Hugo's Coming, You Better Hide

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Occasional Reasonoid John Hood is worried about Vladimir Putin's sale of arms to Hugo Chavez: "submarines and air-defense weaponry that could only be intended for use against the United States."

So, what do you have to do to be called an adversary, or dare I say it, an enemy?

But… how do we hurt from this deal? Russia lops off a chunk of its military machine and gives to Venezuela. Hugo Chavez, in the grand tradition of dippy despots (see Shah, The), wastes some of his oil money on weaponry he'll never get to use. Seriously, who thinks Chavez will actually get to use Tor-M1 air defense missile complexes against the Great Satan? Unless we're planning to set up a Caracas no-fly zone or an honest-to-God land invasion, this stuff is going to sit around Venezuelan docks and bases, looking threatening, reminding the average Chavista that his leader is squandering the treasury on some paranoid superpower envy. Putin's doing us a favor if he's doing us anything.

NEXT: Peace with Geese and Parachuting Cats in Borneo

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  1. So Chavez is the new Saddamn, not Ahme–however the hell you spell his name.

  2. Seriously, who thinks Chavez will actually get to use Tor-M1 air defense missile complexes against the Great Satan?

    Well, if we invade Venezuela at some point in the future in order to control the oil there, he just might.

    That should be painfully obvious.

  3. Russian air defenses in the hands of third world militaries have proven to be very ineffective. I suspect the same would apply in the case of U.S high tech armaments.

  4. Dan:

    Don’t you wish.

  5. JKP-

    Don’t feed the troll.

  6. Damn, Dan,

    You just stopped reading at that sentence you quoted didn’t you? LOL

  7. This seems like a total misread of Putin and Chavez. If Putin gives Chavez ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, wake me up then.

  8. Damn, Dan,

    You just stopped reading at that sentence you quoted didn’t you? LOL

    I guess I did miss that line, but if that’s the case then he’s kind of answered his own question, right?

    Say what you want about Hugo Chavez, but you can’t blame the guy (or anybody else) for wanting to build his military defenses since his country controls a good chunk of the world’s most important energy resource.

  9. Is Chavez on the ever-expanding list of “existential threats” yet? Would he be above or below Bhutan?

  10. I would guess the lesson learned by small time dictators is that you could end up like Saddam. A good way to end up living in a hole in the ground and then hanged by the neck would be to lob a rocket at the USA. Or is Chavez really that dumb as to think he wouldn’t be obliterated? Dictators like to stay in power and being dead is a hard way to do that.

  11. The other issue is that we know now after Kosovo and two gulf wars that all of the Soviet stuff is worthless agains the US. This is cold war era equipment. It stands no chance in a conventional fight against 21st Century US equipment. Only Chavez would be dumb enough to think this stuff would do him any good in the event of a US attack.

    Of course it will allow him to play local bad boy and bully the countries around him since none of them hae access to US level equipment.

  12. If Chavez were cool, he’d use his oil wealth to conquer the solar system in the name of Venezuela. If he were cool.

  13. The Chavez phenomena is interesting. Let’s face it, the free market reforms in Latin America have produced less than spectacular results (I’ve recently had many debates with folks here about how well neo-classical economic theory, which undergirds a great deal of libertarian thought, often has a very mixed empirical record, [no matter to some, it makes such deductive sense that its failures in the real world are of no concern, as is the case with most true beleivers]).
    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/special/04/leftbehind/1991162.html
    Having said that, Chile, which has been an apt pupil to free marketer’s is doint better than Venezula: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ci.html#Econ
    vs
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ve.html#Econ
    It’s growth is not up with Hugo’s but its GDP per capita is much better.
    Hugo is genuinely popular with his people. His policy of bringing health missions to the shantytowns, while sending libertarians into epilectic fits (my God, these people did not fairly contract for these services!) does make these poor folks have much more opportunity in their lives (they don’t have to worry about coughing up a lung during their everyday activities, a “liberty” I’d think was important). It strikes me though that many a dictator is more than willing to throw some goodies to the masses in order to consolidate support, but the question is, concerning those masses, can you blame them? What were they getting under the previous administrations? The freedom to contract? Ahh, how sweet..

  14. ProGLib –

    while that’d be cool ‘n’ all, he’d still have to kneel before ZOD…

  15. Pro Lib:

    The title escapes me, but isn’t that sorta the plot of a Ben Bova novel (or series of novels)?

