Saturday, October 10, 2009

Addicted to war and convinced dictators are our best friends

Those are two major problems with today's Republican Party. I don't have a good sense of why rightwing Republicans are so fond of the Honduran government of now-President Roberto Micheletti that took power in a military coup this past June. Jom Lobe at his LobeLog blog takes a stab at it in Neocons Stay Silent on Honduran Human Rights Crackdown 10/05/09:

The Republican delegation’s trip is indicative of the strong support that the post-coup regime enjoys from the American right. While the coup and its aftermath have been condemned by Latin American leaders across the political spectrum — including rightists like Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and Felipe Calderon of Mexico — their counterparts in the U.S. have demonstrated no such qualms, offering unqualified support for the Micheletti government.

To be sure, some of this is simply reflexive anti-Obama animus: the right wants to give the new administration a black eye, and sniping at his anti-coup stance (which has in fact been quite restrained compared to other leaders in the region) is an easy way to cause headaches for the president. But right-wing support for the coup has also reflected a sort of residual Cold War hangover — recalling the days when neoconservatives and other avid Cold Warriors in the Reagan administration threw their support behind brutal military juntas and death squads throughout Latin America. Just as the Communist threat was thought to justify any measures taken against it, no matter how unsavory, today the rise of left-wing populist leaders led by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez occupies a similar place in the right’s Manichean framework. [my emphasis]
The support among the neocons and the Republican right for the coup regime in Honduras is important and notable for several reasons.

One is what Lobe mentions, that the Latin American governments across the board are supportive of the outsted, democratically-elected government of Honduras. I'm not in favor of American crusades to impose democracy at the point of a rifle and under the explosion of bombs. But it is in the interest of the United States to promote democracy in ways that don't cause wars. And to promote peaceful and cooperative relations with Latin America. Both of which argue for something like the policy of the Obama administration to take a position of favoring the democratically elected government and opposing coups like the one in Honduras in June.

In the longer run, the US needs to have practical relations with the governments that actually control their countries. Officially pretending that Chiang Kai-Chek's government was the actual ruler of China for over 20 years after the victory of the Chinese Revolution on the mainland was a foolish policy that damaged American interests, for instance. The policy diplomatic and economically isolating Cuba for much longer than that has been even dumber, though not as consequential in terms of great-power politics. Obama's administration has made a lot of constructive progress by moving away from that policy toward Iran. Normal diplomatic relations isn't a sign of approval of a country's internal policies. It's a practical arrangement for relationships among nations.

How long would be long enough to not recognize the coup regime in Honduras, I don't know. But right now would not be the time to do so. Hopefully a negotiated settlement for a return to democracy will succeed within the next few months.

Another reason it's notable is that the Reagan administration essentially gave Central American policy to the neocons as their playground. Honduras was the staging area for the Contra war against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Major diplomatic players in the Cheney-Bush administration like Elliot Abrams and John Negroponte were deeply involved in supporting reactionary groups and dictatorships in that area. Negroponte was the Ambassador to Honduras: Negroponte's Time In Honduras at Issue by Michael Dobbs Washington Post 03/21/05; The Negroponte File National Security Archive (George Washington University) 04/12/05.

And third reason, closely related to the second, is that Christian Right groups were very active in promoting Reagan policies in Central America. I haven't seen anything that tells me there is a special Christian Right angle to the current situation in Honduras. But it bears watching.

See also:

La OEA dejó Honduras sin acuerdo y con el "ánimo destemplado" por Alejandra Pataro Clarín 09.10.2009

Honduran Coup Regime in Crisis By Greg Grandin The Nation Online 10/08/09

HONDURAS: Talks Seek Solution to 102-Day Crisis by Juan Ramón Durán, Inter Press Service 10/07/09

Against Anti-Semitism: Right, Left, or Media-Induced by Al Giordano, Narco News/The Field 10/04/09

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