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Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org.

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terça-feira, 7 de março de 2017

Ditaduras e repressao na America Latina:book reviews

Krepp on Iber, 'Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America' [review]

by System Administrator

Patrick Iber. Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America. Cambridge:    Harvard University Press, 2015. 336 pp. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-28604-7.

Reviewed by Stella Krepp (University of Bern)
Published on H-LatAm (March, 2017)
Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz

Patrick Iber’s Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America is a study of the transnational political Left in Latin America. Suitably titled with a quote by Leon Trotsky, who in many ways epitomized the struggle within the political Left in Mexico, it relates how the project of a social democracy failed.

In the past two decades, scholars have called for new ways to write the history of a Latin American Cold War that would allow for Latin American agency and voices.[1] As a result, historians have highlighted the local roots of the conflict; illuminated the inter-American dimension; and examined how Latin Americans colluded, shaped, and resisted the Cold War.[2] However, by and large, scholarship still emphasizes a Cold War paradigm that places US-Latin American relations in the context of anti-communist struggle and US security policies, focusing the attention of Left and Right alike on military interventions, economic influence, and diplomatic relations to the detriment of cultural aspects of international relations.[3] This makes Patrick Iber’s book on the cultural dimension of the Cold War within Latin America a very welcome contribution.

Highlighting the role of intellectuals as “privileged communicators” between the masses and the state (p. 1), Iber directs his focus not at the authoritarian Right but at the fragmented political Left in Latin America, more specifically Mexico, and its struggle regarding “how to bring about a humane socialism that would balance social justice and individual freedom” (p. 3). As Iber recounts, this was far from a united and solidary Left, but a fragmented one, and the major fault lines ran between the advocates of social democracy and proponents of socialism or communism. He advances this argument by studying the three major players in the Cultural Cold War—the Soviet Union, the United States, and Cuba—through their front organizations: the Soviet-sponsored World Peace Council (WPC); the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) financed through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); and the Cuban Casa de las Américas, as each tried to mobilize and instrumentalize culture as a vehicle for its Cold War message and vision of social progress.

Iber convincingly relates how the cultural Cold War was rooted in the pre-Cold War history of the region, starting in the 1930s and 1940s, when exiles from the Spanish Civil War and communist dissidents such as Trotsky himself migrated to Mexico. These exiles carried with them the political divisions and animosities of their home societies. This “international civil war among left-wing intellectuals” acquired a new dynamic with the East-West confrontation after World War II (p. 47).

In chapter 2, Iber focuses on the WPC. Sponsored, supported, and guided by the Soviet Union, the WPC attempted to draft artists into a cultural Cold War through the promotion of “peace.” By the late 1950s, however, its never extensive influence had waned and was replaced by the Casa de las Américas as the defining cultural institution of the radical Left. Chapter 3 deals with the CCF. Backed by the United States and financed by the CIA, the CCF’s official aim was to promote social democracy and to denounce the totalitarian visions of the USSR and later Cuba. In one of the most fascinating accounts of the book, Iber narrates how the CCF nurtured the political Left in Cuba throughout the 1950s, and thus unwittingly enabled the revolution to succeed. In the end, the unmasking of the CCF as CIA-backed in the late 1960s spelled out the end of the reformist project.

The turning point that transformed the political Left was, without doubt, the Cuban Revolution of 1959, a home-grown socialist model that soon replaced the Soviet Union as the reference point in Latin America. Likewise, the Cuban Casa de las Américas became the central institution to spread this socialist vision, a story explored by Iber in chapter 4. However, despite inspiring a generation of the political Left in Latin America, the Cuban Revolution also exacerbated the already existing rift within the Left. Many of the earlier supporters of Fidel Castro were forced into exile or severely punished, and soon the regime drew criticism for its authoritarian streak and political as well as cultural censorship.

Ultimately, as Iber relates, by the 1970s all three utopias had failed and with them the belief that intellectuals and artists could and should play a fundamental role in mediating these social visions. Rather, and this would be a fascinating theme for another book, we see the rise of social scientists and technocrats from the beginning of the 1960s. These utopias failed on many fronts, but particularly because of the inherent contradictions in their political programs. In the case of the CCF, preaching liberalism but stifling dissent showcased the very limited notion of freedom the organization promoted. More important, as political events such as the 1964 military coup in Brazil and the blatantly illegal US intervention in the Dominican Republic of 1965 showed, building a social democratic Left with a benevolent and friendly United States was nigh impossible.

Likewise, by the late 1960s, with Ernesto Guevara dead and his foco theory proven wrong, as well as the Cuban endorsement of the 1968 Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia, the Cuban model lost much of its appeal. In the case of the Casa de las Américas, proclaiming freedom but only within a very restrictive definition of the revolution along the lines of the famous dictum “within the revolution everything; against the revolution, nothing” led to disenchantment among the Left. Ultimately, these visions failed because every organization failed to practice what it preached.

Intriguingly, despite the close ideological and financial links with their backers, Iber shows how these front organizations were not simple instruments of hegemony, but hybrid organizations that allowed artists and activists to shape debates and “localize” the Cold War. Moving through different case studies, Iber demonstrates that distinct cultural and historic contexts mattered, just as much as the people who were involved. With his nuanced analysis, he denounces the view that the United States, and in consequence the CIA, was omnipotent or omnipresent. While the United States and the USSR financed and set the agenda for the cultural front organizations, local branches acquired their own dynamics and controlling staff or artists proved difficult to manage. In the end, the actions of the front organizations often had unintended consequences as the Cuban case aptly highlights. Iber narrates one such example in chapter 6, showing how the CCF successfully “modernized” and incorporated a number of Latin American voices in the Mexican case, while in the 1960s, such attempts yielded few results in Brazil and Argentina. Ultimately, modernization never fully materialized because CIA involvement in the CCF was uncovered in 1966-67.

Iber’s Neither Peace nor Freedom is a thought-provoking book and deserves much praise, so I have only minor quibbles to add. While the trope of Mexican exceptionalism is not helpful, one wonders if what Iber relates is truly a Latin American cultural war or, in essence, actually a Mexican one. While he offers excursions to Brazil, Argentina, and more extensively to Cuba, Mexico remains the pivotal center. Of course there are limits to the archival work historians can aspire to, but I was left wondering, as a non-Mexicanist, if the Mexican case was indicative for the whole region or rather a special case. My own impression is that the Cold War in South America acquired a very distinct trajectory. In sum, it raises the questions how to contextualize Mexican history in broader Latin American history.

This is a carefully crafted and elegantly written book that charts the ebb and flow of the cultural Cold War and simultaneously highlights the local Latin American dimension. The book is meticulously researched, and—no mean feat—an enjoyable read.


[1]. Gilbert Joseph and Daniela Spenser, eds, In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter with the Cold War (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008); Greg Grandin, “Off the Beach: The United States, Latin America, and the Cold War,” in A Companion to Post-45 America, ed. Jean-Christophe Agnew and Roy Rosenzweig (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002); and Max Friedman, “Retiring the Puppets, Letting Latin America Back In: Recent Scholarship on United States-Latin American Relations,” Diplomatic History 7, no. 5 (November 2003): 621-636.

[2]. For a good overview on recent scholarship, see Andrew J. Kirkendall, “Cold War Latin America: The State of the Field,” H-Diplo Essay 119, November 14, 2014. See also Greg Grandin, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004); Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); and Ariel Armony, Argentina, the United States, and the Anti-Communist Crusade in Central America, 1977-1984 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Centre of International Studies, 1997).

[3]. Gilbert Joseph, “Toward a New Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations,” in Close Encounters with Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, ed. Gilbert M. Joseph and Catherine LeGrand (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 3.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=48095

Citation: Stella Krepp. Review of Iber, Patrick, Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. March, 2017.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=48095

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Carmody on Weld, 'Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala' [review]

by System Administrator

Kirsten Weld. Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala. American Encounters/Global Interactions Series. Durham:    Duke University Press, 2014. xvi + 335 pp. $26.95 (e-book), ISBN 978-0-8223-7658-3; $27.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8223-5602-8; $99.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8223-5597-7.

