Saturday, August 20, 2016

Small Sample Size on Iran 1953

The CIA-assisted coup in Iran in 1953 was referenced in Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). I hadn't thought about it in a long time, but I remembered something, and pointed out that it lacked a longer perspective and opposition context.

As an aside, commenter Richard Johnson provided a link that showed that narrative was even worse than deserved. Short version: The CIA certainly tried to assist, and loved to claim that they had indeed been key; also, the Muslim fundamentalist opposition loved to claim that it was the American CIA which had done them so wrong. But what spooks actually accomplished was probably not that decisive: some cartoons in newspapers, a few million dollars trying to gather some rent-a-mobs and another few million in bribes.  I'm not sure you could turn a gubernatorial race in a small state with that, and you certainly couldn't count on it being permanent.

The same historical example just came up again in my reading of Chuck Klosterman's book But What If We're Wrong? (Quick Review:  Great concept, great start, otherwise disappointing, with a few memorable lines per chapter.  Browse the beginning if you find it.  No more.) Klosterman used it as a Howard Zinn type of example of something that was previously denied and generally unknown, but now simply everyone knows is true. You know how I am about any claim that simply everyone knows is true.

Yesterday it showed up on the Wikipedia main page, as 8/19 is the anniversary of the coup.  I admit that three occurrences is a small sample size, and there is a coincidental aspect to my encountering the first two examples now, neither of which were written this year.  Yet I still think there is something afoot.  As events play out in the Middle East, there is a type of mind that reflexively wants to instruct the common American opinion, always ready to say "Well, you know, the US bears some of the blame for this.  You should remember what bad things we have done in the past."  They just believe there is a lesson to be taught, and it should be taught at every opportunity.  It is not the mere balancing act of trying to get some of both sides into a discussion, because there would then be statements inserted from time-to-time about benefits to the Middle East that have originated in the West, especially America. They believe that theirs is the minority view which they must valiantly proclaim against an oppressive majority culture, even though they are now the holders of power.  Mere dominance is not enough, apparently.  Opposers must be crushed.

All groups do this, of course, though not on this issue, where the sermonising comes only from one side.  But I have certainly heard conservatives, including (especially?) religious conservatives do the same, reflexively lecturing on points of history.  In accordance with the pattern I have often noted, liberals tend to fire the first shot, often not realising that they are igniting controversy, because they are just helpfully pointing out what they learned in freshman history.  Conservatives are less likely to initiate, but they lie in wait for the unwary, prepared to escalate quickly.

11 comments:

Sam L. said...

As I recall, a sample size of three is too small to be statistically significant. Especially when each has its own spin applied.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, I'm reaching. Just trying to do it in an interesting way.

Christopher B said...

This also goes to the myth of America as the single omniscient actor on the world stage, especially in the post-WW2 era. Everything that happens in the world HAS to have some American involvement.

Christopher B said...

This also goes to the myth of America as the single omniscient actor on the world stage, especially in the post-WW2 era. Everything that happens in the world HAS to have some American involvement.

RichardJohnson said...

Christopher B
This also goes to the myth of America as the single omniscient actor on the world stage, especially in the post-WW2 era. Everything that happens in the world HAS to have some American involvement.

Another example of the Blame America First- or America is the single omniscient actor- genre is the accepted narrative on the 1973 coup in Chile- on September 11, of all days. The accepted narrative was that Allende was this DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED guy- its always DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED- who was doing great things for Chile and then the bad CIA and milicos , a.k.a. military, did him in.

The truth of the matter was that Allende, who was elected with an overwhelming 36.3% of the vote, never had the support of the majority. While the legislature did vote for nationalization of the copper industry and the banks, Allende nationalized hundreds of businesses by decree.

Allende's legal "support" for decreeing hundreds of nationalizations was a decree law that Colonel Marmaduke Grove had issued as a member of the short lived Socialist Republic, which came to power by coup. The DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Allende, whose supporters despise coups, resorted to a decree issued by a military Junta that came to power by a coup. Ironic, isn't it? Allende had to resort to such loopholes, because he knew the legislature would never pass his program wholesale. [Marmaduke Grove married into the Allende family.]


Those who consider the DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Allende a victim of the US and CIA have examined the historical record in a very superficial manner. Three weeks before the coup, the also DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Chamber of Deputies passed by an 81-47 vote a resolution titled the “Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy.” An excerpt follows.

