Monday, September 21, 2009

Bajíos y Honduras: Democracy In The Crosshairs

From the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal comes this devastating piece on the Obama State Department's escalating and depressingly wrong-headed behavior with regard to the Honduran government's lawful ouster of a President who had made numerous attempts to subvert the Honduran constitution and lay the groundwork for installing himself as President-For-Life. Or, as the Obama Administration, the Castro Brothers, Hugo Chavez, et. al. insist on referring to it: the "Coup."

I have really tried to comprehend the thinking of this Administration on this matter. I have noted that the manner of the Honduran warrant's execution was over the top, bearing an uncomfortable (though only superficial) resemblance to Central American Coups of yore. But that's really all I can come up with as far as justification for the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton's State Department's unremitting hostility toward the interim government in Tegucigalpa.

I have tried most studiously to avoid the more partisan and histrionic interpretations of this response. Contrary to how it might seem at times, I am not an Obama Derangement Syndrome sufferer; I would like nothing more than to sit down to a bounteous repast of my own words about this Administration's actions (since that would mean I judged that the Nation was being comprehensively well-served by it). There's all kinds of crazy-talk about how Obama is trying to develop alliances with Leftist dictators since they are in synch with his own plans for the US. Really, some people believe that. I am not one of them.

Still, I am deeply concerned about stories like what the US is doing in Honduras, or this tidbit about the de-funding --at the request of Leftist president Morales-- of USAID programs in Bolivia which promote democracy by, among other things, training local leaders in its implementation at the local and municipal levels. This seems as benign a program as you could hope for, yet Morales feels that it is some kind of conspiracy to support his opposition, and wants it pulled. So pull it we have. Why?

My personal suspicion is that the Obama Administration is aiming to present a reasonable face to intransigent anti-American regimes, and so to de-legitimize their narratives of Yankee Imperialism. He is making concessions and overtures in an effort to bring some of these bad actors to the table, save them some face, and so make it politically possible for them to meet us partway. The reasoning may be that they can never appear so weak as to give the Americans even a sliver of what they want, else they would appear to be lap-dogs of Washington. So, if Washington is seen as recognizing the legitimacy of their administrations/regimes, then they can play the munificent internationalists and give some ground, themselves.

Sounds lovely.

Trouble is that it assumes a level of reasonableness and good faith which it is not reasonable to expect. When a leader is willing to break faith with his own people, to oppress them and stifle their freedoms, and aggrandize himself at their expense, then how does it follow that they would be willing to act in ways which they have defined to be contrary to their own interests for the sake of international amity? The math just doesn't work out, any more than it does that paying off a protection racket with a courteous smile will make them think highly enough of you that they'll lower your rates.

The proper response to sociopathy (individual or collective) is strength and structure and a consistently demonstrated resistance to getting bullied or outfoxed. Now, I am in no way advocating for some sort of military intervention, or ham-fisted attempts at diplomatic intimidation in Central America. We've had more than enough of that. But is it too much to ask that we refrain from empowering the enemies of liberty at the expense of the downtrodden? Is it out of line to hope that the US would pick its battles with rather more care for the messages they send to those who are continually probing for opportunities to subvert their laws and hoard power at home and abroad? Is it wing-nuttery for me to demand that this Administration align and ally itself with the better angels of this planet's polities?

Alas, I'm not liking the answers to these questions. Gosh, does that make me a racist?

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