Monday, July 20, 2009

Don't we have enough foreign policy headaches already without creating new ones?

Douglas Farah asserts the traditional not-Good-Neighbor American attitude toward Latin America in The Ghost of Che: The same old authoritarian revolution is back Foreign Policy Online 07/20/09:

And here's the most dangerous part of all: The leaders of today act not in the name of Marxism -- but democracy. Venezuela and its Bolivarian allies call for Zelaya's reinstatement for rule of law's sake. Yet these are the very countries that have most measurably moved toward authoritarianism.

So across the region, the Bolivarian revolution is unwinding the hard-won democratic gains made in the past 15 years, while pretending that it's doing everything in the name of democracy itself. In Nicaragua, the formerly U.S.-backed Contra rebels disarmed and the Sandinista military and police were tamed. The democratic system Ortega now tramples was the same one that was finally open enough to see him reelected. In Bolivia, repressive military regimes gave way to elected governments -- opening the way to Morales's election. He has since turned back the democratic clock by attacking the press, allowing his followers to physically target the opposition, and illegally passing sweeping constitutional reform.
In an extremely superficial description of the "caudillo" tradition, Farah basically dismisses the democratically elected governments in Latin America that US foreign policy makers have found most annoying in recent years as essentially enemies of the United States. And he embraces the crudest kind of Cold War framework in doing so.

I'd like to think that, in the absence of the Soviet Union that was the linchpin of Cold War scaremongering - "the Soviets are establishing a new base in our own hemisphere!" - such appeals would simply fall flat. But we've seen in the last eight years how a Republican administration was able to pass off the bogeyman of Al Qa'ida as being an existential threat on the level of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

Farah makes his argument with specific reference to Hondurus, where he clearly supports the recent military coup and opposes the return of the elected President Manuel Zelaya. He oversimplifies the constitutional issues that the coup leaders used as a nominal justification of overthrowing the government. That's putting it generously. Actually, he just regurgitates the pro-coup claim as though it were undisputed fact.

This whole post of Farah's smells really bad to me. He doesn't bother to mention that the elected governments of Latin America have unanimously opposed the Honduran coup and support the return to office of Zelaya, as does the Obama administration. The Organization of American States (OAS) has been playing an active diplomatic role in trying to attain that goal. And his claim that the "Bolivarians" support the FARC narco-guerrillas in Colombia also - at the very best - grossly oversimplifies the realities, where Farah's main Latin bogeyman Hugo Chávez has pushed for a diplomatic settlement. Farah even manages to take decades of peaceful, democratic transitions of power in Nicaragua as demonstrating the failure of democracy in Nicaragua!

Weird. And worse than weird.

Glenn Greenwald just interviewed Ken Silverstein of Harper's on the Honduran coup and other matters. Glenn writes:

I still to this day find one of the most amazing and insignificant events to be when, in 2002, Hugo Chavez, who whatever you think of him, was and is the democratically elected leader of Venezuela, was overthrown in a military coup, and The New York Times editorial page not only supported that coup, but in very Orwellian fashion, they actually described it exactly as the opposite of what it in fact was.

The lead line was, "With yesterday's resignation of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan democracy is not longer threatened by a would-be dictator." And they urged that Venezuela needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up this mess, when in fact, of course, it was democracy that had been subverted by, not his resignation, but by his overthrow by military coup, that it turned out that the Bush administration, at least, rhetorically, if not otherwise, had supported. So, to me, what seems like, the way that the media has talked about what's going on in Honduras seems similar to that. Maybe not as egregious, but maybe it is, so talk about what you see as the problems with how these events in Honduras have been discussed and what the significance is.


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