Obama’s Awful Speech on Race

RealClearPolitics – Articles – A Speech That Fell Short
Barack Obama has run a campaign based on a simple premise: that words of unity and hope matter to America. Now he has been forced by his charismatic, angry pastor to argue that words of hatred and division don’t really matter as much as we thought.

Barack Obama’s speech on race sounded like a prologue. All of his speeches do. While Barack’s old speech serve as a prolog to words on economic growth, national strength, and unity which have never come, now he promises sermons on racial differences and historical grievances. If Obama continues his pattern, he will not be any more specific this time.

This is too bad, because he recognizes the need for tackling his difficult issue:

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

So here are just two issues that Obama raised and then dropped. Both of them raise complex problems that just, workable, and future-oriented solutions. Which means, of course, Obama won’t bother. But I will:

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

If Obama wants to do something more than running down his grandmother, he should address why an elderly woman should be fearful. For instance (Peterson, R.D. & Krivo, L.J. (2005). Macrostructural analyses of race, ethnicity, and violent crime: Recent lessons and new directions for research. Annual Review of Sociology, 31, 331-356):

The racial character of crime reflected in Russell’s critique is based on more than media stereotypes. In the United States, blacks are a disproportionate share of those victimized, arrested, and imprisoned. In 2002, the rate of violent victimization was 34.1 per 1000 for non-Hispanic blacks compared with 26.5 for non-Hispanic whites (Maguire & Pastore 2004). Blacks now represent 38% of persons arrested for violent crimes, but they constitute only 13% of the U.S. population (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2003). In contrast, whites make up 60% of violent arrestees and 75% of the population. The most dramatic differences are for homicide, for which black rates of victimization and offending were 6.2 and 7.6 times those for whites in 2000 (Maguire & Pastore 2004).

This is a serious problem that needs a serious solution which is just, workable, and future-oriented. The solution would be complex, and involve multiple factors. Would it help to legalize many drugs, thus lifting some blacks out of the black market and into a white one? Yeah. Would it help to castrate violent criminals, preempting felons before they are even conceived? Yeah. Instead, Obama talks about “original sin,” a nicely theological concept that no one can do anything about.

Moving on. Education:

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

Obama seems to be talking about long term memory. All normally developed humans appear to have the same processing capacity one the appropriate knowledge is stored into long term memory, so the solution is increasing long term memory. In the context race this poses a problem of justice and advantage-maximization, because American blacks tend to possess less working memory, and thus have a harder time getting that information into long term memory in the first place. This implies that many blacks would benefit from more intense, more structured education with more worked examples. It also implies that if we are going to teach those with less working memory more intensively, classrooms may break down somewhat along racial lines. This rightly a a “red flag” in the minds of many, so either we need to justify it or find a different way.

Instead, Obama ignores the problem. His next paragraph starts: “And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright….” No, it doesn’t, Senator. It explains why you see serious problems, and join in with a race-baiting demagogue rather than propose policies to end those problems.

Obama’s speech was based on the idea that hateful words do not matter, and divisive speech that avoids the important issues is OK. If this is true, there’s no reason to vote for Obama in the first place.

49 thoughts on “Obama’s Awful Speech on Race”

  1. Great post, Dan. However;
    The quickest route to [i]not[/i] getting elected would be for Senator Obama to take such a pragmatic stance, especially given his base. What might work objectively (in this case) doesn’t sell politically. And as long as our society maintains large cultural networks based on state reliance the social foundation for pragmatic solutions simply won’t be there. I’d opine that you’re ahead of your time. Maybe a century from now will see an American society that’s generally self reliant across the board and so free of “social or historical victimology.”

    That aside, I was impressed with the fact that Obama didn’t simply heave the racist minister overboard. It demonstrated a degree of honesty rarely found in such situations. And yes, this could simply be a case of great politicking.

  2. Jay,

    Thanks for the comment!

    Since South Carolina, Hillary’s campaign has been aimed primarily at making Jessee Jackson “the black candidate,” legitimatizing her efforts to form an ethnic coalition of latinos, asians, and uneducated whites.

    Obama took the bait.

    He knows what he’s doing, too. Running out of the clock [1] makes sense when you know you’re being out-played and out-thought, but you still have a lead (if you don’t count the Florida and Michigan delegates, at least)

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/03/18/obama-tries-to-run-out-the-clock.html

  3. He is definitely running out the clock.

    As far as the rest goes, I think you’re looking deeply into a shallow pool. There’s no reason for any of this to make a sense, only to bring back his image as the trophy candidate of the new left.

  4. Dan,

    This was probably one of the best posts I’ve seen here. When you asked “why an elderly woman should be fearful” you went to the core of what bothers me about the African American position on race in this country.

    As you pointed out, blacks do commit an over-proportionate amount of crime in this country. Of course, this brings cries of a “racist system.” The problem with the “racist system” argument is that victim advocate surveys show that this is just not true. We see the same argument for school underperformance. Upper middle class Black children preform worse than poor white or Asian children. Because of this, we hear “racism” again for the reason.

    I feel very strongly that this country needs to have a conversation about race. The only thing keeping America from having a racial meltdown is the relative prosperity of the country and the heavy amounts of socialization that keeps whites in a state of guilt.

    IF one or or both of these factors goes away, I’m afraid there may be serious problems in this country.

    The problem with Obama is in reality, he’s no different than Jackson or Sharpton. He’s just better at hiding it. Of course, I don’t want to in anyway, to blame America’s race problems on blacks.

    America’s race problems are 100% the fault of white politicians who use[d] blacks for power. Through this country’s history, there have been many opportunities to solve the black question. But everytime a chance came up (1776, Reconstruction) some politicians screwed it up because they seen blacks as potential voters for them.