Reviewed by Michelle Carmody (Leiden University)
Published on H-LatAm (March, 2017)
Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz

Michelle Carmody on Kirsten Weld's Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala

In critical studies of archives, it has become commonplace to cite Jacques Derrida’s phrase that “there is no political power without control of the archive ... [and] effective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion: the participation in and access to the archive, its constitution, and its interpretation” (p. 16). Kirsten Weld takes this as a departure point but moves on to examine a related question, namely, what the process of (re)constructing an archive tells us about the political context in which this (re)construction is carried out. She does this by examining the creation of the Archivo Histórico de la Policia Nacional (Historical Archives of the National Police, AHPN) in Guatemala, a collection of documents taken from the police archives where they were “discovered” in a state of decay and disorder and subsequently restored, organized, and rehoused in the internationally funded AHPN. If democratization can be measured by access to the archive, Weld shows how this access came about, and how this process of opening the archive shapes the quality of democracy.

The book is organized in four parts. The first examines the immediate context of the (re)discovery of the documents and the commencement of the project to restore them and create the AHPN. The second returns to the period of repression to look at the construction of the document collection itself, as well as the development of the National Police, the institution that created the documents. Part 3 looks at the role of the construction of the AHPN in sociopolitical processes in the postwar period, focusing on the experiences of those involved in the project. And part 4 concludes the book by evaluating the impact of the completed archival recovery project on the postwar sociopolitical horizon in Guatemala and on other human rights and transitional justice initiatives locally

This is a work of ethnographic history, mixing ethnography of the project to reconstruct an archive in the years 2005-9 with archival work on the creation of the original document collection in the 1960s and 70s. The book illustrates the shifts in values and beliefs on the part of various groups involved in the reconstruction of the archive, from ex-revolutionaries to a younger generation of human rights activists and even police archivists themselves. It charts the way these actors reevaluate their memories and understandings of the revolutionary struggle and the period of state repression, at the same time as they reevaluate their understanding of relations between different groups in society in the post-authoritarian period.

This is the major contribution of Weld’s work: she shows that the synthetic process of creating the archives, reorganizing the documents from a logic of counterinsurgency to a logic of “agency and aperture” (p. 31), can be seen as a parallel for the transformation of society in the postwar period. Part 3, “Archives and Social Reconstruction in Guatemala,” explores this process. In this section, we see how the older generation of project workers struggled to work alongside the police and how the younger generation of activists within the project were confronted with things like working under a professional management structure and accepting foreign funding. Working together on a common goal—the reconstruction of the archives—allowed each of these groups to develop an understanding of each other. This is the synthesis that is produced when Cold War archives were transformed into postwar archives, a process that, she argues, is an example of bottom-up democratization and social reconstruction. Through an ethnographic account of a grassroots project, Weld shows us that transitions are created from the bottom-up, rather than top-down.

An associated argument that Weld makes is that archives and archival surveillance should be integrated into the study of the Cold War. Part 2, “Archives and Counterinsurgency in Guatemala,” looks specifically at the Cold War period and supports this argument by recounting the assistance offered by US development agencies to help the Guatemalan National Police address their poor organizational infrastructure, including their lack of attention to record keeping. In this section, she draws on the archives of the International Cooperation Administration (ICA, the predecessor of USAID) to show that the US saw record keeping as directly contributing to their ability to control subversion. She demonstrates a clear link between this goal, which necessitated a strengthening of the capacity of the security forces and the technical assistance the ICA provided in the realm of record keeping. This is a clearly substantiated and illustrated argument which calls for further consideration of the types of everyday, mundane technical development assistance that was used to wage the Cold War in Latin America and beyond. She shows us that technical assistance, including that of record keeping, functioned as an extremely effective conduit for the transfer of ideas and the reshaping of ideology through the reshaping of practice.

Weld’s purpose in conducting this ethnography was, as she eloquently puts it, “to document the process, not process the documents” (p. 23). This marks her contribution as distinct from the other studies that have emerged in recent years of recovered counterinsurgency and police archives across Latin America. These studies draw on declassified and (re)discovered materials to write new histories of the Cold War and state repression in the region. Her work goes beyond this and sits comfortably alongside Duke’s other critical and reflexive monographs on archives.[1] While most critical work on archives looks at colonial archives, Weld extends these insights into both Cold War archives and postwar archives.

With this book Weld seeks to examine the process by which Guatemalans make sense of both the physical records of the past and of their memories of that past, analyzing this process for traces of articulations about the future. Her ethnography deftly achieves this, while at the same time it demonstrates the applicability of theoretical reflections on archives to new contexts, and expands our critical understanding of the Cold War and of the postwar in Guatemala. This book is therefore recommended for researchers interested in expanding their understanding of either of these two periods—the Cold War or the postwar period—with theoretical insights that can and should be tested in other contexts.


[1]. Kathryn Burns, Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); and Antoinette Burton, ed., Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions and the Writing of History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=48085

Citation: Michelle Carmody. Review of Weld, Kirsten, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. March, 2017.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=48085

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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ANN: The Cold War in Latin America: Reviews of New Works

by Casey Lurtz

Continuing our series of collected reviews of new works in Latin American history, I'm happy to bring you a brief special issue on the Cold War in Latin America. As well as new reviews of Kirsten Weld's Paper Cadavers and Patrick Iber's Neither Peace nor Freedom, we have a review of the conference "Traveling Technocrats: Experts and Expertise in Latin America’s Long Cold War" held at Yale in the fall of 2016. I have also included cross-listings of roundtables put together by the H-Diplo network on other relevant works not yet reviewed for H-Latam.

New Reviews

Michelle Carmody on Kirsten Weld, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (2014)

Stella Krepp on Patrick Iber, Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America (2015)

Timothy W. Lorek and Andra B. Chastain on “Traveling Technocrats: Experts and Expertise in Latin America’s Long Cold War” (2016)

Relevant Roundtables from Other Networks

Thomas C. Field, Jr.  From Development to Dictatorship:  Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era (2014), roundtable from H-Diplo, March 2015

Michael E. Donoghue, Borderland on the Isthmus:  Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (2014), roundtable from H-Diplo, April 2015

Alan McPherson, The Invaded:  How Latin Americans and their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations (2014), roundtable from H-Diplo, July 2015

William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh, Back Channel to Cuba:  The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (2014), roundtable from H-Diplo, August 2015

Renata Keller, Mexico’s Cold War:  Cuba, the United States, and the Legacy of the Mexican Revolution (2015), roundtable from H-Diplo, November 2016

domingo, 3 de maio de 2015

Barbosa's and Telles Ribeiro's Books: short reviews in Foreign Affairs

The Washington Dissensus: A Privileged Observer’s Perspective on US-Brazil Relations; His Own Man

Barbosa, who served as Brazil’s ambassador to Washington from 1999 to 2004, assesses U.S. diplomacy with a condescension born of wounded pride—a common feeling among his peers in Latin American diplomatic corps. But the distinguished diplomat’s hard-hitting memoir focuses its main attacks on his own country’s leadership, firing point-blank shots at then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his foreign minister, Celso Amorim. Barbosa contends that the Lula administration’s anti-American posture harmed Brazilian national interests by foolishly wasting many opportunities to make real progress on promising U.S.-Brazilian agreements and by undermining Brazilian efforts to win a permanent seat on the un Security Council. In devastating detail, Barbosa portrays Brazil’s diplomats as confused about their fundamental purpose and undecided as to just what their country wants out of its relations with the United States—a lack of self-knowledge that only exacerbates the mistrust between Brasília and Washington. Barbosa’s provocative broadside will likely accelerate the ongoing debate in Brazil over how best to exploit its position as an emerging regional power.
The troubled U.S.-Brazilian relationship also provides the backdrop for the novel His Own Man. The book’s climactic scene involves a confrontation between the novel’s narrator, a Brazilian diplomat stationed in Los Angeles, and a former chief of the CIA station in Brasília, now retired in La Jolla, California, whose garage is stacked with documents detailing Washington’s covert attempts to foment anticommunist military coups in Latin America in the 1970s. “Maybe that’s why we stand alone today . . . isolated as hell,” the old spook muses, “unable to deal with a world that for the most part despises us.” The historical memories of Americans are famously short, and Ribeiro, a veteran Brazilian diplomat, clearly wants to remind readers in the United States of the cost of U.S. support for the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 until 1985—and of the scars carried by people throughout Latin America whose lives were forever altered by the torture and murders carried out during the Cold War by Washington’s authoritarian allies in the region. As His Own Man makes clear, that legacy helps explain the attitudes and behaviors of today’s elites in Brazil—members of the generation that suffered under military rule—and their lingering distrust of U.S. power.

domingo, 15 de fevereiro de 2015

Vacinacao: a irresponsabilidade de pais que nao imunizam seus filhos- NY Review of Books

Eu me pergunto se pais irresponsáveis que não vacinam seus filhos perguntam a eles se preferem ficar doentes ou ser vacinados.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

There’s No Way Out of It!

