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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dictators and empires in the era of neo-liberalism: Surath Giri debates with Jiwan Kshetry

Surath Giri, one of the prolific writers from Kathmandu with keen interest in Libertarianism who writes regularly for KhabarSouthAsia posted an article with this chart in his website. A debate ensued between him and myself in facebook timeline. Here is the debate in original words.

JK: I think this graph is more significant for those who deserved but missed the place in the list. If I am correct, Pinochet, Suharto and host of other pet dictators of US also performed their job in 20th century. 

SG: They are also there but above mentioned dictators are the ones responsible with highest numbers of deaths!! This is the TOP TEN list!!

SG: The chart is based on a publicly available data. I am surprised why did you have to mention US...as far as I can see the chart neither defends nor criticizes US. Pinochet's killings have been estimated from as less as 3200 people to as many as 80000 people. Of course he is among the dictators of the 19th century but his killings don't put him in the top ten list!!

JK: Thanks for the clarification. Fatalities in individual case of Pinochet could have been less but if the US's systemic nurturing of military dictators for decades in Latin America and elsewhere is to be considered, I am afraid, we are forced to mention US. My point is, for a more complete picture, such graphs could be drawn for, let's say, top 20 worst dictators. Not exactly for this debate and definitely not while compiling the Worst Dictators of the century, we could tally the total fatalities of imperial acts of ruthless aggression and devastation like the ones that preceded the Mao's rise to power in China so that multiple tragedies of history could be studied in relation to one another. Does the devastation of Vietnamese population by the US, for example, become more acceptable or less deplorable just because it was ordered not by a dictator but by an elected president of US? My point is not to distort the topic at all, but I was trying to clarify why US comes to picture in so many inhumane acts in history. Relying on publicly available data, rulers of US would never come in such a list or graph but I see no reason for anyone to be surprised by mere mention of US because dictators are as much a result of the regional and geopolitical backing as the result of internal developments in any country.

SG: I don't understand why you are focusing so much on US...US...US... history shows any country that becomes too powerful kills people. For eg. In above graph you can see Belgian King's name too. Spain when it was powerful killed so many Latin Americans. China when it was powerful killed so many Huns. Roman empire too killed many people. So, I fail to see the objectivity of your views when you say " US comes to picture in so many inhumane acts in history"...It does obviously. But so do many countless empires that have existed...

But as you can see most of these dictators mentioned above killed their own people which makes it worse I guess!!

Just to clarify: my personal views go like this. Governments whenever become powerful tend to opress. No matter whatever ideology they follow or whatever they say they believe in. So GOVERNMENTS should be given as little power as possible...from Pinochet to Mao to Kim Il Sung whenever people are given too much power they end up killing civilians. That's one of the reasons why I believe in limited government!!!

JK: Agreed every empire has killed people. But it is natural to focus on US because it is a reigning empire and not something in remote past which can be viewed with a detachment. If Belgian, Spanish, Chinese and Roman rulers killed people ruthlessly in the past, that may justify the killing the US is doing for those who happen to be in the 'right side of the history'. But to the people who have been suffering in real time, from a US-backed coup in Latin America to indiscriminate droning spree in Pakistan, that is akin to saying "you deserve misery and death just because US happens to be the imperial superpower". That is one profound difference in past and present empires and past and present atrocities. On limited government, I am afraid neo-liberalism is all about shrinking the role of government in one thing: regulation of economic activities. At others even the contrary is true. Also, I believe, killing the 'others' as opposed to one's own people does not make a killer any better. And when the killing of others is brought about by an elected government with tacit complacency of the voters, it is even worse.

SG: I disagree with your view that neo-liberalism extends government in spheres except that of economic regulation. I suggest you to have a look at the libertarian movement around the world. Look at Ron Paul and what he says/intends to do about US's foreign policy.      

Anyone interested can join the debate anywhere including this blog, facebook and twitter. It is highly likely the debate will continue between Surath and myself in any of the following opportunity.  

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