Pentagon. This time, we are told, things will be different. We will smash the enemy with a massive first assault.

But even if we should succeed in this, is there any reason to think we can establish a functioning democracy there? Democracy may sound attractive to many Iraqis weary of Hussein's dictatorship, but nothing has prepared them for the enormous social changes democracy requires: guarantees of free expression and individual rights, protection of private property, the rule of law, a willingness to make political compromises and to accept the outcome of free elections.

In all probability, opposition leaders will want us to help them pursue entirely different agendas, such as settling old tribal scores, changing the power imbalance between Shiites and Sunnis or helping the Kurds get their own country with a slice out of our NATO ally, Turkey.

Building a modern democracy in an Arab country ruled for years by a brutal tyrant will demand great staying power. Nothing in our regime-change history indicates that we possess that. In fact, we have usually left the countries in question worse off than we found them.

We turned Iran over to Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who ran so vicious and unpopular a regime that the country was ripe for the ayatollahs' revolution in 1978. Vietnam saw 12 years of brutal warfare after Diem's overthrow, and Chile suffered under the despicable rule of General Augusto Pinochet after Allende was deposed. Guatemala entered decades of turmoil and violence after we threw out Arbenz. Among the countless victims was the first American ambassador killed on duty, Gordon Mein.

Changing regimes has left the United States worse off as well. That is something we should remember as we prepare to follow a very insular president into an uncertain military expedition for reasons seriously questioned by his own intelligence community.

We are poised at a moment of American hubris, awed by the spectacle of our own astonishing military might. Only an equally powerful sense of what is possible by other means can check us. The American pursuit of regime change is not new. Nor is its potential for great damage to us and to the world.


This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.


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Gus Moner - 10/28/2002

In reply to your query, Issac Asimov wrote that phrase I quoted. I did not realise that authorship was relevant; I thought the meaning of the phrase was the important aspect. Incidentally, what does Lenin have to do with Iraq and Iran? Who assigned you (or anyone else – US government included) to put an “end (to) the personal violence of state-sponsored poverty, secret police, block leaders and concentration camps?” (I assume you mean in Cuba).

Where is my selectiveness, odd as it may be to you? We were in a discussion on regime change. Any discussion on regime change brings us to the naked truth that an excuse has to be conjured up for it, examples cited.

Anyone can look at the disproportionate amount of blacks, natives and other minorities incarcerated in the US for the same crimes that significantly less whites are incarcerated for as a form of state-sponsored violence, persecution and terrorism. Death row is a good example. State sponsored executions are illegal in most of the civilised world except the USA. Putting children to death is a form of violence Virginia and Texas are keen on. Child executions, according to your source, Amnesty International, violate the human rights of children by executing them against international law and signed agreements. “The USA continued to use life imprisonment without the possibility of parole against defendants who were under 18 at the time of the crime, in violation of international law,” said their report. “The USA leads a tiny group of countries that have executed child offenders in the past decade. In the past four years only the USA (8), Iran (3), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (1) are reported to have carried out such executions. Earlier this year, the Democratic Republic of Congo commuted the death sentences of five children. China, the world's leading executing state, (whom you cite) abolished the death penalty for under-18-year-olds in 1997.” It’s strange company to be in, no? What is your definition of human rights, violence and state sponsored terrorism? Do you limit these to just the form of violence that governments you disapprove of carry out, or are you willing to oppose all their appalling forms?

If gassing your own people is a good reason to brand a nation and its leaders a threat, as Bush constantly tells us about Iraq, one only need look at Moscow to see where the dangers really are being manifested today. Which is also my point about N Korea, which is another smelly fish in the world body politic. Moreover, gassing your own people to free them from hostage takers could, depending on developments, have been marginally defensible. However, the KGB men running Russia have seen to it that it is not. Refusing to negotiate, they played the terrorist game and set up a doomsday scenario they carried to logical doom.