The New York Review of Books
Collection of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, State Art Museum of Florida, Florida State University Peter Paul Rubens: Achilles Dipped into the River Styx, circa 1630–1635
Even many years later, when my mother told the story, fear still showed on her face. One morning in 1954, at the age of two, I awoke and told her that my head hurt. I had a fever, and she put me to bed. Over the next days, my temperature rose, and my headache worsened. My parents called our pediatrician, who came to our small apartment in Astoria, Queens. He found that my neck was stiff and my legs were weak. Polio, he said, was a possible diagnosis. There were tens of thousands of cases of the paralytic illness each year in the United States. The doctor insisted that I be hospitalized in an isolation unit in upper Manhattan. My parents readily complied.
After a week in the hospital, my temperature fell and my legs became stronger. Tests showed that it was not polio; the infection was never identified.1
My mother and father feared debility and death due to pathogens. They were raised in immigrant New York neighborhoods at a time when diphtheria, typhoid, and tuberculosis were rife. My parents also knew that microbes were not restricted to the newly arrived and poor. Polio had struck the patrician FDR in his prime.
The world of my parents, and that of their children, dramatically improved in the latter half of the twentieth century as modern medicine introduced an array of effective vaccines and antibiotics. When the Salk vaccine against the polio virus became available a few years after my mysterious illness, I was inoculated, along with my siblings. The idea of preventing or curing dreaded infectious diseases “naturally,” relying on the body alone, hardly entered our minds.
But two generations later, such ideas have considerable traction in our society. Eula Biss, a writer who teaches at Northwestern University, seeks to understand their appeal, and whether they should be given credence. On Immunity is an effort to reconcile her divided feelings, fearing both infection and the imagined risks of vaccination. Her book weaves metaphor and myth, science and sociology, philosophy and politics into a tapestry rich with insight and intelligence.
In 2009, Eula Biss gave birth to her first child and became fixated on the many ways he might be harmed—poisoned by chemicals in his plastic bottles or suffocated in his crib by lying incorrectly. Her intense concern about such dangers coincided with the appearance of a new strain of H1N1 influenza in the United States. Much of the country was in a panic: some churches were serving wafers at Mass on toothpicks, and airlines removed pillows and blankets from their flights. “What surprises me now is how unremarkable this seemed to me at the time,” Biss writes.
It all became part of the landscape of new motherhood, where ordinary objects like pillows and blankets have the power to kill a newborn…. It was as if the nation had joined me in the paranoia of infant care.
The strain of the virus was potent for children and teenagers, not only those who typically suffer severe cases of influenza, like the elderly and diabetics. Public health officials recommended widespread vaccination. But among her group of new mothers, “every exchange about the new flu vaccine was an extension of the already existing discussion about immunization, in which all that is known of disease is weighed against all that is unknown about vaccines.”
Biss reflects on the myth of Achilles, and the profound maternal desire to make a child impervious to harm. Achilles’ mother dipped him into the river Styx, but holding him by his heel, which left him vulnerable:
Immunity is a myth, these stories suggest, and no mortal can ever be made invulnerable. The truth of this was much easier for me to grasp before I became a mother. My son’s birth brought with it an exaggerated sense of both my own power and my own powerlessness. I found myself bargaining with fate so frequently that my husband and I made a game of it, asking each other what disease we would give our child for prevention against another—a parody of the impossible decisions of parenthood.
For Biss, decisions about which, if any, vaccines should be given to her son were made “impossible” by allegations on the Internet and anecdotes from other mothers about their long-term risks:
We fear that vaccination will invite autism or any one of the diseases of immune dysfunction that now plague industrialized countries—diabetes, asthma, and allergies. We fear that the hepatitis B vaccine will cause multiple sclerosis, or that the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine will cause sudden infant death. We fear that the combination of several vaccines at once will tax the immune system, and that the total number of vaccines will overwhelm it. We fear that the formaldehyde in some vaccines will cause cancer, or that the aluminum in others will poison our brains.
Her anxiety is amplified by a larger culture of suspicion. In contrast to my parents, who put complete trust in the integrity and authority of their doctor, Biss and her fellow mothers distrust government, pharmaceutical companies, and journalists who seek to inform and reassure the public:
The fact that the press is an unreliable source of information was one of the refrains of my conversations with other mothers, along with the fact that the government is inept, and that big pharmaceutical companies are corrupting medicine. I agreed with all these concerns, but I was disturbed by the worldview they suggested: nobody can be trusted.
One of her efforts at calm is to understand how emotions color perception of risk. Scientists typically present the risks of a vaccine by citing the numbers of people suffering side effects against the total numbers given the treatment. Reviewing the work of the scholars Paul Slovic at the University of Oregon and Cass Sunstein at Harvard Law School, Biss notes:
Risk perception may not be about quantifiable risk so much as it is about immeasurable fear. Our fears are informed by history and economics, by social power and stigma, by myth and nightmares. And as with other strongly held beliefs, our fears are dear to us. When we encounter information that contradicts our beliefs,…we tend to doubt the information, not ourselves.
How should she keep herself informed? Should she give weight to the anecdotes told by fellow mothers? Listen to mainstream doctors, among them her father, a blunt-speaking man dismissive of her crowd? Or should she trust the antiestablishment clinicians on the Internet? And might there be ethical tenets to help her make a sound choice to vaccinate, or not?
As a writer and teacher, Biss is primarily concerned with language, specifically how metaphor sculpts thought and feelings:
“Our bodies prime our metaphors,” writes James Geary in I Is an Other, his treatise on metaphor, “and our metaphors prime how we think and act.” If we source our understanding of the world from our own bodies, it seems inevitable that vaccination would become emblematic: a needle breaks the skin, a sight so profound that it causes some people to faint, and a foreign substance is injected directly into the flesh. The metaphors we find in this gesture are overwhelmingly fearful, and almost always suggest violation, corruption, and pollution.
Biss moves from the power of language to the demographics of sociology. She cites a 2004 analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and writes: “Unvaccinated children…are more likely to be white, to have an older married mother with a college education, and to live in a household with an income of $75,000 or more—like my child.” Such unvaccinated children generally live near one another, which means that if they contract a disease, it can be readily passed on to others. Then there are so-called undervaccinated children, those who have received some but not all of their recommended immunizations. They “are more likely to be black, to have a younger unmarried mother, to have moved across state lines, and to live in poverty.”
These demographic distinctions inform Biss’s understanding of the scientific concept of “herd immunity”:
If we imagine the action of a vaccine not just in terms of how it affects a single body, but also in terms of how it affects the collective body of a community, it is fair to think of vaccination as a kind of banking of immunity. Contributions to this bank are donations to those who cannot or will not be protected by their own immunity. This is the principle of herd immunity, and it is through herd immunity that mass vaccination becomes far more effective than individual vaccination.
Her physician father articulates the value of herd immunity in public health, and Biss extends his analysis to a political principle she holds dear:
“Vaccination works,” my father explains, “by enlisting a majority in the protection of a minority.” He means the minority of the population that is particularly vulnerable to a given disease. The elderly, in the case of influenza. Newborns, in the case of pertussis. Pregnant women, in the case of rubella. But when relatively wealthy white women vaccinate our children, we may also be participating in the protection of some poor black children whose single mothers have recently moved and have not, as a product of circumstance rather than choice, fully vaccinated them….
Immunity…is a common trust as much as it is a private account. Those of us who draw on collective immunity owe our health to our neighbors.
But do we owe so much to the collective that we should sacrifice our autonomy? I learned in On Immunity that the term “conscientious objector” came out of resistance to a British law passed in 1853 requiring the vaccination of all infants. Forty-five years later, the government added a “conscience clause,” allowing parents to apply for an exemption. The exemption clause was rather vague, requiring only that the objector satisfy a magistrate that it was “a matter of conscience.”
Biss turns to her sister, a philosophy professor at a Jesuit college who studies Kant. She explains Kant’s contention that we have a duty to ourselves to examine our conscience, the “inner judge” that unites thoughts and feelings. An individual might resist flaws in the dominant moral code and thus create the possibility for reform, or conscience can be what keeps your actions in line with publicly defendable moral standards.
Biss, while aware that a conscientious objector to vaccination may contribute to an epidemic, affirms that “our laws allow for some people to exempt themselves from vaccination, for reasons medical or religious or philosophical. But deciding for ourselves whether we ought to be among that number is indeed a matter of conscience.” Yet this seems too facile a conclusion, since the freedom to exempt oneself negates a responsibility not only to society, but to one’s own children who do not have the agency to decide for themselves.

Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and the head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is one of the most courageous and sober voices arguing to protect children from exemptions made by their parents.2 Biss draws from one of Offit’s books, Autism’s False Prophets, in her examination of the ideas of the British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield.
In 1998, Wakefield published a study in The Lancet of twelve children indicating that vaccines caused autism. The publication was accompanied by a promotional video of a press conference in which Wakefield supported the suspicions of parents who already believed what the study suggested. Although there were caveats in the Lancet paper, it resulted in a sharp drop in vaccination against measles. Later, when the study was discredited and shown to be sloppy, Wakefield portrayed himself as the victim of establishment persecution.
Another vaccine opponent is Dr. Joseph Mercola, who heads the Mercola Natural Health Center in the Chicago suburbs. Mercola offers information on a website about the dangers of water fluoridation and metal amalgam in dental fillings, as well as speculation that AIDS is not caused by HIV. Biss notes that the site is visited by nearly two million individuals a month, and “products available for purchase range from tanning beds to air purifiers to vitamins and supplements. The website and Mercola LLC generated an estimated $7 million in 2010, and in 2011 Mercola donated $1 million to a number of organizations” that oppose vaccination.
Offit’s book debunks the claims of such antiestablishment clinicians. But his criticism extends to the morality of parental “conscience” when imposed on the health of children. Offit recounts painful tales of children dying from diseases that could be easily prevented or cured if parents had accepted the advice of doctors. In his most recent book, Bad Faith, he argues that we fail minors by giving permission to parents who seek exemptions from vaccination on religious grounds. Sacrificing the lives of vulnerable minors, he contends, negates God, since all human beings are created in His image. But, to date, legislatures and the courts have been loath to override religious beliefs that reject life-saving treatments for children.
On Immunity follows the ebb and flow of Biss’s mind, sometimes taking up a point, like herd immunity, first from a scientific perspective, then a political one, then a philosophical. Interspersed are her stories as a new mother. When she searches for a pediatrician, she is referred by her midwife to one who appears to share her “left of center” mindset:
When I asked the pediatrician what the purpose of the hep B vaccine was, he answered, “That’s a very good question,” in a tone that I understood to mean this was a question he relished answering. Hep B was a vaccine for the inner city, he told me, designed to protect the babies of drug addicts and prostitutes. It was not something, he assured me, that people like me needed to worry about.
Biss’s pediatrician may be left of center, but she discovers that he is not reliable in his reply. Biss won the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for Notes From No Man’s Land, a collection of essays on race, and she is alert to suggestions of stigma. She cites epidemiological data indicating that there is a decline in the incidence of hepatitis B only when all children are vaccinated against the infection:
One of the mysteries of hep B immunization is that vaccinating only “high risk” groups, which was the original public health strategy, did not bring down rates of infection. When the vaccine was introduced in 1981, it was recommended for prisoners, health care workers, gay men, and IV drug users. But rates of hep B infection remained unchanged until the vaccine was recommended for all newborns a decade later. Only mass vaccination brought down the rates of infection, and it has now virtually eliminated the disease in children….
This is a radical inversion of the historical application of vaccination, which was once just another form of bodily servitude extracted from the poor for the benefit of the privileged. There is some truth, now, to the idea that public health is not strictly for people like me, but it is through us, literally through our bodies, that certain public health measures are enacted.
Still, Biss wonders if there may be reasonable alternatives to vaccination that effectively protect children:
Some parents feel that the immunity produced by the chicken pox vaccine is inferior to immunity by natural infection because it does not last as long. To carry immunity through adulthood, when chicken pox can be quite serious, one must get a booster in adolescence. “So what?” my father says. I am trying to explain the phenomenon of chicken pox parties to him. I say, “Some people want their children to get chicken pox because,” and pause to think of the best reason to give a doctor. “They’re idiots,” my father supplies.
But Biss understands what appeals to these mothers: “I do not think they are idiots. But I do think they may be indulging in a variety of preindustrial nostalgia that I too find seductive.”
Then there is “Dr. Bob” Sears, who hews to a supposed middle ground. In The Vaccine Book, he claims to offer a compromise between vaccinating and not vaccinating. Sears endorses changes in the schedule of childhood vaccination for parents worried about overtaxing the immune system. He proposes a selective vaccine schedule, so a parent can provide only the vaccines that Dr. Bob believes most important. But Biss notes his omission of vaccines against hepatitis B, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Another strategy of Dr. Bob is to spread out over eight years all the vaccines a child typically receives in two years.
Biss rightly takes him to task, disputing his claims that tetanus is not a disease that affects infants and that measles is not that bad: “He does not mention that tetanus kills hundreds of thousands of babies in the developing world every year,…and that measles has killed more children than any other disease in history.”
After much indecision, the altruistic principle of herd immunity and its benefits for children of all socioeconomic and racial groups ultimately moves Biss to embrace vaccination.
We no longer see children stricken with polio in wheelchairs or hear of those suffocating from diphtheria, of babies born to mothers with rubella whose eyes are clouded by cataracts and hearts deformed. The success of protecting against such pathogens has removed a sense of their immediacy and caused many to forget their horror. But that may change, as we receive reports of outbreaks of infections due to unvaccinated children and mothers. In January, California health officials reported an infant death from pertussis and a measles outbreak among children who visited Disneyland. Currently, some 8 percent of children in California kindergartens are not adequately vaccinated.
The infection has now spread beyond California to Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Mexico. Last year, California made the “personal belief” exemption law more stringent, requiring parents to submit a form signed by a health professional. But Governor Jerry Brown, at the last minute, added a religious exemption, so that parents who object to vaccination as a matter of faith do not need a physician’s signature.3
Countering such actions by state officials, the father of a six-year-old boy who had leukemia and still suffers from reduced immunity has asked the superintendent of his Marin County school district to keep unvaccinated children out of the classroom, since they pose a significant threat to his own son. The county health officer expressed sympathy for the father’s concern, but would not enforce such a ban on unvaccinated pupils.4
Measles in particular is one of the most contagious viruses, causing illness in more than 90 percent of those who are exposed to it. There is legitimate concern that the outbreak, which originated in California, will spread throughout the nation, particularly in locales where parents have sought exemption from vaccinating their children. Those at greatest risk for debility and death from measles have impaired immunity, like the child in remission from leukemia, or newborns whose immune systems are not yet strong enough to resist the virus. The outbreak, which is said to affect more than a hundred people in some fourteen states as of the beginning of February and is getting increasing public attention, will force the issue around parental choice and social responsibility. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey waffled when asked whether vaccination should be mandated, asserting that there should be room for parents to choose. President Obama strongly supports the science behind vaccination, but it will take more than statements from a bully pulpit to safeguard the nation from epidemics that would be prevented through vaccination. Ultimately, either lawsuits or legislation will be needed to protect the health and welfare of children in schools and other public institutions.
My wife and I are physicians. We are acutely aware that every clinical intervention carries a potential downside. We also question clinical data from research studies and challenge the idea of a single authority that always wisely weighs risk and benefit. But we also know firsthand what infectious diseases can do. When our children were born, we vaccinated them. The natural world of unopposed pathogens is full of danger; it should not be presented as idyllic.
  1. Last autumn, there were more than a hundred reports of unexplained paralysis following viral infections in the US. See Catherine Saint Louis, “After Enterovirus 68 Outbreak, a Paralysis Mystery,” The New York Times, January 12, 2015. 
  2. See my “Libertarian Medicine: And Why It Doesn’t Work,” a review of Paul Offit’s Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, The New Republic, October 21, 2013. 
  3. Adam Nagourney and Abby Goodnough, “Measles Cases Linked to Disneyland Rise, and Debate Over Vaccinations Intensifies,” The New York Times, January 22, 2015. 
  4. Tamar Lewin, “Sick Child’s Father Seeks Vaccination Requirement in California,” The New York Times, January 29, 2015. 