    And black leadership is not answer. The black community does have leaders who understand whats going on. Walter Williams, Larry Elder, Bill Cosby all understand what the black community needs to do to be successful. The problem is, the black community doesn’t want to hear it.

    NO, to solve Americas race problem, major changes are going to have to come. And I’m afraid that after 40 years of hard socialization, this country is just not ready for these type of changes. One thing is for sure, a natural ethnic equilibrium will come to this piece of land sooner or later.

  5. Seerov,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    As you pointed out, blacks do commit an over-proportionate amount of crime in this country. Of course, this brings cries of a “racist system.” The problem with the “racist system” argument is that victim advocate surveys show that this is just not true. We see the same argument for school underperformance. Upper middle class Black children preform worse than poor white or Asian children. Because of this, we hear “racism” again for the reason.

    Here is potential common ground, if it will be had.

    Broadly speaking, our national “system” does fail blacks. A better system from a social justice standpoint would not lead to disproportionate black crime rates, disproportionate black-on-white crime, disproportionate black-on-black crime, etc. There are potential solutions, but they raise difficult issues. I mentioned two (educational and judicial) in this post.

    Obama’s speech was an unfortunate retread of the grievance politics of the last two generations. He was smart enough to avoid saying much, but what he did say was nothing more than vague aspirations mixed with the implication of failed solutions.


    As I mentioned to Seerov, Obama’s smart. He landed exactly where he wanted to when he found God in a large and politically active church.

    If Obama can break Hillary’s ethnic coalition in Pennsylvania, he would win the nomination right there. Instead he’s playing it safe, trying to minimize the unraveling of his coalition as the last States vote or caucus.

  6. “There are potential solutions, but they raise difficult issues.”

    Maybe one day you can lay out some of these solutions? A lot of times you speak of “long term memory” and “short term memory” and I’m never exactly sure of what you’re talking about?

    So I challenge you: What is the solution to the black question in this country?

    African Americans constantly demand “justice” and “equality.” Most white people don’t really know what they’re talking about? Blacks seem to think because they are over represented in the prisons, that the system is “racist.” There also seems to be a problem distinguishing between equality of opportunity and equality of results.

    Like most white people, I see blacks as being totally equal, even “more equal” in some cases. If a black person graduates from high school in America, their education is pretty much paid for. After they graduate, companies are required to hire a certain amount of blacks. This does not indicate a “racist system” to me. Why am I wrong?

    Now something is wrong, that is for sure. For some reason blacks to commit more crime and do worse in school? They say its “racism” I don’t see evidence of systemic racism though? The black community sees the evidence in societies results. I don’t think results are a good indicator. For some reason, Asians, Jews, and even Middle Eastern Muslims have good “results” in America but blacks don’t? Again, this doesn’t seem to support systemic racism. That is, unless there’s a Eurasian conspiracy against hispanics, Amerindians, and blacks? But I see no evidence of one?

    So just I answered your challenge of “What’s the difference between White Nationalism and Racism?” I’m asking you to answer the following question:

    Why do African Americans have so many problems in the United States? And when I say problems, I mean poverty, low educational achievement, high rates of incarceration, and high rates of unwed births, etc,?

    And after you lay out why, please tell us what can be done about it? Pretend that you have the authority to implement these solutions, so you don’t have worry about the politics of race in America.

    I know you’re a busy man so take your time.

  7. Seerov,

    Thank you for your reply.

    So I challenge you: What is the solution to the black question in this country?

    I don’t know. Certainly most people agree there is something going wrong. Unfortunately, national politics in that area has been dominated by a Southern clique of rentier politicians [1], rather than by people generating ideas that might work. Therefore, per your request, I’ll throw out two possibilities. I don’t know if either of these are wise. But they are the sort of thing that would be generated by a meaningful, future-oriented discussion of race in America — a conversation Obama has so far avoided.

    1. COIN

    Blacks, as well as southern whites, experience greater in-group violence than other ethnicities. One reason for this is the prevalence of “honor killings,” murder among friends in retaliation for some slight. This sort of honor-based violence is rational if one’s community is underserved by police, and may be reasonable if one’s community has historically be underserved by police.

    A counter-insurgency (COIN strategy) may be able to overcome this. How many troops per thousand urban blacks should be deployed? What should be the rules of engagement? What sub-state actors are acceptable working-allies to use in this COIN? Rev Wright? The Nation of Islam? What should be the benchmarks for victory? How long should we expect this to last?

    2. The Talent Tenth

    Since W.E.B. DuBois, the concept of the “talented tenth” [1] has been widely accepted. Under the theory, the state of black Americans is such that some sort of vanguard must be established, as providing for equal growth of everyone this early one is too difficult.

    It’s also widely accepted that black popular culture stigmatizes social and economic achievement. A question then becomes: to what extent should black popular culture be suppressed in order to allow the talented tenth of African-Americans to rise to prominance without social stigmatization and ostricization? And again, what benchmarks should be used, and how long should this program be expected to last?

    These may be bad ideas. I can see flaws in both of them. But ideas are what are needed to solve problems. And ideas — as opposed to vague pronouncements of hope and vague encouragement to white guilt — are what Obama and his supporters are not providing.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Talented_Tenth

  8. I have three questions for Seerov or Dan or both — your interesting discussion prompted the questions.

    What is the “black question”?
    Is the “black question” the same as “America’s race problem”?
    What is “America’s race problem”?

  9. I’ll let Seerov describe what he intends by those terms, but I’ve been taking them to mean the complex of racial disparities in this country (in income, health, victimization, etc), and the consequences thereof.

  10. Interesting post Dan. It demonstrates once again your apparent insistence on seeing the worst in a black person, rather than the best.