They could have pretended to withdraw troops, or done so temporarily until the hostages could be freed. Any ruse, any effort to buy time, wear down the terrorists psychologically would have been preferable to gassing the victims on the third day. Now, they refuse to even let out the information about the gas to find an antidote and refuse to provide one either, although their troops were inoculated prior top the attack. Thus, an additional 160 people are in danger of dying from the effects, 50 or so of whom are listed as critical. There are US citizens amongst the victims of a gang of hoodlums first and then of state sponsored terrorism to “save” them.

You seem traumatised by your involvement in combating Communism and with Cuban exile groups, perhaps understandably so considering the events you lived through. However, one need not lose objectivity in defending one’s cause, or the defence becomes dogmatic. An applicable quote here may be “where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?” (Jane Austen)

Is not the state sponsored poverty, lack of health care and illiteracy promulgated by capitalist oligarchies in Latin America condemn the majority of natives to abhorrent to you? Or are only the Communist ones worthy of your odium? That Cuba does or did segregate AIDS patients in camps (I am unsure of the status of this but will give you the benefit of the doubt) does not by pen stroke eliminate the fact they do indeed provide better primary education and health care to their population that any other Latin American nation. I am no defender of that regime, but I am trying to be objective when evaluating these situations.

By the way, what year was the data you cited on Amnesty International released? Also regarding Amnesty International incarceration statistics, where does the US fit in?


Gus Moner - 10/27/2002

Well, regarding your bemusement as to why most commentary on HNN is on US policy, I’ll say that it is because that is all most US citizens know about. Evidence of that is the fact that most articles on HNN are about where the US intervenes in the world, which lately seems to be almost everywhere.

This may also be due to the narcissist obsession of the nation’s media empires, which spend most newscasts on alarmist health topics, fear mongering about money and covering even mundane internal affairs before bothering to explain the world to their audience. One listen to a one-hour BBC news broadcast and most US citizens would learn more about the world than in one month of any US news broadcast.

Let me get on to the juicy bits of Mr. Lloyds virtual apologetics for US policy. Indeed, excesses have been committed since time immemorial by nation states. You mention the killing fields of Cambodia. How did they come about? The US invaded the nation under the Kissinger-Nixon regime, leaving an enormous power vacuum when abandoning it to its fate. It is in that environment that these Cambodian madmen came to power. There is at a minimum a significant US policy cause-effect relationship for that nation’s descent into hell.

What on Earth Vietnamese re-education camps, Stalin’s internal purges and Mao’s Cultural Revolution have to do with the regime change topic I know not. Are you trying to minimise US covert actions by putting other nations internal madness into the equation? If so, best to use other nation’s regime change strategies and results so we can compare apples to apples. Theirs have been equally disastrous. I’ll do that for you.

Yes, the Soviets captured many nations and installed regimes to their liking. Have you seen the results? Half a century and more later, Russia and these nations are trapped in mafia run oligarchic systems that have enriched former party members at the expense of the vast majority of their citizens. Soviet crimes have gone unpunished, the KGB rules Russia manipulating news and elections with near Stalinist methods and dictatorial, corrupt Communist China is the USA’s biggest trading partner. Post-Soviet regimes in Central Asia are modelled on Russia’s oligarchic, communist-dominated undemocratic regimes.

Where is the lovely track record for regime changes? The examples you give help re-enforce the notion that regime change is generally a dramatic failure. Idi Amin’s exile in the house of Saud and any potential trial for cannibalism ought to be taken up with those very democratic US allies, the House of Saud. The UK tried regime change with Ottoman territories and we have been bequeathed the Middle East inferno as a result of their wisdom.

I am no apologist for Castro, whose time has long come and gone. However, far less people languish in Castro’s prisons than you would have us believe with the unanswered question you pose. Many more people languish in US prisons, proportionally, than anywhere in this planet, the USA having now surpassed Russia as the world’s biggest incarcerator per capita. This is in the paradise of economic well-being and freedom. Why are there so many criminals in such a paradise?