  16. “So, what do you have to do to be called an adversary, or dare I say it, an enemy?”

    Mr. Hood –

    To be an enemy, you have to contrive to be the subject of a Declaration of War by the US Congress.

    This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.*

    *Stolen from Atrios.

  17. Dammit, who the hell is stinky pants? Not me.

    Definitely not me.

  18. VM,

    Well, yeah, that goes without saying. Even Kal-El has seen the wisdom of bowing before Zod.

    Stinky Pants,

    Could be. I’m not fully conversant on Bova’s works.

  19. So, Hugo bought some Russian surplus submarines.

    Great. Now we can all look forward to breathless nooze reports about leaking plutonium once one of those ill-maintained rust buckets suffers a hull breach and sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

  20. Now we can all look forward to breathless nooze reports about leaking plutonium once one of those ill-maintained rust buckets suffers a hull breach and sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

    This is just a guess, but I’m pretty sure those submarines are diesel powered.

    You need a lot more highly trained people to maintain a nuclear powered sub.

  21. In the hands of well-trained troops, these weapons could be a deterrent to a US attack. Since Hugo is unlikely to invest in creating well-trained troops (they demand extra pay and over through governments), the half-literate concripts and the half-maintained equipment would require the expenditure of an additional $50-$100 million in stand-off munitions by the USAF in the case of a invasion or punative attack.

    This isn’t news to Chavez and his cronies. They’re not buying detterence – they’re buying friends in Russia’s oligarchy. Until China gets thier space cruisers launched, the best protection a oil potentate has against the US attacking them is diplomatic cover from one of the major powers.

  22. Ken sweetie,

    In Latin America, “free market ” reforms tend to consist of the government awarding titles to property to the elite and then clearing the land of the peasantry, and setting up cartels and monopolies in banking, transportation, construction and manufacturing that only permit favored businesses to provide these services.

    Break a horse’s legs, and it won’t run very fast either, but that doesn’t reflect on the speed a horse is likely to achieve on its own.

  23. “..neo-classical economic theory, which undergirds a great deal of libertarian thought, often has a very mixed empirical record….”

    This is undoubtedly true, but don’t make the mistake of confusing IMF and World Bank programs with neo-classical economics.

  24. Say what you want about Hugo Chavez, but you can’t blame the guy (or anybody else) for wanting to build his military defenses since his country controls a good chunk of the world’s most important energy resource.

    What do you mean I can’t blame him? As was reportedly said of the animal in the Paris zoo, “This beast is very vicious; when attacked, it defends itself.”

  25. Some of the townhall.com wingnuts or maybe it was FreeRepublic think that Chavez wants Trinidad and the Netherlands Antilles.

  26. This is just a guess, but I’m pretty sure those submarines are diesel powered.

    You need a lot more highly trained people to maintain a nuclear powered sub.

    I’ll wager these subs wil either be permanenly pierside or eternally submerged within 2 years of delivery. Any takers?

    I contend that high tech weapons are beyond the capabilities of third world militaries to operate and maintain.

  27. Tarran, I love that argument, that they just did not do the free market reforms correctly, or strongly, enough! Marxists say the same things, of course…In the end, was the economy more free market or less, and under those conditions, did it perform better?

  28. Ken,

    The ultimate question is where would you rather be an average person, Cuba or Chile where Terran tells us all of the economic reforms failed and were for the elites. I don’t know the answer, but I bet about 80% of the population of Cuba have one and it won’t be to stay where they are.

  29. “They’re not buying detterence – they’re buying friends in Russia’s oligarchy.”

    Very insightful, Blue.

    I’m supposed to decide that someone is an aggressor because he’s purchasing air defense equipment to station in his own country?

  30. I should think the better example would be Chile or Venezula, but I see your point. Jesus, I would choose neither! Having said that, it may depend on whether I was born into a shanty or not (when you are dying of TB the freedom of speech seems pretty abstract!).

  31. Seems to me more likely Chavez is hedging his bets for a possible war with Colombia. He’s been busy stirring the pot (ie funding anti-gov’t violence) there for years, and he’s itching to use his petro-dollars to buy a permanent place in South American history. Plus, hey, aren’t wars great for the economy and full employment? Just how many unemployed young men are there in Venezuela, anyway?

