Spruille Braden?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Wed Dec 20 08:24:45 MST 2000


Nestor:
>Yoshie might now answer that my contributions on Argentinean economic and
>politic history to PEN-L were very good, and that she learnt very much from
>them, and that they were triggered by Spruille Braden De Long's gorilla
>viewpoint.

The New York Times, July 26, 1988, Tuesday, Late City Final Edition

The Diplomat's Tightrope

By Karl E. Meyer

Denouncing the United States as an ''imperial bully,'' Nicaragua recently
expelled Ambassador Richard Melton for allegedly meddling in internal
affairs. It's not a new complaint; indeed, it has now cropped up again in
Havana, where the regime was irked by the presence of Cuban human rights
activists at a U.S. diplomat's cocktail party.

Most diplomats understand that they ought not to take partisan sides in
democratic elections (including those back home in the U.S.). Dictatorships
pose a dilemma. U.S. diplomats risk censure when they fail to develop ties
with opponents of dictators, left and right. Yet they risk expulsion if
they do. Their best rule of thumb is to stand up clearly for American
values, but avoid appearing to promote either a dictator or his opponents.

When diplomats overstep, they can make themselves and their countries look
foolish. A classic instance occurred when Juan Peron was mesmerizing
Argentina with Yankee-baiting populism. As tersely retold in a manual for
Foreign Service officers:

''The United States intervened in the elections of 1946. Ambassador
Spruille Braden delivered pointedly partisan speeches, and two weeks before
the election the U.S. Department of State issued a book that was highly
critical of Peron. Peron took full advantage of the challenge. His campaign
slogan 'Braden or Peron' proved to be highly effective. . . .''

As instructive is a contretemps a century ago that may have cost Grover
Cleveland a re-election victory (he ran four years later and won).

In September 1888, a man signing himself Murchison, who claimed to be a
naturalized American citizen, wrote to the British envoy in Washington
saying he wanted to do his best for the old motherland. Would a victory for
Cleveland be better for Britain? Sir Lionel Sackville-West, an unwary
patrician with better bloodlines than brains, commended Cleveland in a
letter marked ''Private.''

The letter passed to the camp of Benjamin Harrison, Cleveland's Republican
rival, and the text was made public nine days before the vote. A New York
daily ran a facsimile, headlined: ''The British Lion's Paw Thrust Into
American Politics.'' Since the Irish-American vote was crucial in key
states, gloom overcame the Democrats.

Cleveland hesitated, prompting his party managers to cable that the Irish
vote ''is slipping out of our hands because of diplomatic
shilly-shallying.'' Thus prodded, the President declared Sackville-West non
grata.

Friends of the diplomat insisted that the gaffe made no difference, that
Cleveland lost in a close vote because he resisted protectionism. Whatever,
the incident clouded the career of Sackville-West. Diplomats, one might
sensibly conclude, may justifiably risk expulsion by standing up for human
rights but risk harm to their own countries whenever they tout parties or
candidates.


Louis Proyect
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