The Cuban medical system at least has the virtue of giving free medical care to ALL its citizens, not just those who can pay, as in the USA. They have a lower infant mortality rate and better pre-natal and post-natal care than any Latin American nation with free-market and ‘democratic’ medical systems. The seclusion of AIDS victims is reprehensible, however it bears no weight in this discussion about regime change. Remember, Cuba is a place where, before Castro, the US regime change dictator put political opponents not in seclusion, but underground. As in 2 meters underground, after the requisite bullets had been delivered.

Most of the examples of positive regime change you generously credit the USA with instigating are bogus. The European nations that were liberated from Nazi occupation already had their own governments. These are anyway not examples of regime change as is being discussed in Iraq. These nations all had a tradition of self-government; US involvement was minimal, merely to remove the German army, as all these nations had their governments in exile in the UK that came back to perform their functions. Not even close, mate, sorry.

So, in the end, Japan may be the lone example where the USA has actually helped the transition to a democratic, stable regime. Serbians changed their own regime following the defeat of various Serbian instigated wars. The Philippines were de-colonised and a constitution organised with US help. That nation has had a fair amount of success; given the circumstances it was handed down. However, regime change had dictator Marcos there for 2 decades wasting the people’s money on Imelda’s vast shoe collection. Bad example, but yet I concede it ranks second to Japan.

Unfortunately, no one’s come up with a third example yet. This leaves the Japanese nation as the only real good example of regime change, if you can call it that. It’s more regime set-up. The war was not instigated by FDR to change regimes, but to change aggressive Japanese policies in Asia.

Remember that Mr. Somosa in Nicaragua, Mr. Trujiullo in the Dominican Republic, Baby Doc in Haiti and countless US backed regime changes elsewhere in Latin America, Chile, Brazil and Argentina included, have been dismal failures for their citizens.

So yes, we know something about regime change. Most of the time, I’m afraid, it does not work out very well at all.


Bill Heuisler - 10/27/2002

Mr. Moner,
Your distaste for violence seems oddly selective.
"And someone (who?) once wrote that violence is the last refuge of the inept. Attack Iraq, Cuba, N. Korea, anyone?"
In his "Terrorism and Communism" (1924, p.71) Leon Trotsky wrote "the dictatorship of the Communist Party is maintained by recourse to every form of violence".
This is true, Mr. Moner in Iraq, Cuba and N. Korea. How do we end the personal violence of state-sponsored poverty, secret police, block leaders and concentration camps?
Also, your incarceration numbers misstate Cuba ("perhaps the largest percentage of incarceration to population in the world" - Amnesty International) and you ignore political prisoners in Communist China. Why?
By the way what do you mean by "seclusion" of AIDS patients? These AIDS patients are being allowed to die in concentration camps...with none of that marvelous medical care you mention.
Bill Heuisler


Gus Moner - 10/27/2002

And someone once wrote that violence is the last refuge of the inept. Attack Iraq, Cuba, N. Korea, anyone?


Gus Moner - 10/27/2002

I believe Mr. Huisler, that your facts seem quite right. Mr. Ryan’s comments are gobbledygook, especially when not accompanied by the facts you provide. That does not mean I sanction your behaviour or participation in such an act. Moreover, blind patriotism that does not allow criticism and dissent is what is really anti-American, not one man’s opinions.

However, these facts listed by you ultimately do bear the truth about regime change as well. Regime change cannot be effected successfully in most cases. No matter how powerful, Communist, Democratic or Fascist one nation is. In the end, the natives prefer their own bastards.


Gus Moner - 10/27/2002

Well, regarding your bemusement as to why most commentary on HNN is on US policy, I’ll say that it is because that is all most US citizens know about. Evidence of that is the fact that most articles on HNN are about where the US intervenes in the world, which lately seems to be almost everywhere.

This may also be due to the narcissist obsession of the nation’s media empires, which spend most newscasts on alarmist health topics, fear mongering about money and covering even mundane internal affairs before bothering to explain the world to their audience. One listen to a one-hour BBC news broadcast and most US citizens would learn more about the world than in one month of any US news broadcast.