  32. Tarran, I love that argument, that they just did not do the free market reforms correctly, or strongly, enough!

    No Ken, it’s not! A free market, by definition, is what you have in the absence of thugs taking property from people by force.

    In my experience in debates, every “failure” placed at the door of free markets has turned ot to be the result of somebody, usually in the dominant gang or government, taking stuff away from its rightful owners.

    And yes, whenever a direct comparison is possible, such as the divided Korea, Germany, parts of Africa and the Middle East, there is a direct causal relationship between freedom of trade + respect for private property and prosperity. Note also that the poor in free societies tend to reap the benefits of freedom far more than the rich.

  33. “Note also that the poor in free societies tend to reap the benefits of freedom far more than the rich.”
    Which is why the poor fight so hard for those “freedoms” and the rich interest groups like the chamber of commerce and NAM are opposed, eh? Or are the latter charitable organizations?

  34. Which is why the poor fight so hard for those “freedoms” and the rich interest groups like the chamber of commerce and NAM are opposed, eh?

    Are you saying that local chambers of commerce are anti-freedom? Or is that sarcasm?

  35. Jake, you’re not so out of it with ideological fervor that you actually think that Chambers of Commerce are pushing for FREEDOM and CHOICE in the abstract, are you? Jesus Christ…

  36. Another possiblity is that the equipment only spends a day at the Venezulean docks then gets sold to some Persian Clerics. He the buys friends in Moscow (who are less likely to sell to Iran lately) and in the world’s next nuclear power. Maybe make a tidy profit also. I’m sure those bolivarian socialist know how to make a profit with a government seal in hand.

  37. Ken,

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people who have actually experienced lives of poverty in workers’ paradises do tend to be the loudest voices calling for free markets.

    Again, empirically, free markets correlate with improved prosperity for all. Morally speaking, the argument for free markets is that nobody should have the moral authority to steal from another. It’s comical to read someone desperately pretending otherwise lecturing his opponents about “idealogical blinders”.

  38. Pray tell Tarran, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people who have actually experienced lives of poverty in workers’ paradises do tend to be the loudest voices calling for free markets.”
    Gimme some proof. In Latin America and Russia they all hate the free market reforms.

  39. Let’s put it this way: Hugo Chavez’s purchase of this Soviet-era equipment is the greatest threat to our safety since John Bolton warned us about the Cuban WMD program.

  40. “Hugo is unlikely to invest in creating well-trained troops (they demand extra pay and over through [sic] governments), the half-literate [sic] concripts [sic] and the half-maintained equipment would require the expenditure of an additional $50-$100 million in stand-off munitions by the USAF in the case of a invasion or punative [sic] attack.”

    Wow! “over through”, “punative”, “concripts” AND “half-litreate” in the same sentence. Wow!

  41. In my personal experience, every person I know who came from a communist country has been in favor of free markets. One was even an anarchocapitalist. This includes

    The entire extended family of a Romanian coworker,

    A Vietnamese guy I worked with who fled Vietnam in the late 80’s on a boat.

    A couple of Russian friends, one who left in the 1980’s and one who left in the late 90’s.

    Then on the public side I can think off the top of my head of Vlaslac Havel, president of the Check republic. I believe there are also significant movements in Latvia and Estonia.

    On the other hand, the “free market” reforms that people are turnign against all have been the practice of the government making a gift of former state enterprises to family and friends. In the case of Russia, it even had a tax-code that did not apply to the politically connected but did apply to everyone else that taxed something like 110% of profits. It had police demanding extortion payments at random from the politically unconnected.

    In other words, it was a free market reform in name only. In fact, it was the antithesis of free markets, with the politically connected robbing everyone else. In other words, the political hostility to them is not a rejection of free markets any more than North Koreans who protest their government are anti-democratic.

    Anyway, I have to get back to work now. I’ll catch your explanation of how having one gang rob everybody is bad, while having another gang doing it is good later. I’m sure it will be most interesting.

  42. OK Ken, and in Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Croatia, etc., they like them.

    I think we’d also have to ask “WHO doesn’t like the free market reforms, and WHY?”

    If someone who worked for a state-supported company in some guild-like union in a Latin American country doesn’t like the free market reforms because the taxpayers of his country don’t have to support his job any more, tough. Don’t like it, then.