    Before you jump to dismiss that as ad hominem, let me address what you ended with: “Obama’s speech was based on the idea that hateful words do not matter, and divisive speech that avoids the important issues is OK. If this is true, there’s no reason to vote for Obama in the first place.”

    You should read the speech with more of an open mind, and an open heart. He seeks to unite, not divide–he addressed, for instance, BOTH black and white grievances, and found in them common cause.

    He also did not say that hateful words don’t matter. Instead, he said in this speech what he has said before about Wright’s words, that he condemns them as wrong and as a distortion of reality. He did say they matter, which is why he thinks Wright shouldn’t have said them.

    And what part of these words from Obama’s speech don’t you understand?

    “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation.”

    Obama wrote an amazingly deft, informed, empathetic speech, apparently on his own and apparently in just two days (so much for your claims to the debilitating lack of long-term memory in blacks). For you to dismiss it as an “awful” speech for the niggling little reasons you chose to focus on in some sort of OCD manner is simply pathetic.

    And yes a higher percentage of blacks than whites commit crimes, because a higher percentage of blacks than whites have long been oppressed by a white supremacist society, resulting in higher rates of emotional, intellectual, and financial poverty, which in turn lead to higher rates of crime. Duh.

  11. MIllie Wink,

    Thanks for the comment.

    You make a few odd statements(including a bizarre assertion relating to long-term memory) that I won’t address, but among the rest:

    He also did not say that hateful words don’t matter. Instead, he said in this speech what he has said before about Wright’s words, that he condemns them as wrong and as a distortion of reality. He did say they matter, which is why he thinks Wright shouldn’t have said them

    The divisive words I was speaking of at the end of my post were Obama’s not Rev. Wrights.

    The Senator compares Wright’s paranoid anti-Americanism to the concerns of his grandmother (and Jesse Jackson) [1]. He compares the race-based discrimination to efficiency-maximization of offshore outsourcing. He gives no new ideas relating to race, but brings up the old bromides that did so little good for so long.

    And yes a higher percentage of blacks than whites commit crimes, because a higher percentage of blacks than whites have long been oppressed by a white supremacist society, resulting in higher rates of emotional, intellectual, and financial poverty, which in turn lead to higher rates of crime. Duh.

    How would you falsify this claim? Claiming 100% of variance in one thing is explained by the variation of something else is a striking claim, and I wonder how scientific it is.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/03/20/jesse-jackson-and-the-typical-white-person.html

  12. The problem with this whole debate is that Wright’s anti-American speeches were basically correct. We aren’t even capable of acknowledging truths that are obviously true, most importantly the complicity of the U.S. government in supporting state terrorism for a long time, in providing aid and comfort to apartheid South Africa, in backing RENAMO in Mozambique and UNITA in Angola to help the South African cause, etc. etc. These actions, as well as many more that could be listed, were infinitely more destructive than anything that happened on 9/11. Wright’s point was that Americans turn the other way when violence is committed elsewhere, but become outraged when it happens on U.S. soil. This is an entirely valid and legitimate point.

    What disappointed me about Obama’s speech was that he did what he had to do to win the nomination: he distanced himself from the parts of Wright’s speeches that were truthful but uncomfortable for white America in the name of a phony “reconciliation,” which will be an impossibility as long as white Americans equate the Jeremiah Wrights of the world with the David Dukes, or continue to throw out the bogey-man of “reverse racism” every time a black person expresses indignation and anger at the hypocrisy of white America.

    Dan, you seem to elevate “science” about all else. When did you join this religion?

  13. Dan,

    I thought you were pretty right-on. Basically, this was just an Obama attempt at a snow job.

    Obama really just danced around what many of us (white people) see as the problem he needed to address. Namely, that he joined a black church that preaches anti-americanism and hate to get his black bona-fides and to gain political advantage in Chicago and Illinois and how he justifies that to those of us that they hate, and, oh yeah, why we should vote for him.

    If I could make an analogy, it would be kind of like a white politician joining a church with a Nazi white supremicist preacher who espoused his political beliefs on Sunday and then having the politician justify it by saying: I found him to be a great spiritual counselor, I just do not agree with his politics; Oh, and I stuck around for 20 years and I like him so much I couldn’t bear to dump him now. Get real, nobody would accept this from a white politician, black or white.

    There are no doubt a continuing problems with race in this country, and they are many, not the least of which is the cult of black victimization. It is unfortunate but there is a schism in the black community with one group that is caught up in the belief in a white and government conspiricy to oppress them (Example: the black belief in the bogus Carter Administration Memorandum 46). This faction has subscribed to a radical, mostly hate agenda which is resistant to accomodation. This church is an example of this faction. And, in a way they are at war with white people and the government. You will not find any acknowledgement of this in Obama’s speech even though he was right in the middle of it at this church.

    To bad about Obama, because we surely could use a multi-racial leader who could help to bridge the gaps and help promote some real and honest understanding.

  14. Re: COIN in the inner city.

    In “Gang Leader for a Day” Sudhir Venkatesh paints a picture life in the Robert Taylor projects in Chicago in the late 1980s. Venkatesh’s book makes life inside a public housing project look very much like life inside a failed state in the Gap. But like any failed state, there are tyrants that profit from that disconnectedness and in the case of the Robert Taylor there were two tyrants in particular:

    Ms. Bailey: As the building president she was the liaison between the building residents and the Chicago Housing Authority. She could use that power to provide services, such as getting an apartment fixed, but more often she used her power to extort the tenants by threatening to turn them in to the CHA for various infractions. She also made money by allowing the Black Kings to sell crack in the building.

    The Black Kings: While they did perform a security service for the residents of Robert Taylor they also extorted protection money from anyone who ran any kind of small business (many residents performed various odd jobs for extra cash) in the building and used violence against anyone who did not pay. They worked closely with Ms. Bailey to keep the cops and CHA out and the residents down.

