They don’t do these things like before. Once upon a time, these exercises in regime change were smooth and seamless. Nobody knew anything was in motion until the deed was done. Those were the bad old days of Cold War wrestling, spheres of influence, oil control, and corporate interests that, every now and again, were all settled by an old-fashioned coup d’état. It was mainly apple pie, with the heavy aroma of vodka wafting in the air.
When things all clicked into place and everybody behaved according to plan, they were bloodless; that was the best possible outcome. And if they were not, then that was part of the price to be paid. It was not the best for world power business and reputation, but people moved on and started over after the usual media sensations and official big power denials had faded.
Whether violent and bloody (or bloodless), Latin America has had its share of both kinds and so too did South Vietnam, Cambodia, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and a few African republics, to name some of the old hotspots. Those were the days of a different kind of macho language: junta, caudillo, strongman, generalissimo. And of course, the usual sanctimonies about democracy and the will of the people coming alive and being put into action.
On the other hand, the 21st century has turned out to be an altogether different bag of tricks. Since the latter decades of the last millennium, powerbrokers claimed to have discovered conscience, god, humanity, regard for human dignity, and regard for sovereignty. Taken on an individual basis, each of those discoveries represents an achievement by itself, and when blended together, they point to how far the ways of man and the ways of the world have traveled.
Things are done differently these days. No more coups. No more internal meddling and interference. The problem is that the path to purgatory is paved with the best of intentions; a radioactive pathway is that one about no more coups, and no more superpower intrusions or impositions. For the reality has not quite measured up to the rhetoric and political religiosity.
Too many messy ends. Too many players. Too many exposures and media moments and embarrassments. Iraq. Venezuela. Now Libya. And then Venezuela again. Too much talking and preening and image enhancing, while pretending at neutral distancing. The modus operandi might be superficially different, but the underpinnings and endgames are indistinguishable from the old ways. There are all these international political Kabuki masks that fit awkwardly. Nobody is fooled for a moment.
Bolton tries to manage himself and fails at finding the brotherhood of Martin Luther King or Mohandas Gandhi. Muammar was knocked out, and Libya is on the ropes. Maduro covers up and hopes for a bell, any bell, to grant reprieve. Julio did pick himself off the floor from some remote island somewhere. Whoever heard of ousted leaders returning to haunt? Coups were final, as in leadership and political coup de grace. Kaput.
Meanwhile, Vladimir says his hands are clean; had nothing to do with anything. Every world leader with a dog in the various fights pretend at being Lon Chaney: they are men with a thousand faces. It as if the involved are reading a manual and piously adhering to a fixed script. Coups in the hands of Keystone Cops are not a laughing matter.
In the new world of a new kind of democracy, and one with clean new strokes: everybody wants clean hands, an international alibi. There are no multinational giants in the fray. Neither publicly nor nearby. In the age of CNN, WikiLeaks and cybermedia, all developments are domestically powered. No foreign fingerprints. No Oliver North, no Kermit Roosevelt, no United Fruit nor KGB. The will of the people. One problem: they didn’t know they had one; and if they did, how to exercise. Looks like the same coup story, just new covers.
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