domingo, 1 de fevereiro de 2015

Reflexao da semana: George Orwell on book reviewing

Confessions of a Book Reviewer

George Orwell

Confessions of a Book Reviewer, 1946 [L.m./F.s.: 2013-08-30 / 0.16 KiB]
‘The best practice, it has always seemed to me, would be simply to ignore the great majority of books and to give very long reviews — 1,000 words is a bare minimum — to the few that seem to matter...’
 Texto completo neste link: 

sexta-feira, 7 de novembro de 2014

Dois livros: as quatro liberdades de Roosevelt e um projeto para o Brasil de Oswaldo Aranha

As Quatro Liberdades e um Projeto para o Brasil
Leitura de dois livros recentes 
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Como sempre fazemos quando temos tempo e estamos pela região, para compras ou a lazer, Carmen Lícia e eu costumamos frequentar a biblioteca pública de West Hartford, pequena, para os padrões das bibliotecas universitárias, mas enorme, para os padrões das pequenas cidades americanas de interior. Na verdade, ela não é bem de interior, uma vez que está adjacente à capital de Connecticut, Hartford, e é onde mora boa parte da comunidade afluente que trabalha nesta região: belas casas, excelentes restaurantes, supermercados e lojas superiores à média, e esta boa biblioteca, que leva o nome do primeiro dicionarista da língua americana (sim, ele dicionarizou vários coloquialismos do inglês da América) e provavelmente o segundo da língua inglesa: Noah Webster, que é, aliás, o nome de um famoso dicionário, tradicional, mas ainda hoje vibrante e atualizado, nos mais diversos formatos.
Não se trata de uma biblioteca de pesquisa ou de estudo, mas daquilo que se pode tranquilamente chamar de biblioteca comunitária, embora muito bem guarnecida dos grandes títulos da literatura americana e universal, e podendo servir também para pesquisas escolares. Eu costumo frequentá-la sobretudo para emprestar os novos livros que acabam de ser lançados, e que ainda custam mais de 30 dólares no formato hard cover, antes que a edição brochura os torne mais acessíveis a orçamentos controlados. Pois foi com essa intenção que lá fomos no último domingo. Saí de lá com dois livros novos (que só podem ser emprestados por 15 dias) e com um antigo, de meio século atrás, mas que me interessava consultar: uma edição da Modern Library contendo as duas grandes obras políticas de Maquiavel, O Príncipe e Os Discursos (assim, não mais, ou seja, Tito Lívio reinterpretado pelo grande pensador florentino).
Nada de original neste último livro, a não ser a bela introdução a Maquiavel pelo professor Max Lerner (datada de março de 1940 e de maio de 1950), com alguma bibliografia clássica sobre o grande patriota italiano, inclusive a recomendação, que vou buscar, de ler a introdução ao Príncipe por Lord Acton, feita originalmente para uma edição italiana de 1891, depois incluída no volume editado por John N. Figgis e Reginald V Laurence, The History of Freedom and Other Essays (London: 1907). Para este eu tenho de recorrer à biblioteca da Universidade de Yale, onde aliás tenho de ir para devolver vários outros livros que retirei sobre Bretton Woods. Provavelmente na próxima terça-feira, quando vou para uma palestra sobre a Rússia e Ocidente, por um diplomata do Department of State encarregado do setor.

Mas volto aos dois livros novos que retirei, ambos conectados ao meu período atual de pesquisas, a primeira metade do século XX e as relações internacionais do Brasil na primeira república e na era Vargas. Eles são, respectivamente, os seguintes:

Harvey J. Kaye: The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014, 292 p.).

Neill Lochery: Brazil: The Fortunes of War, World War II and the Making of Modern Brazil (New York: Basic Books, 2014, 314 p.)

O primeiro livro é um exemplo evidente do chamado pensamento liberal americano, ou seja, um autor socialdemocrata, praticamente de esquerda, em todo caso, um rooseveltiano convencido e um new dealer engajado, se o New Deal ainda estivesse em vigor (mas ele acredita que Obama está nessa linha, embora não tenha feito tanto quanto deveria, contra as corporações e a oposição reacionária). Quando eu li, logo na Introdução, que os Estados Unidos estiveram submetidos, nos trinta anos anteriores, às corporate priorities e ao private greed, eu pensei que o autor estivesse brincando, mas é isso mesmo: ele acha que a grande geração de Roosevelt teve de enfrentar uma powerful conservative, reactionaire opposition, para salvar o país da economic ruin and political oblivion. Deve ter sido isso mesmo, mas eu não estava acostumado com uma história em preto e branco desde algum tempo.
Em todo caso, se trata de uma boa história, feita a partir dos papeis deixados por FDR em seus arquivos de Hyde Park, sobre a construção dos Estados Unidos como hoje eles se apresentam ao mundo: não mais isolacionistas, não mais voltados para si mesmos, mas engajados no mundo, e mais igualitários (ou pelo menos deveria ser assim) e mais democráticos. O eixo central é dado obviamente pelas quatro liberdades que Roosevelt moldou logo ao início da guerra europeia, e que ele proclamou em sua mensagem ao Congresso de janeiro de 1941, logo após conquistar o seu terceiro mandato e antes, portanto, que os Estados Unidos fossem atacados e entrassem, finalmente, na guerra (da qual eles já vinham participando pelo apoio irresoluto concedido ao Reino Unido, praticamente sozinho no enfrentamento da máquina de guerra de Hitler).
Os quatro grandes conceitos foram expostos com invulgar clareza no seu State of the Union, na tarde do dia 6 de janeiro de 1941, em face de todo o Congresso reunido para ouvi-lo. Roosevelt, que já vinha procurando superar as resistências isolacionistas do Congresso, para converter os EUA no “Arsenal da Democracia”, insistiu na tecla de que seria ilusório tentar esconder-se atrás de grandes muralhas defensivas, daí a necessidade de preparar adequadamente a nação para qualquer eventualidade. Ele então proclamou a sua visão do mundo, os grandes princípios em torno dos quais todos os americanos estariam unidos, não apenas para si mesmos, mas para todo o mundo:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression … The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way … The third is freedom from want … The fourth is freedom from fear…” E ele acrescentou logo em seguida: “That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.” (p. 75)
Esses princípios seriam inscritos na Carta do Atlântico, que Roosevelt assinou com Winston Churchill, em agosto seguinte, nas costas do Canadá, e foram consagrados depois na carta das nações unidas, no ano seguinte; eles constituíram uma espécie de “New Deal for the world”, como afirmou a historiadora Elizabeth Borgwardt p. 88). O livro dela (citado em nota da p. 239), é este aqui: A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