    Now, if we accept that the situation Venkatesh describes is a fairly typical situation in the inner city then a COIN strategy might work like this:

    1. Depose the Ms. Baileys of the world: Break the stranglehold that the public “welfare” agencies have over the lives of poor minorities in the inner city. “Gang Leader” is especially hard on public housing authorities but its not hard to imagine that other welfare agencies may be just as suseptiable to corruption and/or inefencinancies. Let’s replace all welfare programs with a negative income tax.


    2. Take away the black market: Legalize it! Or at least decriminalize it.

    3. Protect the locals from the insurgents: Cops need to be in the neighborhood 24 hours a day. Set up a “mini” precinct in local abandoned houses or buildings. Show the locals that the police are interested in protecting them.

    4. Flip a “T.J.” or two: T.J., the gang leader in Venkatesh’s book is a business man. He makes his money through extortion and drug dealing but his main goal is profit. But if we look at the work the Venkatesh did we Steven Levitt (made famous in Freakonomics) we see that neither T.J. nor most of the members of his gang ever made that much money. What if a man like T.J. was offered amnesty in exchange for his help? What if he were offered a salary approximately equal to that of a big city police officer, in cash, on the condition that he and his gang stop dealing crack and now work to shrink the Gap they once worked to enforce? We could probably get most of the “foot soldiers” for about the price of a Wal Mart employee. The “flipped” gang would be responsible for working with local law enforcement by providing both intelligence and additional man power in the fight to end petty crime and round up any gangs that did not “flip”.
    This addresses the issue of the non-state actor. I’m not crazy about the idea of introducing U.S. troops into the inner city, and would much prefer turning gangs into local militias that would have an incentive (getting paid and getting amnesty) to cooperate with L.E. and provide security for their community.

    5. Connect the residents to the broader economy: I favor a Grameen style micro credit system that would be set up in inner cities to help residents start micro businesses. This would be an immediate follow on to the “gang flipping”and would hopefully get the residents working and get some money flowing into their pockets. As violence subsides American business will become more and more interested in investing in the developing market right in their own back yard.


    This kind of strategy might be applied to one or more city blocks/housing projects/neighborhoods/voting districts/whatever at a time. The goals would be sequenced:

    1. Push the gangs out
    2. Bring the jobs in

  15. Love the discussion about COIN in the inner-city. Considering a mayor like Cory Booker in Newark who truly is trying to save his city from itself (supporting school vouchers, boosting police force AND jobs)… its a shame there isn’t a multi-billionare out there who isn’t interested in COIN and willing to invest some capital in pursuing the kind of strategy Dan, Brent and others are discussing.

    Chicago just lost its 20th student of the school year to gang violence. A star high school player with good grades and a mom serving in Iraq was executed just feet from his home in LA while his father was in the house waiting for him to get home from school. Our domestic terrorists and crime figures in our “Gap” in America should not be so successful with nary a peep from mainstream America.

  16. David,

    “State terrorism” is an odd construction, though certainly America has supported worse governance over better. This is especially true in the Gap. So, for instance, we helped break the British and French empries in Africa, and replaced them with local thuggery.

    a phony “reconciliation,” which will be an impossibility as long as white Americans equate the Jeremiah Wrights of the world with the David Dukes

    In fairness, I’m not aware of Mr. Duke urging others to invoke “God damn America” or claiming the government devised the AIDS virus to reduce the white population, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

    Dan, you seem to elevate “science” about all else. When did you join this religion?

    Not a religion, merely a useful epistemological tool when it comes to explaining variation in society.

    Rex A,

    An excellent comment. Very well written.

    I had not heard of Memorandum 46 before [1]. Thank you for the reference.


    Amazing thoughts. I need to think about them. Please, keep writing on this subject. I’m not sure if domestic urban COIN is a good idea or not, but this is exactly the debate our country needs.


    We’re on the same wavelength.

    [1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080201751_pf.html

  17. Yes, but that geopolitical strategy had very little to do with “breaking” Britain’s empire in Africa. By that time, Britain’s African empire encompassed West Africa, Kenya, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, Bechuanaland, Nyasaland, Basutoland, Swaziland, etc. etc. These territories were not implicated or affected by the Suez crisis, and I am not aware of any American initiatives to dismantle Britain’s African empire at this time. The U.S. government was more concerned that African nationalists with pro-Soviet sympathies would give the Soviets a beachhead on the continent, which is exactly what drew the U.S. into South Africa’s orbit in the 1970s and 1980s.

  18. David,

    The United States had two broad motives or dismembering the French and British Empires. The higher of these, defense against Soviet Imperialism, sought to deny the Soviet Union potential allies among colonial peoples. The baser of these, simple great power competition, sought to brush aside the power of Britain and France and consolidate Western power in Washington.

    Whatever the motive, anti-Imperialism was a stated goal of the United States as of at least the Atlantic Charter [1]:

    Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

    America’s “near abroad” of Latin America had been adminsitered through soveriegn states. The Atlantic Charter would keep American influence unchanged, while making it difficult for either Britain or France to reassert authority.

    After the war, Britain and France had opposed for a policy of benign neglect. Unfortunately for them, the Suez Crisis showed that the U.S. would use economic warfare against any restoration of the Empires. As Niall Ferguson describes in “Empire” [2], the European empires fell mainly out of economic necessity — a necessity compounded by the Suez Crisis.

