Entries Tagged as 'Honduras'

Honduran “Coup”: Blame Zelaya, Not Congress

September 24th, 2009 at 10:40 am 3 Comments

You couldn’t make this stuff up.  Currently, deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya is holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa after a harrowing overland escape into his own country.  He is attempting to stir up anti-democratic populism to overthrow the current government.  His supporters are clashing with police all around the embassy and the reports of what is going on are unreliable.  According to the Washington Post yesterday, Zelaya supporters claim six died on Tuesday; the government claims there was only one critical injury and no fatalities.

The current Honduran constitutional crisis reads like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.  The issue is so emotionally charged that no one seems to be looking at the facts.  Mary O’Grady wrote an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal on September 21st arguing that an objective, reasonable observer would conclude that the Honduran government was correct to have deposed Zelaya.

And yet, the United States won’t budge from it’s stance that what took place on June 28th was a “coup.”  The Organization of American States, who voted last spring to allow Cuba (the least democratic country in the western hemisphere) to join it’s ranks, is standing on principle that “the rule of law” must prevail.

What is going on? Doesn’t anyone care that it was Zelaya who violated the Honduran Constitution?  Doesn’t anyone know that the Honduran Constitution does not have an impeachment clause, and that removal by force of arms was the only option left to the Supreme Court and Congress of Honduras? Doesn’t anyone care to know that even if Zelaya were to be restored to power, he would only be there for a measly 66 days before the November 29th elections?  What is everybody so worked up about?

Every argument made in support of imposing sanctions on the current government to restore Zelaya to power is speculative. The assumption is that this Honduran crisis will bring back the dark days of golpes and guerrillas in all of Latin America; that this will set a precedent of military intervention and that democracy will be lost again in the region.  The domino theory seems to have reared it’s ugly head.

These are poor assumptions.  The facts of this crisis are fundamentally different than the coups of the 1960s and 70s.  For starters, the Cold War is over.  “Democratic” populism now poses more of a threat to true democratic integrity than military muscle does.  Most importantly, this supposed “coup” was bloodless, and a unanimous Honduran Congress and Supreme Court supported the military action.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration, the Organization of American States, the Brazilian Embassy and the United Nations are all wrong on this issue.  It is unfortunate that none of these organizations seem to have the integrity to stand up for the facts of this case.

Obama Heads for Foreign Policy Disaster

David Frum September 17th, 2009 at 1:26 pm 19 Comments

Ernest Hemingway offered a memorable description of the experience of going broke: It occurs at first very slowly, then all at once. The Obama foreign policy remains as yet in the “very slowly” stage. But the ultimate destination to which it is trending has already come into sight.

AFGHANISTAN. George W. Bush took a lot of criticism for cutting taxes at the beginning of the prior administration’s wars. What are we to say about President Obama cutting military spending at the beginning of his? Senior military commanders are pressing for more troops. The civilian overseers of the Department of Defense are resisting. And Democrats in Congress are already eyeing the exits. The president initiated this commitment for campaign purposes in his candidate days, to allow him to balance hawkish themes in Afghanistan against his dovishness on Iraq. The commitment was not connected in any organic way to the rest of his foreign policy, the grand theme of which is conciliation through moral and practical concession. Nobody thinks a surge in Afghanistan is the policy he would have chosen if he had expressed his own mind back in 2007 and 2008. Nor was it supported by any effective constituency within his party. Unsurprisingly, then, it’s a commitment that the president avoids talking about—and whose costs are being massaged and messaged rather than explained and defended. This is a formula for a credibility gap down the road, and political failure a little further after that.

IRAN. Averting its eyes from the rigging of the presidential election and the suppression of dissent, the Obama administration will begin mid-level talks with Iran on Oct. 1. The Iranians have already announced that no nuclear concessions will be forthcoming. There’s good reason to believe them—they followed this same tactic in talks with Europeans in the mid-2000s, buying time for themselves as the nuclear clock ticked down. Iran is the most conspicuous and most important test of the president’s conciliation policy. On its present course, the likeliest result is the creation of a new and very dangerous nuclear state—established over only the most nominal American resistance.

EUROPE. The release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbasset al-Megrahi showed an amazing disregard of U.S. sensibilities by the governments of the United Kingdom and Scotland. Despite the affront, the Obama administration murmured only the most tepid of complaints. Likewise, the governments of France and Germany buzzed off the new president’s dubious calls for huge fiscal stimulus. So much for the restoration of cooperation supposedly achieved by Obama’s election. The cowboy Bush got worse press but better results from our European allies than the Euro-favorite Obama.

