Pulling the Trigger on Indonesia
Jude Wanniski
May 26, 1998


Memo To: David Sanger, NYTimes Treasury correspondent
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The triggermen in Indonesia

Congratulations again, David. Your coverage of the international money and banking issues relating to the South Asia crisis continues to be superior to your competition. I especially appreciated the fresh ground covered in your “Week in Review” lead report Sunday, “Diplomacy’s Erratic Hit Man: The Dollar.” While continuing to provide a figleaf for the IMF’s deputy director Stan Fischer, you clearly put the central responsibility for the crisis at the feet of the IMF: “Who would have bet that the triggermen in this Javanese shadow play would include a bunch of Ph.D. economists at the International Monetary Fund?” You did not quite put definite blame on these triggermen for the 500 deaths in the Indonesian riots, carefully noting that they followed Suharto’s increase in fuel prices in order to meet IMF budget demands. I suppose it would have been too much for you to have added that the IMF triggermen specifically pushed Suharto into the fuel-price increase, which would have placed the blood on their fingers where it belongs. If it were up to me, I would kick Michel Camdessus and Stan Fischer down the steps of the IMF building, throw all their books and papers after them. On second thought, I would have them both incarcerated for high crimes and misdemeanors. Did you see the “Memo on the Margin” I posted on my website before the riots? Can you understand why I call the IMF the “Evil Empire”? That’s 500 human beings who would still be alive today if it were not for the destructive policies of that evil institution. If you would like, we could go through a review of the last 25 years and pile the dead bodies up, and they would touch the sky.

I’m also thrilled to pieces that you also took note of the Arrogance of Power in our Ugly American foreign-policy establishment. What a lovely quote: “Almost simultaneously, the White House backed down from threats of sanctions against European firms for doing business with Iran and Libya. Those threats sounded tough: Any global company doing deals there was put on notice that it would suffer sanctions in America. The strategy backfired. Rather than create an alliance against terrorist states, it created an alliance against the American assumption that Washington can set foreign policy for the world.” You may not know that I’ve almost completed work on a book about presidential politics, The Last Race of the Twentieth Century, which Polyconomics will publish later this year. I’m going to reward you, David, by putting this quote in the Epilogue to the book, as it is a perfect way to illustrate how far we have to go in choosing a President in the first race of the next century. If the world is going to permit us to make foreign policy for everyone, we have to be better at it than we have since the end of the Cold War. At the extreme, the rest of the world would have to get together and impose sanctions on the United States for being such a bully.

P.S. Your review in Sunday’s NYT of Pat Buchanan’s new book, The Great Betrayal, is also the best I’ve seen anywhere. Other reviewers have been content to trash the book and its inherent nationalism, when we are all supposed to be good little internationalists. You at least sense that there is something at the grass roots that he sees which others do not, and that our national political leaders must find a way to deal with it. If you keep this up, David Sanger, you may soon be the most important and influential journalist in the world.