    [1] http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Atlantic_Charter
    [2] http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Demise-British-Lessons-Global/dp/0465023290

  19. Okay, but that doesn’t demonstrate that the U.S. had much of a hand in actually dismembering the African empires of either France or Britain. Further, the problem with African nationalism was that, once freed from colonial rule, the Third World became a potential problem for the U.S. in terms of keeping Africa anti-Soviet, as evidenced by the turn towards socialism in Tanzania, for instance. The U.S. was able to counterbalance this by taking out guys like Lumumba and replacing them with guys like Mobutu, but all the same, French and British empire in Africa wasn’t exactly against U.S. interests, because as long as they remained part of the French, British, or Portuguese empires, these African territories and African resources could not fall into the Soviet bloc.

    Latin America was different. There the U.S. was able to, with the exception of Castro, force out leftist leaders and replace them with reactionary autocrats. They could do this without directly subjugating these “sovereign nations,” instead relying on military coups and economic and psychological warfare. Latin America wasn’t so much “sovereign” as it was America’s version of empire: making it both less expensive and in some ways less humane than formal empire.

  20. David,

    Okay, but that doesn’t demonstrate that the U.S. had much of a hand in actually dismembering the African empires of either France or Britain.

    Certainly, except for the bits about demonstrating the international weakness of Britain and France, causing lasting economic harm to Britain and France, reversing the military gains of Britain and France, &c.

    Further, the problem with African nationalism was that, once freed from colonial rule, the Third World became a potential problem for the U.S. in terms of keeping Africa anti-Soviet, as evidenced by the turn towards socialism in Tanzania, for instance.

    Likewise, while not yet free of colonial rule, the Third World was a a potential problem for the U.S. in terms of keeping Africa anti-Soviet.

    Consider Egypt, again. For its troubles, the US helped create a generally disasterous Arab regime that picked fights with Israel, socialized the economy, and in general created misery. If American interests had been “paternal” in the way that French or British interests were, that would have been disasterous. However, the American interest in Africa was more limited: primarily to foil the Soviet Union, and secondarily to deter Britain and France from focusing their foreign policy outside of Europe. In this American policy succeeded, as it narrowed the horizons of British and French imagination while helping the Naser regime that was a center of power in Africa independent of Moscow.

    American policy was (ironically) influenced by the Malay Emergency, in which the British faced a Communist takeover of their colony. British Malay policy thus became to spoil the Communists, so they set-up a local government that was certainly rascally, but could not be considered a Soviet satellite.

    The British and French had hoped for a resumption of benign neglect by America, where their “civilizing mission” could continue to the extent their home societies could support it. Instead, they found an America interested in “third forces,” local regimes with less interest in development but reliably anti-Communist.

    An aesthetically gorgeous retelling of American-European-Communist-“Third Force” struggle in this period in the 2002 version of “The Quiet American.” Not an academic work by any means, but it captures the Euro-Americna rivalry in a very clever way.

    (I largely agree with you about Latin America, btw.)

  21. An interesting discussion between David and Dan and without really getting into it, I would like to make some observations with regard to foreign policy and culpability.

    First, it seems to me that the most overriding concerns of any representative government are the self-preservation and welfare of the nation and its citizens, both black and white. Such a government is therefore obligated to make decisions and take actions that it believes will best achieve these ends, even if those decisions may be in opposition to, or detrimental to, other people, nations, and governments. And, sometimes, those decisions and actions require that some of our own citizens make the ultimate commitment and pay the ultimate price for our nation.

    Second, some policies and decisions are pretty clear cut and are arrived at easily, while others are not so clear, in fact they are often down right murky, and their results may even be difficult to access. And in fact, they may be a choice of the lesser of evils. They may also sometimes be wrong because we cannot know the result in advance. And, sometimes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, even if our morals, ethics, and beliefs are at opposite ends of the scale. .

    Having acknowledged the above, I believe that it is pretty clear with the perspective of history that we, as a nation, have been biased in favor of self-determination and non-interference for local peoples unless we believed that it was not in our best interests. We have had no designs on Empire.

    During and after WWII, the choices were pretty straight forward. Roosevelt made it clear to Churchill that the British Empire would not survive the end of the war, and it did not. And we helped the people of the Axis powers put in place representative governments at great expense to ourselves while the Soviet Union became an imperialist power occupying and controlling the countries of Eastern Europe.

    During the cold war, many choices were not so clear and we made some pretty tough choices. We failed to act decisively in Cuba and we have paid a price. When a left wing dictator came to power in Chile, we acted and he was replaced by a right wing dictator and the human toll was high. It was a tough choice – the lesser evil – although; today Chile is a successful democracy. We have acknowledged our choice and, while we may regret the necessity of having to make such decision, I do not think we should apologize for it or for the other like choices we have made.

    It is interesting to note that dictatorial left wing regimes have a reputation for cruelty that often exceeds those of the right. The philosophy of the left, that the corporate whole is more important than it’s constituents, devalues the individual. There will be no individual failure and excellence and achievement merits no special consideration. The nail that sticks up will be hammered down. It will be an egalitarian society, except, of course, for the ruling class. Mao, Ho, and Pol Pot targeted the educated, professional, and entrepreneurial classes first when they came to power. It is estimated Stalin killed 15 million people versus 8 million for Hitler. And, who knows how many people Mao killed, or uncle Ho, or Pol-Pot.

    Now we find a faction of the Islamic religion has declared Jihad, or “Holy” war, against us for a variety of real, or imagined, grievances. Iran’s Muslim clergy has effectively been at war with us since Khomeini deposed the Shah. We support the Jewish state of Israeli. We have not deposed the Saudi Arabian Monarchy and have purchased oil from them, etc., etc. In general, they blame the U.S., and the other western democracies for a smorgas-board of ills. And maybe worst of all, we support those policies and take those actions that we perceive to be in our best interests.