  43. I’m not looking for Venezuelean subs off the coast of NY anytime soon but anybody who’s read anything of substance about the Cuban Missle crisis knows that Castro all but threw himself on the button to launch against the US. The Soviets were happy to get those weapons out of his hands.

    Chavez doesn’t strike me as any more stable than Castro.

    Since these weapons are useless against the US for all practical purposes, it seems the’ll serve in Chavez’s many conflicts with his neighbors.

    In any case, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of hilarity when he starts throwing his missle enhanced weight around that region even more.

    Fun times.

  44. . . . wastes some of his oil money on weaponry he’ll never get to use. Seriously, who thinks Chavez will actually get to use Tor-M1 air defense missile complexes . . .

    Just hypothetically, let’s say some terrorists hijacked some jets loaded up with jet fuel . . . or is that just tooo far-fetched?

  45. “On the other hand, the “free market” reforms that people are turnign against all have been the practice of the government making a gift of former state enterprises to family and friends. In the case of Russia, it even had a tax-code that did not apply to the politically connected but did apply to everyone else that taxed something like 110% of profits.”
    Interestingly enough, at THE TIME, free marketers trumpeted (doopa-da-dooo!) Russia’s privatization. Those who opposed it were called closet Marxist. Now, decade later when it has proved to be a failure, privatizers say “hey, we never were for that in THAT FORM!”
    Pray tell, my friends!
    “OK Ken, and in Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Croatia, etc., they like them.”
    And in S. America, Russia, and Africa they think they suck…You’ve proved WHAT exactly?

  46. Jake, you’re not so out of it with ideological fervor that you actually think that Chambers of Commerce are pushing for FREEDOM and CHOICE in the abstract, are you? Jesus Christ…

    What the hell are you talking about? I asked for clarification as to what you were saying, asshat.

  47. Jesus, Jake: “Are you saying that local chambers of commerce are anti-freedom?:
    YES!
    They want freedom imposed on terms that will benefit them, of course.

  48. Are you from outside the US, perchance, Ken? The term “chamber of commerce” that I’m familiar with involves a voluntary association of businesses that run the visitor’s center, give out maps, buy Christmas decorations, etc. That doesn’t seem like a pillar of totalitarianism to me, but I’m sure you can straighten me out on that.

  49. Jake Boone-

    I think Ken means the United States Chamber of Commerce, not the various local chambers of commerce.

  50. Via Wikipedia, the US Chamber of Commerce on political issues-

    * Supportive of George W. Bush’s immigration reform plan
    * Pro-Energy Source Diversity
    * Pro-Social Security Reform
    * Pro-ANWR Drilling
    * Pro-Offshore Oil Drilling
    * Pro-Nuclear Power
    * Pro-Health Savings Accounts
    * Pro-globalization/free trade

    * Against taxation increase on businesses
    * Against raising the Minimum Wage
    * Anti-Net Neutrality
    * Against many union-supported polices
    * Anti-Environmental Regulation

    * Neutral on social questions such as abortion and gay marriage

    * The Chamber campaigned against the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

    * The Chamber has recently begun a campaign against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act[7]. They suggest the act will somehow hamper the formation of unions – however, the Chamber is decidedly anti-union – and the act is widely supported by organized labor[8].

  51. Ah, I see. Lobbyists. But Ken said specifically that he was talking about “local chambers of commerce.” I’m still curious about that.

  52. I read John Hood’s posting that was linked to. He seems to be saying that Vladimir Putin is doing things to show he is an adversary of the United States. A valid point, I think.

    As for Chavez, he buys weapons from Russia to prove he is a left-winger. He seems to think the “Socialist Bloc” still exists. About a year ago, he announced a trip in which he would visit Russia, China, North Korea and “North Vietnam.” He really is a child of the ’60s.

  53. Do we really have a right to bitch about what Putin does in Latin America, when we are expanding NATO up to Russians doorstep (over the objections of the population of those countries), and putting in missiles near their territory that is supposedly to defend us from Iran?

  54. Ken says: “Having said that, it may depend on whether I was born into a shanty or not (when you are dying of TB the freedom of speech seems pretty abstract!).”

    When you’re dying of TB because some socialist like Mugabwe (or however the heck that bastard from Zimbabwe’s name is spelled) has run your country’s economy into the ground and prohibited anyone from complaining about it or suggesting a replacement of government — the freedom of speech might seem pretty abstract, especially if the government-run schools have left you ignorant and indoctrinated — but that doesn’t make that free speech right any less important in shaking off the tyranny that caused the TB.

