To the Editor:
The article by Penn Kemble and Arturo J. Cruz, Jr., “How the Nicaraguan Resistance Can Win” [December 1986], is no less valid now than it was before the so-called Iran-contra scandal blew up. The facts show that none of the fundamentals has changed in Nicaragua to merit a change in U.S. policy. . . . In 1986, the U.S. Congress judged the Nicaraguan Communists to be enough of a threat to allocate $100 million in military and humanitarian assistance to the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN). What has changed since then? Absolutely nothing.
The daily press hype of “new revelations” about the Iran-contra connection plays right into the hands of the most liberal wing of the Democratic party which hopes to derail the President’s Nicaragua initiatives. This approach is testimony to the fact that the Democrats have no policy alternatives and have therefore been relegated to defeating the President’s policy on the basis of peripheral events. The liberals have long since lost the ability to defend the Sandinistas. The John Kerrys, Christopher Dodds, and Peter Kostmayers of the world would have the FDN pay for mistakes made in the Middle East. Is this sound foreign policy? I think not. . . .
I feel, therefore, that contra aid is still safe for the foreseeable future. The value, then, of the article lies in its effective articulation of the fight we can expect over new funding to the democratic resistance. I think it is helpful to expand on some of Messrs. Kemble and Cruz’s observations. For example, they only lightly touch on the fact that battlefield strategy for the FDN is inappropriately being formulated in Washington by a bunch of armchair freedom fighters. The battlefield has a dynamic all its own which must be allowed to unfold unencumbered by congressional expectations for sexy, short-run victories. . . . Supporters of aid to the contras have been too lax in proposing a realistic set of criteria which the resistance can meet—both politically and militarily—and by which we can judge its effectiveness.
At present, Democrats . . . say, “Look, we gave them $100 million and they don’t even hold any Nicaraguan territory.” Now everyone knows that in a guerrilla war holding territory is not an accurate benchmark of success; but this specious argument, repeated over and over, has been gaining some credibility by default, since proponents of democracy in Nicaragua have done little to counter it.
Messrs. Kemble and Cruz offer constructive criticism of conservatives, saying that they have been sugarcoating the length and intensity of this struggle, which requires sustained U.S. support. So true! The problem with softpedaling the seriousness of the Nicaraguan conflict is that it will make it difficult to maintain constituent support over the long haul. Let us bear in mind that it takes years for an insurgent force to become militarily viable, so it makes no sense to sell the policy as a quick fix. . . .
Those of us who support the democratic resistance (I write as Foreign Affairs Legislative Assistant to Representative Robert K. Dornan, R-Cal.) must also consider framing the debate around the moral argument. It is now clear that only a small portion of Middle America feels a tangible threat when President Reagan cites concrete evidence of Soviet military assistance to the Sandinistas and explains the geostrategic importance of the Caribbean sea lanes. I think we can garner more support at the grass-roots level by supplementing the President’s approach with examples such as the little-known fact that thousands of political prisoners in Nicaragua are beaten and tortured on a daily basis. Where is the public outrage over Nicaragua when there is so much over South Africa? I think that it is incumbent upon us to see to it that this double standard does not continue unchallenged in the press.
Additionally, I have heard very little analysis of . . . the evils of Communism. Everyone assumes that Communism is bad, but Americans do not naturally associate Nicaragua’s Sandinistas with Communism. A strategy which drives home the point that Communism forecloses all possibilities for future generations to choose the type of government they want will appeal to an ingrained American value which gives freedom of choice one of the highest priorities.
Overall, the article was excellent precisely because it set the tone for a whole new debate while providing valuable insights into the process of gaining a stronger constituency for the democratic resistance—one that will outlast the Reagan Presidency.
James M. Skinner
To the Editor:
Penn Kemble and Arturo J. Cruz, Jr. are to be congratulated on their excellent article on the Nicaraguan freedom fighters and how they can win. We need many more such theoretical articles dealing with fundamental principles if freedom-fighter movements are to succeed, in Nicaragua and elsewhere around the world.
Two points are worth emphasizing. The first has to do with the military successes of anti-Communist insurgencies. Although it is clearly much easier to overthrow a government of the Somoza type than a Communist regime (as Edén Pastora has learned to his sorrow), it is also true that anti-Communist insurgencies enjoy some of the same theoretical advantages over conventional forces that Communist insurgencies do. But in addition, they have one large stimulus denied the latter: the fact that Communist regimes by their nature war on their own populations, which non-Communist governments generally do not. The people have no choice but to respond to that assault: by submission, by flight, or by resistance. In the last decade, quite independently of American policies, ever more victims of Communism have chosen the last option, and in so doing have discovered, as the authors put it, that “the Communists are really not ten feet tall.” Indeed, the freedom fighters in Mozambique may be in a position to win their victory before long without having received any assistance at all from the United States.
The second point has to do with the vital importance of the political struggle. In terms of men in the field, anti-Communist insurgencies are generally much more powerful than Communist insurgencies at a comparable state of development, or even at the point when they take power. As Messrs. Kemble and Cruz point out, the Nicaraguan resistance now has some 18,000 men in the field as contrasted to the 3,000 the Sandinistas had at their disposal when they triumphed. But the transfer of power within Nicaragua was essentially political: those who disposed of political power (especially outside the country) were more than willing to be persuaded of the strength of the Communist insurgency in the field, and then simply granted the Communists by political means what they would have had difficulty in winning purely militarily. This is even more clearly the case in Angola and Mozambique; in both countries a left-wing Portuguese government hastily transferred power to local Communist movements. . . .
In my view, some of the anti-Communist insurgencies in the world today could probably win without any substantial United States aid (although we stand morally condemned if we refuse it to them). But they will be crippled in the international arena after they take power if they lack the political support which it should be our task to provide them with.
Charles A. Moser