"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…"


In general and in specific, the resolution could be interpreted as an invitation to a coup. Allende himself accurately called it such. The DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED members of the Chamber of Deputies would not have passed such a strongly-worded resolution by a commanding 63- 37% majority if their constituents, the Chilean people, were not also disgusted with the Allende government’s repeated violations of law and democratic procedure.


Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, the first elected President after the Pinochet years, had been head of the Christian Democratic Party during the Allende years. He was the principal author of the resolution. Aylwin had supported the coup, and later helped lead the NO vote in the 1988 referendum that led to the December 1989 elections that replaced the Pinochet regime. The primary author of a Declaration that was an invitation to a coup, is later a leader in the NO vote in the 1988 Referendum that means that Pinochet has to leave office, and subsequently gets elected President in a center-left coalition. History is messy.

José Piñera's How Allende Destroyed Democracy in Chile gives a succinct description of the Allende years.

RichardJohnson said...

AVI, given your social work career, you might be interested in this article culled from Power Line links. Leaked Faculty Letters Expose Racial Fault Lines at Smith's Social-Work School.

A controversial pair of letters written by faculty members at Smith College’s School for Social Work and addressed to administrators there have inspired a protest and charges of racism by students. The letters, which were leaked to students by an unidentified source, revealed that some professors in the program are frustrated both by the admission of students they view as academically unprepared and by an administration they see as too willing to cave to student complaints.

Heads will roll, and we know the heads won't belong to students. They never do these days. I wonder how Smith MSW grads compare to MSW grads from other schools. My guess is that Smith MSW don't appear that bad in comparison to other schools, even if they may be "academically unprepared." IOW, I doubt that other schools that have MSW programs have students that are better "academically prepared" compared to Smith. I suspect that the profs are upset that there are Smith MSW students who couldn't have gotten admitted as Smith freshman under any rubric.

Your thoughts, AVI?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Richard, there is an associated article, a letter from an assistant professor of social work. http://chronicle.com/blogs/letters/how-schools-of-social-work-can-improve-outcomes-for-minorities/

Step #1: Attract and recruit talented individuals of color.

Well golly, I'm sure no one's thought of that before.

All the subsequent steps depend on Step #1. What if there aren't all that many talented individuals of color, because the talented NAM's, already in short supply*, don't like the looks of social work?

I am quite torn what to do about this. I am wondering whether I should send the other article to the head of my department. It will make me look bad, of course. Because thoughtcrime. But these nice liberal experienced social workers don't realise that they're next. I've already had bad experiences with students and new hires who have been encouraged to be immediate activists and stamp out this or that as if they know something. I'm at the end of my career and I am taking more risks - but slowly.

*If someone finds the "short supply" part offensive, please note that it is simply true, whatever the cause. Whether it is overt racism, structural racism, prenatal care, bad schools, or genetic loading, they are in short supply.

RichardJohnson said...

Step #1: Attract and recruit talented individuals of color.....Well golly, I'm sure no one's thought of that before.
Moreover, schools of social work were most likely in the vanguard of such efforts.

*If someone finds the "short supply" part offensive, please note that it is simply true, whatever the cause. Whether it is overt racism, structural racism, prenatal care, bad schools, or genetic loading, they are in short supply.

The following article impressed on me the "short supply" issue:The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: The Widening Racial Scoring Gap on the SAT College Admissions Test.
In 2005, 153,132 African Americans took the SAT test...we find that in the entire country 244 blacks scored 750 or above on the math SAT...whites were more than 11 times as likely as blacks to score 750 or above on the math SAT.

Those numbers are not encouraging. When I counted the number of my high school classmates who I knew scored 750 or above on the Math SAT- I saw that one could not call those numbers bogus.

Mismatch, mismatch....

Sam L. said...

I'm going with bad schooling and insufficient two-parent families.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Richard - good timing. I just sent another article from that site to a liberal who doesn't want to hear it.

Sam L. - I once hoped that as well. But even the black kids in place score 15 points behind the white kids with same. Involved fathers seem to be a marker, not a cause of higher IQ.

Sam L. said...

Ought to be a marker of doing better in school, though. IQ seems to be genetic, and why different races/nationalities have different means and narrower or wider distributions.