Join with me in solemnly raising a glass of sparkling libation to the recent achievements of Gen. Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala and Gen. Hussain Mohammed Ershad of Bangladesh.Congratulations, fellows! Last week these two estimable gentlemen got their countries going again, as the phrase has it. They led successful coups.
In American journalistic and scholary circles, the coup remains a controversial method of political change, which is surprising. Other vigorous modes of change -- for instance, revolution -- arouse no such scrupling, as anyone reading the news dispatches from El Salvador knows. Among some pundits, revolution is even preferable to the secret ballot; and it arouses far fewer har-hars from various cosmopolitan foreign correspondents, who glow with admiration when they behold khaki-clad teen-agers in the bush armed with M16s and a few lines of Marxist flumdiddle.
Considered purely in humanistic terms, the coup is actually more humane than revolution. While under way there is usually far less bloodshed, and a coup's aftermath is rarely as turbulent and rambunctiously homicidal as a revolution's. Moreover, a general, even a fat general, is surely as heroic as a revolutionary stealing through the jungle slitting throats and mining roadways. Nor is the revolutionary any less susceptible to corruption. Consider the palm-greasing that persists in revolutionary Iran and Vietnam. A brisk coup cuts through all the political shenanigans, allowing effective government for a change. Is that not what every liberal really yearns for?
Now, I do not mean to take liberties with the First Amendment. I surely want no trouble with the learned judges who have been busily translating our Constitution into a foreign tongue. However, in light of the embarrassing ineptitude that has come to characterize so many of our government's efforts in recent years, I should like our president to gather his most trusted generals and admirals and initiate a wholesome coup d'etat for the good of the nation. The United States has been acting like a banana republic since the days of Lyndon Johnson, and it is about time that we adopt one of the banana republics' few salutary customs, the coup.
President Reagan has recently brought in three no-nonsense types to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Navy and the Air Force. Put them to work. Drop a battalion of paratroopers on Capitol Hill. Bring in the tanks, and threaten to close down all the bars within walking distance of the Capitol.
I suspect this column will cause consternation among my liberal friends, but it is because of their excesses that I urge a coup. For too long they have been miring us in their arcane arguments. Once they hoodwink us into participating in their sophistic rituals, futility overtakes policy. Now the administration has been drawn into the debate over whether the Salvadoran regime is a good government outfit. Will it bring social justice? Does it have the peasants' support? The so-called liberals have dragged the U.S. government into such debates before. They almost always win the debate but somehow wriggle free of the consequences, most recently: brutal oppression in Vietnam, brutal oppression in Laos, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the Ayatollan Khomeini in Iran, and now the communists in Nicaragua.
Truth be known, the so-called liberals have no plausible alternative to the Reagan policy in El Salvador. All their caterwauling only renders the United States that much more ineffectual. Nor do they have a better alternative to the administration's disarmament policies. Their nuclear freeze would only ensure the present Soviet dominance, a dominance already eroding U.S. alliances and influence. Finally, they have no alternative to the administration's economic policies. All they can suggest is still more spending, more taxes and more inflation. Nonetheless, despite the futility of their own alternatives, they will demonstrate in the streets, ambush administration policy when and where they can, and through their dolorous commentary cast a pall over Washington. These are the futilitarians who, during the Carter administration, crowed that nothing could be done about our problems. Now they are taking action to make good their claims. We must be freed from these flummoxers.