Let me get on to the juicy bits of Mr. Lloyds virtual apologetics for US policy. Indeed, excesses have been committed since time immemorial by nation states. You mention the killing fields of Cambodia. How did they come about? The US invaded the nation under the Kissinger-Nixon regime, leaving an enormous power vacuum when abandoning it to its fate. It is in that environment that these Cambodian madmen came to power. There is at a minimum a significant US policy cause-effect relationship for that nation’s descent into hell.

What on Earth Vietnamese re-education camps, Stalin’s internal purges and Mao’s Cultural Revolution have to do with the regime change topic I know not. Are you trying to minimise US covert actions by putting other nations internal madness into the equation? If so, best to use other nation’s regime change strategies and results so we can compare apples to apples. Theirs have been equally disastrous. I’ll do that for you.

Yes, the Soviets captured many nations and installed regimes to their liking. Have you seen the results? Half a century and more later, Russia and these nations are trapped in mafia run oligarchic systems that have enriched former party members at the expense of the vast majority of their citizens. Soviet crimes have gone unpunished, the KGB rules Russia manipulating news and elections with near Stalinist methods and dictatorial, corrupt Communist China is the USA’s biggest trading partner. Post-Soviet regimes in Central Asia are modelled on Russia’s oligarchic, communist-dominated undemocratic regimes.

Where is the lovely track record for regime changes? The examples you give help re-enforce the notion that regime change is generally a dramatic failure. Idi Amin’s exile in the house of Saud and any potential trial for cannibalism ought to be taken up with those very democratic US allies, the House of Saud. The UK tried regime change with Ottoman territories and we have been bequeathed the Middle East inferno as a result of their wisdom.

I am no apologist for Castro, whose time has long come and gone. However, far less people languish in Castro’s prisons than you would have us believe with the unanswered question you pose. Many more people languish in US prisons, proportionally, than anywhere in this planet, the USA having now surpassed Russia as the world’s biggest incarcerator per capita. This is in the paradise of economic well-being and freedom. Why are there so many criminals in such a paradise?

The Cuban medical system at least has the virtue of giving free medical care to ALL its citizens, not just those who can pay, as in the USA. They have a lower infant mortality rate and better pre-natal and post-natal care than any Latin American nation with free-market and ‘democratic’ medical systems. The seclusion of AIDS victims is reprehensible, however it bears no weight in this discussion about regime change. Remember, Cuba is a place where, before Castro, the US regime change dictator put political opponents not in seclusion, but underground. As in 2 meters underground, after the requisite bullets had been delivered.

Most of the examples of positive regime change you generously credit the USA with instigating are bogus. The European nations that were liberated from Nazi occupation already had their own governments. These are anyway not examples of regime change as is being discussed in Iraq. These nations all had a tradition of self-government; US involvement was minimal, merely to remove the German army, as all these nations had their governments in exile in the UK that came back to perform their functions. Not even close, mate, sorry.

So, in the end, Japan may be the lone example where the USA has actually helped the transition to a democratic, stable regime. Serbians changed their own regime following the defeat of various Serbian instigated wars. The Philippines were de-colonised and a constitution organised with US help. That nation has had a fair amount of success; given the circumstances it was handed down. However, regime change had dictator Marcos there for 2 decades wasting the people’s money on Imelda’s vast shoe collection. Bad example, but yet I concede it ranks second to Japan.

Unfortunately, no one’s come up with a third example yet. This leaves the Japanese nation as the only real good example of regime change, if you can call it that. It’s more regime set-up. The war was not instigated by FDR to change regimes, but to change aggressive Japanese policies in Asia.

Remember that Mr. Somosa in Nicaragua, Mr. Trujiullo in the Dominican Republic, Baby Doc in Haiti and countless US backed regime changes elsewhere in Latin America, Chile, Brazil and Argentina included, have been dismal failures for their citizens.

So yes, we know something about regime change. Most of the time, I’m afraid, it does not work out very well at all.