    Haysoos fricking Christos, Ken, do you really think that losing the right of free speech won’t invariably cause huge amounts of misery and repression?

  55. What is Chavez worried about? It’s not like the U.S. is some new “evil empire” that invades other countries without provocation. Especially not ones that export oil.

  56. Cesar says …), and putting in missiles near their territory that is supposedly to defend us from Iran?

    Yes – If the anti-missle system actually worked. Get a globe and piece of string (or click on my handle); ICBMs launched in south west Asia (i.e. Iran, Pakistan or India)towards the US would travel over eastern Europe. Missles from Russia to the US would travel over the Arctic Ocean. Missles from Russia (esp. Siberia)to western Europe would travel over Scandanavia.

  57. Yes, if they were aimed at the US from Russia, they would fly over the arctic. But aimed at NATO allies, Im pretty sure they would go over eastern Europe from Russia.

    And Im pretty damn sure Iran doesn’t have any missles that could reach the U.S. The biggest threat they pose is to Israel, and placing the ABMs in Poland doesn’t do much in that department.

    And why are we expanding NATO into the Ukraine and Georgia (the republic, not the state) when 70% of the population in both countries doesn’t want it?

  58. I heard an interesting statistic that there were/are now more US troops in the countries of the former Soviet Union than Russian. This was around 2003 when there were US soldiers stationed in places like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, so it might not be true anymore.

  59. Ken, the free marketers I read were criticizing the crony capitalism in Russia from the get-go. I don’t know which batch you are referring to, but I remember that Murray Rothbard wrote an essay everything the Russians were doing wrong in 1993 titled “How not to privatize”. Milton Friedman also had a few articles that were similarly critical.

    The intellectual heavyweights who promote free markets were not snookered by what was going on. It’s like the California Electricity “Deregulation”. Cato Institute, the Mises institute and economists at the University of Chicago were all warning that it was actually imposing pretty heavy regulation that was obviously designed to favor a small group of businesses at the expense of pretty much everybody else. The only guys who bought into the misrepresentation were journalists who couldn’t recognize a free market if they walked into one.

    Anyway, your point seems to be that there are elites who try to rob people, and sometimes they pretend to be in favor of free markets as a cover for their depredations. I actually agree with that. But this is no more a grounds to condemn free markets than date rape provides grounds to condemn having sex.

    I do notice that people have met all the challenges you have thrown at them, with nary an acknowledgment on your part. Must be our ideological blinders causing us to miss them… 😉

  60. I just wanted to point out the proposed site would be ideal for intercepting imaginary Iranaian ICBMs. The proposed location is not as well suited for intercepting actual Russian missles that are based in Siberia and on-board submarines.

  61. give him a gun and he will shoot it, and give him a rocket and he will launch it. The sub could go missing.

  62. Just hypothetically, let’s say some terrorists hijacked some jets loaded up with jet fuel . . . or is that just tooo far-fetched?

    Well, if that happened, then those Tor-M1 air defense missile complexes might come in handy to shoot the planes out of the air.

    They’re not offensive weapons, folks. But if you think that Chavez is hostile unless he rolls over like a dog and presents his belly in a submissive posture, yeah, then I can see how you might find it threatening that he’s buying them.

  63. Well, if that happened, then those Tor-M1 air defense missile complexes might come in handy to shoot the planes out of the air.

    What a great idea!

  64. I contend that high tech weapons are beyond the capabilities of third world militaries to operate and maintain.

    The Iranians still have a squadron of F-14s flying, despite twenty years of sanctions. Not to mention that the Venezuelans seem to keep their oil industry (also quite a complex business) running fine.

    And, looking at what is happening right now in Iraq, I should think the average Chavista is thinking “Good. Those will make the Yanquis think twice if they try to bomb restaurants in Caracas.”

  65. In other words, they’ll “be used against the United States” if the U.S. attacks Venezuela. Well, good. Hope the Russkis sold him some Sunburns to sink a few aircraft carriers while he’s at it.

    Reminds me of an MSNBC headline a few years back about Chavez “threatening” the U.S. Turned out he threatened to fight back if invaded. Good God, the foreign policy establishment is a bunch of whiny pussies.

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