    So, are the lives of some other nation’s citizens any less important than the lives or our citizens? Nope; but our government’s job is to protect our citizens; so, if it comes to a choice, then we choose our citizens. And why would we apologize for protecting our citizens? So if the World Trade bombing, the 9/11 attack, and the death of 3,000 of our citizens (white, black, asian, Hispanic …) were retaliation for those grievances, so be it; but, those responsible should have expect in return a response calculated to deter future attacks.

    And, sorry, I don’t think Wright was correct. State sponsored terrorism? I think not. No apologies here!

  22. A few points: why is Allende a “left-wing dictator”? He was a popularly-elected president working through a coalition of leftist parties. Equating him with Stalin or Mao is absurd.

    How have those responsible for killing 3,000 people suffered by U.S. actions in Iraq? When you say that they should have expected a harsh response, my thought is, has the U.S. response been more harsh to them, or to random people living in Iraq?

    I would also like to know exactly how U.S. actions in Southern Africa safeguarded U.S. citizens.

    But, assuming that they did, if my personal security must come at the cost of millions killed in Civil Wars throughout the Third World, well, thanks but no thanks. Because if that’s the case, the nation itself should be destroyed, if it allows people to justify that kind of violence.

    Finally, if the South African apartheid state that the U.S. supported wasn’t engaged in terrorism, then the word simply has no meaning. If the Guatemalan torture regime that came into being after the U.S.-backed coup in 1954 wasn’t a terror state, then nothing was. Extend that to the U.S.’s support of the shah in Iran, the Saudi royal family, etc., and the events of 9/11 are merely a fart in the wind.

  23. “And yes a higher percentage of blacks than whites commit crimes, because a higher percentage of blacks than whites have long been oppressed by a white supremacist society, resulting in higher rates of emotional, intellectual, and financial poverty, which in turn lead to higher rates of crime. Duh.”

    If this was true, then rates of crime would dependant on amounts of “oppression.” So Jews would be the highest offenders in Europe. I’m pretty sure their not. You see how ridiculous these arguments are. We got whole industries in this country built around this fallacy. IQ scores are the best dependent variable.

    “The problem with this whole debate is that Wright’s anti-American speeches were basically correct.”

    If you’re talking about the US support for “terrorists” then you might be right? If you’re talking about AIDS meant to kill the blacks, I think the government could have thought of a better way of doing this?

    The US does what it does out of the interests of these same blacks who complain about it. If the US didn’t maintain its hegemony, and if this hegemony is responsible for the wealth of the US, than what the hell are they complaining about? If things ever get tight around here economically and people have to start worrying about feeding their families, do you think white people are going to feel good about all the race based policies forced upon them? I don’t think so.

    The only thing holding the US together is the prosperity of the country and the tolerance of the white majority. Take the prosperity away and I guarantee the latter goes despite 40 years of socialization.

    When thinking of the actions of the nation state, one must never think morally. One must think of its interests. Even the end of segregation was due to the imperial ambitions of the US. Rev. Wright should be screaming Amen’s for US imperialism. If the US had remained an isolationist state, segregation would be live and kicking today. But the US needed to become the moral policeman of the world for propaganda purposes. So segregation had to go. And it is the prosperity of this country which pays the extortion demands of the blacks.

    So imperialism breeds tolerance. I hope this helped.

  24. Seerov,

    What is your conclusion – that blacks are simply inferior and do not deserve equality? I admit the above question is somewhat rhetorical and decidely argumentative, but I don’t understand what you believe to be the ‘solution’. Perhaps (I don’t know the statistics but I’ll go with your assertion) upper middle class blacks do worse than poor white and Asian kids. The latter is immaterial because their parents are typically well-educated. Poor white kids are a different story, but even poor white kids were well cared for in the earlier parts of the 20th century, at least compared to the majority of black families. If we accept that educational levels are a result of not only environment but heredity, and that successive generations build on the achievements of the previous levels, then several things may be hypothesized. (1) blacks have no reason to have achieved educational levels comparable to even poor whites due to the paucity of quality primary-school education and secondary opportunities, particularly in preceding generations; and (2) Thus, blacks will never catch up, barring a universal decline in white educational levels – not going to happen – or the increased support for minority children.

    What would you suggest instead of finding ways to socially legislate measures aimed at closing the racial divide?

  25. “that blacks are simply inferior and do not deserve equality?”

    What in nature is inferior? Is the cheetah inferior to the Tiger? They’re both cats. But is one inferior, or superior?

    So there is no such thing as one human group being inferior, BUT THEY ARE DIFFERENT! Humans evolved under different geoclimatic conditions that has created different characteristics. I’ll let you figure those out.

    So do blacks deserve equality? NO one deserves anything. There are no “rights” and thinking otherwise is foolish.

    But, because of the extortion demands of the black population, and the relative timid nature of the white population, blacks have been able to shake down the country for more rights than I’m afforded. If the white population starts rioting and burning down a couple dozen cities across the country (60’s race riots) and become a bigger disruption compared to the blacks, than this will stop.

    The fairest and best system would be to have no racial policies. Give people the freedom to associate, and allow people to build communities with who they wish.

  26. Chile and Allende
    Sorry David, but Allende was not “popularly-elected”. In 1970, he received 36.2% of the vote as head of the leftist coalition Unidad Popular and was subsequently elected president by the Chilean Congress. And, although he was elected President, after he came to office, he acted as a dictator and was subsequently removed from power by the Chilean military at the request of the Chamber of Deputies as a consequence.

    During his time in office he established diplomatic relations and cooperation agreements with Cuba and the Soviet Union. He received payments and political advice from his KGB case officer Svyatoslav Kuznetsov. He also invited Castro for a month-long visit, during which Castro participated actively in the internal politics of Chile and publicly gave him advice on how to put Chile on the same path as Cuba.