Bill Heuisler - 10/24/2002

After some thought I decided to provide a more detailed response to the vexed Leslie Terill.
On March 24th,1999 Henry Butterfield Ryan wrote an article for History News Service entitled "Getting others to fight our wars".
He ended his account of the Bay Of Pigs failure with these revealing words:
"But after some scorching remarks from Soviet Premier Khrushchev, while Castro was making mincemeat of the invaders, Kennedy left the exiles to their fate, always a peril in proxy wars."
Those words admit State Department betrayal. Ryan was on the USIA National Security Advisory Staff - in a position to know the truth or find it. Has Ryan changed his mind? Or has he just altered his agenda?
Again, the operative word is truely "loathsome".
Regards again, Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 10/24/2002

Leslie Terill,
Mr Henry Butterfield Ryan, a Retired Foreign Service Officer, wrote this misrepresentation of fact in support of his thesis:
"The Cuban expedition was far too small, under-equipped and under-supported. In fact, the hallmark of all the classic American regime changes has been the tiny amount of effort and resources provided by the United States."

The use of a falsehood to prove a point about foreign policy is disagreeable and reckless.
The use of a falsehood by a retired Foreign Service Officer to prove a point about foreign policy manifested during his service is contemptible.
The use of a well-known falsehood by a Retired Foreign Service Officer to prove a point about a specific foreign policy manifested during his service that cost the lives of brave men through State Department betrayal becomes loathsome in my eyes.

Your displeasure is evident, your facts are not. While disagreeing with me is patently foolish, disagreeing with my opinions is more so.
Regards, Bill Heuisler


Leslie Terrill - 10/24/2002

Mr. Heuisler:
"The use of Playa Jiron to bolster his Anti-American tirade is loathsome." Bill Heuisler
I am curious as to why you stooped to name calling? If someone disagrees with policies generated by the current administration, as an American, they have every right to express that opinion. Does criticism of past actions of the government make someone "Anti-American"? Or, is it so only if they disagree with you?
Regards,
Leslie Terrill


Jeffery Thomas - 10/24/2002

The argument that justifies our government resorting to illegal and immoral covert regime change, for our own reasons, would seem to equally make the case for those regime changes brought about, or attempted, by the Soviet Union. The scale of immorality and murder of the innocents is rather a fine point for the survivors of Pinochet and Pol Pot, I would imagine. The original article's main point was that unintended consequences have, in fact, not served our national interests in some cases, and, again, that was certainly true for the Soviets as well. This kind of exchange is hardly conducive to considering all the important historical contexts, but is certainly revealing of the tendency by those associated with an ideology (oh, well, humans in general, I suppose) to remember selectively, as suits their argument. Where is Arnold Toynbee when you need him?


Alec Lloyd - 10/23/2002

Exactly which “losers” are you referring to, Mr. Adams, the Soviets? In that case, you are correct. They toppled governments across the globe and still failed. Having watched orthodox Marxism slide into the dustbin of history, the Left is now re-writing history to cover up its failure.

This article is a brilliant example of it, as I have pointed out. According to it, the US just woke up one day and decided to play whack-a-government. There were no international rivals, no bipolar world and the Soviet Union didn’t have millions of troops massed in Eastern Europe. Nope, Uncle Sam was just feeling frisky, that’s all.

A fascinating worldview, but worthless from a historical standpoint.


Bill Heuisler - 10/23/2002

Mr. Adams,
Thank God you said "tongue in cheek" at the close. You cleverly had me standing at attention, saluting, singing the National Anthem and eating apple pie - we artless, mouth-breathing losers are quite dexterous. But I would've figured it out eventually.
Samuel Johnson, a contemporary of yours, wrote that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" and you, sir, are obviously no scoundrel.
Bill Heuisler


Sam Adams - 10/23/2002


It's always someone else's fault.

If not for the commie plots of Foggy Bottom, Castro would've smoked his last cigar decades ago.

