Archive for July, 2008


July 21, 2008

Sixty three years ago, across Japan still resonated a battle cry:  “A people of one hundred million united and ready to die for the nation.” In fact, military and civilian Japanese were dying in growing numbers. The immolation created by Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi of dying but destroying, and causing widespread damage was a highly lethal weapon. Taking control of Okinawa had already proved deadly for the Americans. One third of their war casualties had happened as a result of the fierce Japanese defense. Going all the way to the heart of Japan would cost around 300,000 additional lives just during the first days of battle, strategists estimated. U.S. leaders were well aware that Japan’s fight ability was collapsing, but the most interested parties, the Japanese, didn’t see it the same way.

“It did seem that the whole island nation was being mobilized for a suicidal battle to death; even young school children were ordered to start sharpening bamboo shoots with which to kill Americans, ” says oil historian Daniel Yerguin in “The Prize” (Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, p. 365)

 Even after two atomic bombs, Japan was split between surrender and collective death. In the evening of August 14, a soldiers command tried to seize a message recorded by the Emperor to be aired hours later. They were overcome, recalls Yerguin, but not before the Imperial Guard chief was killed.

I dare to mention these episodes because President Evo Morales doesn’t seem to realize that his social and political experiment has limits and if he wants to save it he has to steer course. The latter seems impossible, because it would run against his own stubborn nature. The men surrounding him, ever since he planted coca leaves, have led him to create an image of himself far from reality. They make him believe that almost the whole Bolivia is on his side and that those who oppose him are just a few. But he is only a representation of the Andean Bolivia, on which are necessary gargantuan efforts to move on harmonically as a nation. Look at his limitations, his international gaffes and blunders, his primary stammering language. All in a leader who has managed to move ahead from a lost barren town in the interior of Oruro, in western Bolivia, become a leader and, backed up by monumental road blockages, to conquer the Presidency. One can hardly imagine the efforts that his country will have commit to promote living conditions of hundreds of thousands, the same or worst than his.

But his blindness in recognizing reality leads him to act like kamikazes. The socialist project they embody is an ill-conceived illusion. First of all, history cannot go back 500 year searching an idyllic socialism that, in truth, never existed. The one that did exist since 1917 crumbled twenty years ago squeezed by its despotic inefficiency. Save for its military complex it was never a real competition for capitalism (or neo-liberalism, to use that fashionable neologism). The advent of microelectronics marked the end of communism, without capitalist nations shooting a single missile. The Cuban process looks like a museum of socialism. The one Venezuela wants to impose orients by the dying Cuban model. There still remain North Korea and Iran.  I know no citizens lining up to travel to those countries, not even as tourists. Those leaving Bolivia go to Italy, Spain, England, the United States, from the “neoliberal” area so much cursed by President Morales. They are injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the Bolivian economy and indirectly help Mr. Morales boast about the country’s bulging foreign monetary reserves.

It is still possible an honorable peace, that would preserve the equalitarian principles that gave way to the government of Mr. Morales. But insisting on current course is tantamount to a kamikaze flight, which obviously has no return ticket because there was no gas for a comeback.