    The Chamber of Deputies accused Allende’s government of unconstitutional acts, such as, disregarding the courts, attempting to restrict freedom of speech, unauthorized seizures of private property for the purpose of establishing state control of the economy, and seeking to “establish a totalitarian system absolutely opposed to the representative system of government established by the constitution”. That would be a dictatorship.

    Also, sorry if you misunderstood, but I did NOT compare Allende with Stalin, or Mao, or anyone else for that matter, as a careful reading of my previous comments will show. I mentioned the “human toll” in Chile (which, by the way, I think was terrible and unnecessary) after Allende was deposed by the military and replaced by the right wing anti-communist dictator, General Pinochet. Then, as a counter point, I discussed in the following paragraph that dictatorial leftist regimes historically seem to be even more vicious and ruthless suppressing political enemies than dictatorial right wing regimes.

    During his time in power, Allende was never able to consolidate his power and gain control of the military (to the chagrin of the KGB who advised him to get it done) and did not commit political reprisals of which I am aware.

    I did NOT say “that they should expect a harsh response”; I said they should expect “a response calculated to deter future attacks”. Big difference. And, as the Cold War was strategic, so is the War on Terrorism. The real objective of strategic actions is to try to eliminate future threats and prevent future conflicts. It goes to the dictum of Sun Tzu, that the best way to win is to avoid having to fight.

    The events of 9/11 initiated more than just a simple “let’s get even” response against those responsible. The response by the U.S. to 9/11 was intended to be a strategic response in recognition of the overall threat of terrorist threats from the Middle East. The response in Afghanistan was most directly targeted at those who perpetrated the attack and to remove future threats from them. The response in Iraq was essentially a strategic action because of Iraq’s perceived ability to pose a large scale threat with more sophisticated weapons, particularly WMDs, by a regime that had demonstrated a propensity for aggression and had readily used WMDs in the past. Iraq was also ramping up to become a bigger player in the terrorist game using both domestic operators and surrogates (Hussein was already paying Palestine suicide bombers).

    As to the plight of the people of Iraq, the U.S. has been exceedingly careful to try to minimize civilian casualties. Casualty numbers for Iraq are very unreliable for both the time period of Saddam’s reign and for the war periods. Estimates of civilian casualties in the current conflict in Iraq range between 80,000 and 150,000 deaths from military and terrorist attacks, with a substantial number of those resulting from terrorist bombs and other means. It has been estimated that Saddam was responsible for more than 1,250,000 casualties in Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait during his reign and a large number of his mass graves have been uncovered. Unfortunately, the Iraqi people have paid a large price during this conflict; but, I submit that they paid an even higher price just living day-to-day under Saddam.

    Southern Africa, et al …
    Well, for starters, Africa is a mess and it seems to have been worse in the South; so I am going to confine this to some general remarks and make a few specific comments.

    At the conclusion of WWII, the British Empire was dissolved, largely as a result of U.S. intervention, some of the countries of which it was comprised pursued self-determination, and some were left with installed governments, and in many instances it was a messy and convoluted process that eventually resulted in Brittan’s African Colonies becoming independent African countries.

    The British Cape Colony became the independent country of South Africa and because of its strategic location at the southern tip of Africa and the implications for southern sea lanes and trade routes that the U.S. deemed it to be of the utmost importance to establish strong ties with the government and considered it a bulwark against Soviet encroachment.

    While the South African Government certainly used tactics that would aptly be described as terrorism, the U.S. has attempted to dissuade the government from it’s apartheid policies and tactics from their beginning in 1948; but, the U.S. did not attempt to insert itself into the country’s internal affairs. This was the era of the Cold War and such was the perceived danger from the Soviet Union and it’s allies that these considerations generally took precedence over any moral questions regarding apartheid. These are the realities of a dangerous world.

    South Africa was expelled from the United Nations in 1974 and an arms embargo was instituted against the country in 1977. During 1980s U.S. individuals, businesses, and government substantially increased economic pressure against South Africa to abandon apartheid. And through a combination of financial, ethical, and moral pressure we have seen the end of apartheid and a new majority government now in South Africa.

    In general, activities by the U.S. in Africa during the Cold War period were for the purpose of checking Soviet influence and expansionism. We deal with and support governments that we believe give us a strategic advantage. Conversely, it has not been the policy of the U.S. to attempt to intervene in the internal affairs of any country that we did not believe posed a stratigic threat or endangered the safety of the U.S. whether we liked their internal policies or not.

    And, terrorism seems to have been modus operandi for all sides in African conflicts, whether they were wars of liberation, wars backed by the U.S. and Soviets to counter each other, civil wars, or tribal wars. Terrorism is endemic in Africa from the mau mau in Kenya in the 1950s, the South African government, the Unita rebels and Angolan Army in Angola, idi Amin in Uganda, the Hutu in Rwanda in 1994, Charles Taylor and Samuel Doe in Liberia, and today by Sudan’s Janjaweed in Darfur. And it is estimated that 500 thousand plus died in Uganda, 2 million plus died in Rawanda, 200 thousand plus died in Liberia, and 400 thousand plus have died in Darfur, all of which are African conflicts in which we had no participation.

    As for passing gas, I will concede your superior knowledge of the subject.

  27. Sorry, but I’ve read over a dozen books on Chile, and no, he was not a dictator. He did nationalize some of the industries, but that does not a dictatorship make. Neither does establishing relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba make you a dictator. These things make you a leftist, something you seem to equate with dictatorship.

  28. Rex-A

    Israel also has a proportional-representation system and no party has ever gotten a majority. Every government has been a coalition, and once a coalition is in place, it has total power. While Israel has had directly-elected prime ministers (head of state) from 1996-2003, that system has been dropped again. So, according to your standards, Israel is a dictatorship. How many Israelis would agree? I’m sure some think the system is unfair.