If only Benedict Arnold had been more careful or Pickett braver, we today wouldn't have to salute a flag with all those soviet stars and socialist red stripes.

If not for those commies in the State Department draining our vital bodily fluids, Patton's tanks could've rolled right into Moscow, like McArthur's in Peking, and Rambo would've single-handedly taken Hanoi.

Saddam, of course, is very different. Rumsfeld and Cheney never helped him at all.

S. Adams (tongue in cheek)


Bill Heuisler - 10/22/2002

Mr. Lloyd has stated the obvious. Isn't it a shame the obvious must be defended against College Professors on a history site?
We elder Catos face an ideological Praetorian Guard whose attempts to rewrite history and cover failures render them resolutely unconversant with truth. History has become chimerical plaything to many ex-Foreign Service Officers who, in the sixties, were more Nesselrode Pudding than patriotic Officers of our United States.
Having served with Alpha 66 and participated in Operation Mongoose with survivors of The Brigade, my reconstruction of the Playa Jiron failure has more to do with treachery and betrayal of brave patriots by our State Department than with some vague miscalculation in a nascent "regime change".
The Brigade was promised air cover by the Seventh Fleet. The Brigade had more than a dozen bombers poised at various Central American air fields to destroy key bases and barracks. At the last minute a pro-Castro State Department objected strenuously and Robert Kennedy intervened. Air cover was withdrawn and ten of the Brigade's bombers were grounded. The Bay of Pigs invasion was fatally compromised by betrayal, not blunder.
Supply ships loaded with ammunition, food and light armor were sunk by Castro's tiny Airforce; the beaches were strafed and landing boats (some manned by Navy Coxswains from the recalled Seventh Fleet) were damaged. The Brigade held out for three days in spite of the lack of food and ammo. They were finally forced to surrender when a Communist armored column arrived down an exposed road after more than eighty hours.
Small uprisings in Santiago, Matanzas and Camaguey were brutally crushed over the next week and the participants have not been heard from since.
Ryan states his argument with culpable certitude; someone with his position and history surely knows the vile truth. The use of Playa Jiron to bolster his Anti-American tirade is loathsome. Bill Heuisler


Alec Lloyd - 10/22/2002

I find it interesing that most columns on HNN focus only on US policy; those of its international rivals are ignored. The rest of the world, apparently, did nothing whilst the US overthrew various countries.

Did the US do dirty deeds during the Cold War? Absolutely. But even the excesses of the Pinochet regime pale in comparison to the killing fields of Cambodia, the purges of Stalin, the Cultural Revolution of Mao and the reeducation camps of Vietnam.

The Soviets took over far more than four nations, and the apparatus with which they ruled their clients far exceeded anything America countenanced. I find it ironic that Pinochet is indicted for war crimes yet Idi Amin, who murdered (and sometimes ate) at least 20 times more victims lives in comfortable exile (a guest of the House of Saud, no less).

Is there any dictator more celebrated than Fidel Castro? How many languish in his island prison? How many thousands have disappeared in his tropical paradise? His free health care system is admired, except the part about AIDS patients being put in concentration camps.

Furthermore, the article ignores the positive regime changes sponsored by the US: democracies in Japan, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Taiwan and the Phillipenes. We freed western Europe by force of arms and outlasted the Soviet Empire, allowing Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic to breathe free once more. Furthermore, Serbia owes its regime change to American military might. The list goes on.

So yes, we know something about regime change. Most of the time, it seems to work out rather well.


Pierre S Troublion - 10/21/2002


"Look before you leap" is advice the U.S. government would do well to heed. The same applies, however, to those who would proffer such admonitions.

In his apparent haste, Mr. Ryan stumbles at the outset by tossing out a quick but quite absurd definition of "regime change":

"Don't confuse it with preventing takeovers, restoring ousted leaders, removing ethnic-cleansing marauders or overthrowing governments that help terrorists attack us", he states.

This is about the same as saying don't confuse war with mobilizing, training, deploying, invading, bombing or occupying.


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