Page 43 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2013

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the Foreign Service journal
|
april 2013
43
But as was often the case in Central America during the
1980s, Washington’s plans did not work out quite as antici-
pated. Tough the press conference came of without a hitch,
and the
New York Times
and other news outlets reported on it,
Means’ denunciation failed to generate the hoped-for media
buzz.
Instead, it was drowned out by the revelations of what soon
became known as the Iran-Contra afair. Tat debacle would
prove the undoing of the U.S. ambassador and station chief
in Costa Rica, as well as several ofcials back in Washington,
D.C. Teir ranks included Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North
and CIA Director William Casey, who were both indicted for
their roles in the plot.
The Persistence of Folly
President Ronald Reagan survived the scandal and the
inimitable Russell Means went on to other pursuits, in Hol-
lywood and elsewhere. And a certain young diplomat went on
with his Foreign Service career for a few more years.
Te death of Russell Means last October prompted me to
reassess all the pieces of a puzzle I observed so many years
ago in San José, but was unable to put together at the time. Te
events called to mind the hubris of men in power who believe
that wars can be shaped and controlled to serve their interests
with scant regard for unintended consequences.
If we learned anything from that tumultuous period, it
should be that no one has a monopoly on truth or virtue, and
that war ought to be pursued only as a last resort. As he railed
against the Sandinistas after his ordeal in Nicaragua, Russell
Means’ heart was in the right place and his message to the
world was sincere and well-intentioned. One might even say
the same for some in the U.S. government.
But even that was not enough to make a diference in a war
which—like all wars—had its own perverse, unpredictable
logic and, ultimately, showed “wise” men to be fools.
n
If we learned anything
from that tumultuous
period, it should be that
no one has a monopoly on
truth or virtue, and that war
ought to be pursued only
as a last resort.