    This is simply how unicameral democratic government with proportional representation works. While it can create dictators, like Hitler, that part actually requires the destruction of the governmental form itself.

  29. Mr Duncan

    Chile had a representative form of government and their form of government had nothing to do with making Allende a dictator and I never said, or implied, that it did. I am not sure how you reached that conclusion from what I said.


    Yep, Allende was a leftist, and I never implied that made him a dictator, nor did establishing relations with Cuba or the USSR.

    What I said made him a dictator were his actions after coming to power, namely:

    *Unconstitutional and unlawful acts, such as,
    – restricting freedom of speech,
    – unauthorized seizure of private
    – disregarding the courts,
    – and numerous other acts …

    *… and seeking to “establish a totalitarian system absolutely opposed to the representative system of government established by the constitution”. (Paragraph 3 above)

    If you don’t think these are the acts of a dictator, that’s up to you; but, these are the reasons the Chilean Chamber of Deputies asked the military to remove him from power.

  30. Rex A

    Since I don’t think you’re arguing in good faith, I’m going to quit reading after this.

    I still think you were trying to imply that he acquired his office illegitimately, and in that you were wrong.

    I don’t think that Chile’s constitution of 1925 had a provision for military overthrow of the elected officeholders and the subsequent liquidation of his political supporters. In my reading, the Chamber of Deputies had the power to impeach, and then the Senate had the power to judge the President. But the chamber did not have the power to invite the military to overthrow the regime. That would be like the House commanding the Army to overthrow the President because he had been impeached.

  31. Rex A, et al.,

    I’m enjoying this conversation. I am learning a good deal from it.

    Rex A stated that Allende was a dictator, which is a strong charge but one that Rex has strove to support. He did not state that Allende achieved office legitimately. (History is full of those who did one without the other.)

    Duncan argues that he was removed illegitimately. Likewise, a strong charge, but likewise one he supports.

    My question is: did Allende, once he was in office, argue for extra-Constitutional powers in a way analogous to the Chamber of Deputies’ request?

  32. Seerov,

    NO one deserves anything. There are no “rights” and thinking otherwise is foolish.

    Are you arguing that there are no positive rights (The state must supply employment, The state must supply housting), no negative rights (The state may not suppress speech, The state may not confiscate arms), or both?

  33. Mr Duncan,

    Sorry that you feel that I am not arguing in “good faith”; but, if you can show me an instance of such an argument in what I have written, I would be happy to consider your objection.

    For both you and Dan, I never said, nor did I imply, that Allende’s election was not legitimate. It was absolutely legitimate.

    What I said was, Allende was NOT popularly-elected; that is, he did not win the majority of votes cast by the public. He (more specifically, his leftist coalition) won only a plurality of the votes cast (36.2%). In the absence of an absolute majority, the Chilean Constitution required that congress select the president. Allende’s Unidad Popular coalition in concert with the left-of-center Christian Democrats, who received 27% of the popular vote, voted together in congress to elect Allende president. Under Chile’s Constitution at the time, this makes his election absolutely legitimate.

    I would like to point out that George W. Bush did not win the popular vote when he won his first term as President, i.e., he was not popularly-elected. He was elected President because he won the most Electoral College votes and was subsequently elected president by the Electoral College. Bush received 50,460,110 votes to Al Gore’s 51,003,926; but, he received 271 Electoral College votes to 266 for Gore.

    To my mind, there is no question that that the Chamber of Deputies did not have the Constitutional power to initiate a coup against the Allende government. I believe that what they did was absolutely illegal. One can only speculate about why they took such a radical step; but, my guess is that there were several reasons. First, the country was in a severe social and economic crisis and was on the verge of collapse, with an annual inflation rate in excess of 500%, and a severe shortage of necessities that had become available only on the black market. Second, I would speculate that they believed that he intended to establish a totalitarian regime, and in view of his blatant disregard for the law and courts, he would not surrender power even if impeached; and, would, perhaps, even turn to his friend Fidel Castro to intervene on his behalf.

    You can read the “Declaration of the breakdown of Chile’s Democracy” which is the document created by the Chamber of Deputies requesting Allende’s removal here:


    The irony of their actions is that by initiating a coup, they facilitated the establishment of a right-wing totalitarian regime run by a dictator backed by the power of the Chilean military.


    So far as I can determine, Allende attempted to have his agenda enacted into law by the congress, even though some of it would have apparently been unconstitutional, but for the most part was unsuccessful.

    At some point in his tenure, he was publically opposed by even the left-of-center Christian Democrats who were originally allied with his coalition in congress. Some of this parting of the ways seems to have come about because of his willingness to disregard the law and ignore the courts to implement his extra-legal agenda.

    I have excerpted a couple of the points from the Chamber of Deputies “Declaration of the breakdown of Chile’s Democracy” (See link above) which seem to cast some light on this issue:

    5. That it is a fact that the current government of the Republic, from the beginning, has sought to conquer absolute power with the obvious purpose of subjecting all citizens to the strictest political and economic control by the state and, in this manner, fulfilling the goal of establishing a totalitarian system: the absolute opposite of the representative democracy established by the Constitution;

    6. That to achieve this end, the administration has committed not isolated violations of the Constitution and the laws of the land, rather it has made such violations a permanent system of conduct, to such an extreme that it systematically ignores and breaches the proper role of the other branches of government, habitually violating the Constitutional guarantees of all citizens of the Republic, and allowing and supporting the creation of illegitimate parallel powers that constitute an extremely grave danger to the Nation, by all of which it has destroyed essential elements of institutional legitimacy and the Rule of Law; …

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