O Brasil viria a assinar a carta das nações unidas logo em seguida ao seu engajamento ao lado dos Estados Unidos no esforço de guerra, no seguimento do ataque japonês a Pearl Harbor e da declaração de guerra pela Alemanha, o que determinou o rompimento de relações diplomáticas do Brasil com as potências do Eixo, uma decisão que leva sobretudo a marca de Oswaldo Aranha. Vargas e o seu chanceler de 1938 até 1944 estão justamente no centro do segundo livro aqui registrado, pelo historiador britânico Neill Lochery, professor de Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies do College University of London, já autor de um livro sobre a neutralidade de Portugal na Segunda Guerra Mundial, mais especificamente sobre o papel de Lisboa, enquanto centro de intrigas, espionagem e negociações durante todo o decorrer da guerra.
A Introdução do livro já começa destacando o famoso documento-guia que Oswaldo Aranha preparou para as conversas de Vargas com Roosevelt, no encontro que ambos tiveram no Rio Grande do Norte, em janeiro de 1943, uma lista de objetivos de guerra que o Brasil declarava aos EUA, mas que também podem ser vistos como uma espécie de planejamento estratégico feito pelo grande chanceler para assegurar uma posição de realce para o Brasil na ordem internacional que estaria sendo desenhada pouco mais à frente para assegurar a paz e reconstruir o mundo. Seu caráter de lista de demandas não esconde a visão grandiosa que Oswaldo Aranha mantinha quanto ao papel do Brasil naquele mundo em efervescência. Vale a pena citá-las, uma por uma, e verificar, hoje, onde estamos, ou como ficamos, em relação a cada um dos pontos. O autor cita a partir do artigo de Frank D. McCann, um conhecido historiador brasilianista do exército brasileiro e da aliança militar dos anos de guerra: “Brazil and World War II: The Forgotten Ally. What Did You Do in the War, Zé Carioca?”, Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe 6, n. 2 (Tel Aviv University, July-December 1995, 35-70; mas o link citado à p. 309 deve ser substituído por este aqui: http://www1.tau.ac.il/eial/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=741&Itemid=283). Antes de reproduzir a lista, vale retomar os argumentos iniciais de Aranha.
Oswaldo Aranha acreditava, pragmaticamente, que a política tradicional do Brasil, de apoiar os Estados Unidos no mundo, em troca do seu apoio na América do Sul, deveria ser mantida “até a vitória das armas americanas na guerra e até a vitória e a consolidação dos ideais americanos na paz.” Os Estados Unidos iriam liderar o mundo quando a paz fosse restaurada e seria um grave erro se o Brasil não estivesse do seu lado. Ambas nações eram “cósmicas e universais”, com características continentais e globais. Ele tinha plena consciência de que o Brasil era uma “nação economicamente e militarmente fraca”, mas o seu crescimento natural, ou as migrações do pós-guerra, lhe dariam o capital e a população que o fariam tornar-se, “inevitavelmente um dos grandes poderes políticos do mundo”. A sua lista combinava objetivos imediatos e de mais longo prazo, como reproduzida no artigo de McCann e no livro de Lochery (p. xv):
1)   a better position in world politics;
2)   consolidation of its superiority in South America;
3)   a more secure and intimate cooperation with the United States;
4)   greater influence over Portugal and its possessions;
5)   development of maritime power;
6)   development of air power;
7)   development of heavy industries;
8)   creation of war industries;
9)   creation of industries -agricultural, extractive, and light mineral- complementary to those of the United States and essential for world reconstruction;
10) expansion of Brazil's railways and highways for economic and strategic purposes;
11) exploration for essential combustible fuels.
Observando-se a lista de Oswaldo Aranha, com os olhos de 2014, o que poderia ser dito dos seus objetivos de guerra, do ponto de vista do atingimento de cada um deles em tempos de paz e nos setenta anos decorridos desde a sua redação? Registro aqui que os argumentos dos próximos parágrafos são meus, e não constam do livro de Lochery.
Uma melhor posição na política mundial? Um objetivo certamente avançado depois da democratização e da estabilização macroeconômica, esta última iniciada sob Fernando Henrique Cardoso no governo Itamar Franco, e consolidada nos dois governos FHC, o que foi plenamente aproveitado pelo governo Lula para desenvolver uma diplomacia ativa, beneficiado ainda pelo enorme impulso dado pela demanda chinesa por produtos brasileiros de exportação para acumular alguma riqueza e projetar influência na região e no mundo. Não é seguro que essa posição tenha sido consolidada com a visível retração registrada no período recente, mas também por iniciativas pouco avisadas ou altamente controversas, ainda sob Lula e mantidas por sua sucessora, com alianças dúbias com regimes pouco recomendáveis, e uma retração formidável na defesa da democracia e dos direitos humanos nos planos regional e mundial. Talvez se consiga, novamente, num futuro indefinido, uma “melhor posição na política mundial”, mas isso vai depender, seriamente, de uma melhoria na qualidade da política externa, hoje dominada por companheiros viciados numa visão do mundo anacrônica e distorcida quanto aos reais interesses do Brasil.
Uma consolidação da “superioridade” brasileira na América do Sul? Trata-se bem mais de uma ilusão do que de um objetivo, mas ele deve ser visto numa outra perspectiva, que era a de Oswaldo Aranha, em face de uma Argentina superior nos planos econômico e militar, e que tinha, sim, uma vocação de afirmar sua influência no entorno imediato e nas relações com as grandes potências, a Grã-Bretanha e os próprios Estados Unidos. A Argentina era o “inimigo principal” em qualquer cálculo que os militares brasileiros pudessem fazem no plano estratégico e no contexto tático, e os maiores recursos de segurança e defesa, não necessariamente ofensivos, estavam dispostos ao longo das fronteiras meridionais. Apenas por isso Aranha colocou esse objetivo em segundo lugar, e não necessariamente para impor uma liderança imperial do Brasil na região; a superioridade deveria ser vista aqui apenas como uma agregação suficiente de forças para tornar o país “inatacável” por qualquer vizinho, a começar pelo mais “íntimo inimigo”. Essa situação está agora completamente superada, mas só os ingênuos e os amadores em diplomacia – entre eles vários companheiros, mas também alguns homens de negócios – falam em liderança brasileira na região; para o Itamaraty, esse tema é tabu, embora haja a percepção de que a consolidação de um espaço econômico integrado, baseado em abertura de mercados e intensa cooperação em projetos de integração física, seriam suficientes, junto com a afirmação plena dos valores da democracia e dos direitos humanos, para assegurar essa liderança, que seria natural, e não imposta. Mas, parece que estamos recuando em todas essas frentes, para maior tristeza dos diplomatas profissionais e dos liberais econômicos (que são poucos, mas ainda existem em nosso país).
Uma cooperação mais íntima e mais segura com os Estados Unidos? Difícil dizer em quais termos, pois impérios universais não mantém relações de igual para igual nem mesmo com seus mais “íntimos” aliados. O Brasil sempre manteve desconfiança em relação ao gigante do norte, mesmo nos anos de aliança não escrita dos tempos do Barão, e naqueles de aliança militar no imediato pós-guerra, o que só fez crescer nos anos seguintes, com os desejos dos militares – e de vários diplomatas – de uma rápida nuclearização do Brasil, em face dos esforços americanos de contenção da proliferação nessa área (e não apenas como cálculo estratégico, e sim também em função de uma visão do mundo menos belicoso, digamos assim). Essa cooperação sempre foi difícil e não parece que tenha se tornado mais plausível no período recente, muito pelo contrário (já que o antiamericanismo dos companheiros salta aos olhos de qualquer neófito). Este não pode ser um objetivo em si, mas é uma possibilidade, dentro de certas condições e circunstâncias, que provavelmente vão exigir maior grau de capacitação brasileira para ser colocado novamente na agenda bilateral; mas, paradoxalmente, parece que o Brasil só vai se capacitar mais rapidamente por meio de uma “cooperação mais íntima e mais segura com os Estados Unidos”, o que pode parecer bizarro a mais de um título.
O quarto objetivo, com respeito a Portugal e suas “possessões”, mudou de caráter, mas essa influência é certamente maior hoje do que foi no passado colonial, e tende a se tornar ainda mais relevante, inclusive em direção de Portugal, embora o lento crescimento e a perda de competitividade dos últimos anos tenham diminuído o ímpeto brasileiro na “reconquista” da antiga metrópole.
Os objetivos 5 a 11, são todos eles instrumentais, alinhados numa época em que o Brasil era um país economicamente atrasado, em todas as áreas, e se esperava que os Estados Unidos financiassem, e fornecessem a tecnologia, para nossa capacitação em todas elas. Aos trancos e barrancos fomos avançando nas décadas seguintes, tanto com os fluxos de investimentos estrangeiros e de financiamento externo, quanto com a cooperação bilateral nas áreas científicas e tecnológicas, um processo que continua sem cessar, tanto na vertente pública, quanto nas diversas interfaces privadas. Em alguns ramos industriais, e certamente em quase todo o setor agrícola, o Brasil se tornou um país avançado, até mesmo um “killer”, em matéria de competitividade agrícola, e isso tem tanto a ver com a cooperação externa (basicamente americana), quanto com a construção de uma base própria de capital humano e científico. Não se pode dizer que tenhamos nos tornado uma formidável potência militar, mas o que existe garante um mínimo de dissuasão, quando não de projeção externa em dimensões limitadas. Para se ter mais nessa área, seria preciso convencer a sociedade a aceitar mais gastos militares, ou com segurança, de modo geral, o que não parece compatível com necessidades bem mais prementes em várias áreas sociais. Aliás, o Brasil não é mais forte militarmente não porque invista pouco nessa área, mas porque seus recursos humanos são deficientes de maneira geral, na inovação tecnológica em especial. Trata-se de um resultado de políticas erradas na área educacional, que não têm nada a ver com debilidades próprias do establishment militar.
Bem, mas o livro de Neill Lochery, Brazil: The Fortunes of War, não trata dessas questões senão em sua introdução e conclusões, pois o essencial do livro está dedicado ao envolvimento do Brasil na guerra, o que é feito de maneira minuciosa e competente. No conjunto, os dois livros constituem leitura muito agradável e, nos dois casos, altamente instrutiva quanto aos dois temas foco de cada um Kaye é bem mais ideológico, no seu rooseveltismo radical, do que Lochery, um inglês equilibrado e bastante objetivo em suas considerações analíticas sobre o Brasil. Seu livro me confirmou a impressão, que já tenho desde longos anos, de que o Brasil perdeu uma enorme oportunidade ao não ter tido uma personalidade como Oswaldo Aranha na liderança efetiva do país, em algumas das chances em que a história poderia ter aberto uma janela para ele: em 1934, em 1937, em 1945, em 1950, ou mesmo em 1955; em todas elas ele poderia, hipoteticamente, estar à frente de uma coalizão liberal para fazer do Brasil um país muito diferente do que foi, sob a condução de políticos populistas, de líderes militares muito próximos do corporatismo de corte fascista, ou de incompetentes manifestos, como podem ter sido Dutra, Goulart ou mesmo alguns outros em fases subsequentes. Oswaldo Aranha foi muito obsequioso com seu chefe e amigo, mas poderia ter continuado a ser a “estrela da revolução”, que foi na coalizão liberal de 1930, e que depois se perdeu no labirinto do varguismo maquiavélico. Foi uma pena para o país, uma pena para todos nós.

Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Hartford, 7 de novembro de 2014

PS.: Vou programar uma nova visita ao museu Norman Rockwell onde estão expostas suas quatro grandes telas sobre as quatro liberdades, tal como feitas para apoiar Roosevelt em seu esforço didático de convencimento da nação americana a empreender uma "good war", pelas boas causas.

terça-feira, 15 de julho de 2014

Bretton Woods in book reviews, by Kurt Schuler

Da série de postagens, mas esta não tem a ver com o Brasil, e sim com livros que foram publicados e aqui resenhados por Kurt Schuler.
Estive em Bretton Woods recentemente, onde adquiri este livro:
Benn Steil: The Battle of Bretton Woods (Keynes vs White)
ainda vou ler...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

About Kurt Schuler

Kurt Schuler, co-editor of The Bretton Woods Transcripts, is Senior Fellow of Financial History at the Center for Financial Stability and an economist in the Office of International Affairs at the United States Department of the Treasury.

Review of Two New Books on Bretton Woods

(The following review, for the economic history site EH.net, is reprinted with their permission, and the copyright provisions specified there apply.)
Ed Conway, The Summit: The Biggest Battle of the Second World War, Fought Behind Closed Doors. London: Little, Brown, 2014. xxvi + 454 pp. £25 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-1-4055-2930-3.
Eric Helleiner, Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods: International Development and the Making of the Postwar Order. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014. xii + 304 pp. $40 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-8014-5275-8.
Two books have appeared just in time for the seventieth anniversary of the Bretton Woods conference. Edmund Conway’s The Summit is a popular account of the conference by a financial journalist, while Eric Helleiner’s Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods is a political scientist’s examination of a little explored angle of the conference: the role of what we now call emerging market countries.
Conway, economics editor of the British cable television channel Sky News, set out to write an overview incorporating material that has come to light since Armand van Dormael’s 1978 book Bretton Woods: Birth of a Monetary System. (Benn Steil’s The Battle of Bretton Woods [2013] is an interpretation of the conference according to a master theme rather than an overall account, as I will explain later.)[1] We now have additional reminiscences by delegates; declassified archival material such as the Venona files detailing Soviet espionage in the ranks of U.S. Treasury officials; and full transcripts of many committee meetings at the conference.
Conway writes in a lively style. (Example: “As far as [Keynes] was concerned, the [International Monetary] Fund should be regarded as a kind of economic health spa. There should be no stigma associated with going to it for help: all countries should be entitled — nay, encouraged — to do so at some point. For White, however, the Fund was Accident and Emergency — countries should only be wheeled in if close to complete economic collapse” p. 171.) In addition, he has done some original research that will ensure a niche for his book in the scholarly literature. For example, in the Russian archives he found a number of documents that illustrate Soviet perceptions of Bretton Woods. The Soviet Union was active and often obstreperous at the Bretton Woods conference. It signed the Bretton Woods agreements but later decided not to join the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), in part because it did not want to divulge the economic data required of IMF members.
Because the book is intended for readers who may know nothing of Bretton Woods, many of you reading this review can comfortably skip the early chapters, which provide background, and start with the British delegation’s ocean voyage to America. Conway vividly conveys the atmosphere both of the voyage and of the Atlantic City conference that preceded Bretton Woods and developed the drafts from which the Bretton Woods delegates worked.
At the heart of The Summit is of course the account of the Bretton Woods conference itself. (The title, by the way, is a triple reference to Bretton Woods as an important international gathering, a high point in economic diplomacy, and a location within sight of the highest peak in the northeastern United States.) Conway devotes a substantial chapter to each of the three weeks of the conference. He gives an overall idea of the course of negotiations and, again, of the atmosphere in which delegates worked, but omits minute details that are more appropriate to books aimed at narrower audiences.
The final chapters describe the later life of the Bretton Woods agreements, beginning with controversies on the way to their ratification in the United States and in Britain. In the United States some experts got worked up about the agreements, but as Conway relates, the public was apathetic; with World War II still raging, the subject was too abstruse to arouse passion. In Britain, the country’s largest newspaper fiercely criticized the agreements, but the enormous parliamentary majority of the new Labour Party government meant that it could pass into law anything it wanted.
Throughout the book Conway focuses on the personality traits of the players. Economists and political scientists often write as if impersonal interests dominate and personalities make little difference; journalists, diplomats, and historians know better. As a case in point, the turnover of lower-level officials after Harry Truman succeeded Franklin Roosevelt as president quickly led to changes in actual or prospective policies, including abandonment of the Morgenthau Plan to reduce Germany to an economic backwater after the war and the idea of locating the IMF and World Bank in New York rather than Washington. Conway’s book will not be, and is not intended to be, the authoritative academic account of Bretton Woods, but it is a useful addition to previous accounts.
Eric Helleiner, a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo (Canada), calls into question the prominent line of thinking about Bretton Woods that it was an American, and to a lesser extent a British, production, with other countries having little impact. Benn Steil is in this vein, interpreting Bretton Woods as a nearly unvarnished exercise in power politics. Steil focuses on the animosity of many American officials toward Britain and the ways in which they tried to use Bretton Woods and the Lend-Lease negotiations to diminish British postwar influence. Steil shares the view Keynes privately expressed, which likened the delegates from most other countries at Bretton Woods, particularly those from the poorer countries — what  we would now call emerging markets — as denizens of a “monkey house,” raucous and useless.
Helleiner’s library and archival research incorporate sources previously absent from English-language scholarship on Bretton Woods. His writing lacks Conway’s journalistic panache but conveys clearly ideas that other social scientists would have clotted with needless jargon. Helleiner finds antecedents to Bretton Woods, incidents at the conference, and events afterwards to indicate greater importance for the emerging markets than has hitherto been acknowledged.
The opening chapters focus on American attitudes toward emerging markets, documenting how Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and his Good Neighbor policy towards Latin America changed the approach of the U.S. government toward international financial issues. U.S. officials became more sympathetic to the concerns of emerging market officials on matters of exchange rate choice, exchange controls, commodity price stabilization, industrial protectionism, and, to a lesser extent, debt default. The remaining chapters discuss Bretton Woods as viewed from the perspective of Latin American, Asian, and Eastern European governments, with a sidebar on how British official attitudes about economic development did or did not fit into the picture.
Helleiner’s implicit claim is that by the time of Bretton Woods, the ideology of the Roosevelt administration, and the experience of the 1930s, made the U.S. government more comfortable with “developmentalist” ideas (my term, not Helleiner’s) than at any time before and possibly since. Helleiner discusses the abortive Inter-American Bank as a dry run for the IMF and especially the World Bank. It was to have been a government-owned multilateral financial institution, with weighted voting, lending both to ease short-term balance of payments problems and to promote long-term economic development. The United States was to have provided the largest share of funds for it, but the U.S. Congress failed to approve the charter, so the project died. An echo of it exists in the Inter-American Development Bank, established in 1959.
Two other important examples of changing U.S. official attitudes toward Latin America were the U.S. government advisory monetary missions to Cuba in 1941-42 and Paraguay in 1943-44. They were much friendlier to developmentalist ideas than the semiofficial U.S. monetary doctor Edwin Kemmerer had been when he had advised many Latin American and other countries in the 1920s. Latin American governments responded favorably to what they saw as greater recognition by the United States of their sovereign dignity. The motives of the United States were not purely disinterested: it wanted to keep Latin America out of the Nazi orbit. U.S. officials were solicitous about involving their Latin American counterparts in their international plans from an early stage, choosing the January 1942 Rio de Janeiro Conference to announce their interest in planning for the postwar financial order.
In return, Latin American governments were generally supportive of the U.S. plans, though they proposed and received some changes to support their interests. At Bretton Woods, they and the other emerging markets secured agreement that the World Bank would focus equally on reconstruction and development, as opposed to its original stronger focus on reconstruction. With regard to the International Monetary Fund agreement, Latin American countries got a provision expected to benefit commodity exporters, instructing the Fund to take into consideration exceptional requirements of borrowing countries. The IMF agreement also was tolerant of the multiple exchange rates that existed in a number of Latin American countries at the time.
(Here I must mention a misconception that pops up in discussions of Latin American countries at Bretton Woods. They were the largest regional bloc, but their influence was less than their numbers. The conference proceeded mostly by consensus, avoiding formal votes on contested issues where possible, because a contested agreement rammed through by majority vote would have jeopardized the support of the United States, the major source of funds. The United States, in turn, could not simply dictate terms because the IMF and World Bank would have lacked legitimacy had they been viewed as little more than fronts for U.S. policies.)
East Asia was represented at Bretton Woods only by China and by the Philippines, the latter still an American colony but scheduled to become independent soon. Helleiner calls attention to Sun Yat-Sen’s book International Development of China, a pioneering effort in what later came to be called development economics. It had a strong influence on subsequent Chinese thinking about economic development and some influence abroad. Before Bretton Woods, China submitted its own plan for the IMF, alongside the British, American, Canadian, and French plans. It has been neglected by most historical accounts, including the IMF’s official history.[2] At Bretton Woods, China got a clause inserted into the World Bank agreement allowing that in special circumstances, the Bank could make loans not tied to specific projects, hence promoting overall development goals.
India’s delegation at Bretton Woods, a mixture of Britons and Indians, effectively represented India’s particular interests even though India was still a British colony. The overall attitude of British officials toward developmentalist ideas was lukewarm, a result in part of Britain’s fragile war finances and the knowledge that resources Britain could command through its empire would be greatly reduced if the colonies were to have more local control of their economic policies. Keynes was more developmentalist than the British consensus. He had, for instance, suggested as early as 1913 that India should have a state-owned central bank with a development focus, and he was critical of the idea, eventually adopted, to establish a currency board in Burma after it separated monetarily from India following World War II.[3]
Delegates from Eastern Europe were, naturally, keenly interested in the IBRD’s reconstruction role, but the Polish delegation appreciated the case for development lending given that Eastern Europe other than Czechoslovakia could be seen as a backward region.
In the final chapter, Helleiner traces the subsequent fate of developmentalist ideas at the IMF and IBRD. The Cold War had the effect that what came to be called the Third World was, as its name implied, low in international status. Today, though, with the Cold War past and emerging markets accounting for roughly half of world output, “echoes of the Bretton Woods development discussions have begun to be heard once again” (p. 276).
1. Van Dormael is a retired businessman turned amateur historian, Conway is a journalist, Steil is an economist, and Eric Helleiner is a political scientist. Professional historians are notable by their absence from deep study of Bretton Woods, although Eric Rauchway, a professor at the University of California-Davis, has a forthcoming account.
2. J. Keith Horsefield, The International Monetary Fund 1945-1965: Twenty Years of International Monetary Cooperation, 3 volumes (Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 1969).
3. The countries whose monetary reforms Helleiner discusses — Paraguay, Cuba, Burma, Ethiopia — have not been known for long-term monetary stability under the central banks that all eventually established. Might they in fact have been better off with more rigid monetary authorities?
Kurt Schuler, an economist, is Senior Fellow in Financial History at the Center for Financial Stability in New York. He is the editor, with Andrew Rosenberg, of The Bretton Woods Transcripts (2012).

Who Was at Bretton Woods?

In a new CFS paper released on July 1st, Mark Bernkopf and I offer a nearly complete list of the people who attended the 1944 Bretton Woods conference as delegates, secretarial staff, or journalists. There were roughly 700 people listed among several documents in the conference proceedings published in 1948 and the unpublished telephone directories issued during the conference.
In addition to the people directly concerned with the work of the conference, there were a number of Boy Scouts who helped distribute documents and move microphones, plus military messengers and police. None are listed in any document we have seen, though. Additionally, there were of course the staff not only of the Mount Washington Hotel, where the conference was held, but of three other hotels nearby that accommodated overflow boarders. The Bretton Arms Inn, within walking distance of the Mount Washington Hotel, is still in existence, while the more remote Crawford House and Maplewood Hotel no longer exist.
Mark Bernkopf, my coauthor, established in the 1990s what may have been the first Web site on central banking generally as opposed to the sites of particular central banks. It has since been superseded by other sites to which it served as an example and a spur, especially the “Central bank hub” section of the Bank for International Settlements site. After I found Mark’s site and contacted him by e-mail to ask him a question about it, we found that we lived within walking distance, and struck up a lasting friendship. A stint at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before he established the Web site contributed to Mark’s interest in both the practice and history of central banking.

Who Was at Bretton Woods?

In a new CFS paper, Mark Bernkopf and I offer a nearly complete list of the people who attended the 1944 Bretton Woods conference as delegates, secretarial staff, or journalists. There were roughly 700 people listed among several documents in the conference proceedings published in 1948 and the unpublished telephone directories issued during the conference.
In addition to the people directly concerned with the work of the conference, there were a number of Boy Scouts who helped distribute documents and move microphones, plus military messengers and police. None are listed in any document we have seen, though. Additionally, there were of course the staff not only of the Mount Washington Hotel, where the conference was held, but of three other hotels nearby that accommodated overflow boarders. The Bretton Arms Inn, within walking distance of the Mount Washington Hotel, is still in existence, while the more remote Crawford House and Maplewood Hotel no longer exist.
Mark Bernkopf, my coauthor, established in the 1990s what may have been the first Web site on central banking generally as opposed to the sites of particular central banks. It has since been superseded by other sites to which it served as an example and a spur, especially the “Central bank hub” section of the Bank for International Settlements site. After I found Mark’s site and contacted him by e-mail to ask him a question about it, we found that we lived within walking distance, and struck up a lasting friendship. A stint at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before he established the Web site contributed to Mark’s interest in both the practice and history of central banking.