WESTERN HEMISPHERE. One of the Bush administration’s great achievements was the quiet success of Plan Colombia, which has helped pacify the Venezuelan-aided narco-insurgency in Colombia. Democrats opposed the plan at the time—and evidently haven’t learned anything from the experience. They now show amazingly little interest in the even more serious crisis of law and order in Mexico. Under Obama, the U.S. could face a threat not experienced since the very earliest days of the republic: violent instability on the nation’s border, unless this self-certain president bends enough to learn some lessons from his predecessor. But can he? Obama’s reaction to the power struggle in Honduras, admittedly a non-strategic country, reveals a depressing, knee-jerk partiality to the Latin American left-wing, even at its most anti-constitutional and authoritarian.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE. The jury is still out, but the early indications—the insertion of Buy-American provisions in the stimulus package; tariffs imposed upon Chinese tires—are disturbing to put it mildly. The Democrats’ campaign-season denunciations of NAFTA were charitably disregarded by domestic and international observers as cynical but meaningless pandering. It remains hard to believe that the sophisticated Obama can have much personal sympathy for trade protection. But what the whole world must worry about is whether a president who let Congress write his stimulus package and his health-care plan lacks the clout to tell a Democratic Congress “no” on protectionism.

ISRAEL/PALESTINE. Here, for once, the administration is exerting some muscle. But to what end? President Obama has swiftly plunged into the great time sink that so uselessly consumed the last weeks of the Clinton presidency. The U.S. is applying pressure to Israel, because Israel is susceptible to U.S. pressure, in hopes of gaining concessions from the Palestinians, who are not. The process is the diplomatic equivalent of a drunk searching for his key under the streetlamp—because it’s brighter there. The approach has never worked before, but repeated failure does not seem to have discouraged Obama from trying yet again.

Not everything that goes wrong in the world is the president’s fault, of course. Vladimir Putin’s Russia would behave aggressively no matter who was president, just as any president would confront the same unappealing range of options in Pakistan. But the very intractability of such problems makes it more important to do right what can be done right.

Despite the domestic focus of these early months of his presidency, Barack Obama thinks of himself as a foreign policy thinker above all, according to those who know him best. His confidence is undiminished by his lack of experience and credentials. That confidence continues to flourish despite a lack of positive results. Given present trends, it is unlikely to bow to lessons even from seriously negative consequences. The president is committed to his path. So, ominously, is the country.

Originally published in The Week.

The Headlines Review

August 30th, 2009 at 8:10 pm Comments Off

Napoleon Linardatos presents a humorous take on today’s headlines.

“As Internet Booms, the Postal Service Fights Back”

-New York Times, 08.28.09

The U.S. Postal Service plans to start its own email service. The users of the service will be able to send and receive emails every day except Sunday.

* * *

“Bernanke Victimized by Identity Fraud Ring”

-Newsweek, 08.25.09

The Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, became suspicious when his attempted online purchase of Suze Orman’s The Laws of Money was declined.

* * *

“Colorado wildlife experts get aggressive going after smart bears”

-Denver Post, 8.24.09

Bears found in Mensa meetings will be shot at once.

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“GOP Offers Seniors Health Bill of Rights”

-Associated Press, 8.24.09

Article I. Congress shall make no law reducing the massive intergenerational wealth transfers instituted by our political opponents in the years past.

* * *

“Yahoo renews vow to fight Microsoft”

-Financial Times, 8.25.09

Yahoo’s CEO said “We shall fight them on the closed circuits, we shall fight them on the e-commerce platforms, we shall fight them on the copper and fiber lines, we shall never merge.”

* * *

“Anne Fine deplores ‘gritty realism’ of modern children’s books”

-The Times, 8.24.09

J. K. Rowling’s newest book Notes from the Hogwarts Underground will be out this fall.

* * *

“Iran puts leading reformers on trial over unrest”

-Reuters, 8.25.09

The dissidents are charged with disorderly contact and astroturfing.

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“U.S. limits visas in Honduras, stepping up pressure”

-Reuters, 8.25.09

In an effort to improve its relationship with the Obama administration, Honduras plans to turn decidedly anti-American.

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“Italy to Ask Libya for Help in Controlling Migration”

-Wall Street Journal, 8.28.09

If Libya refuses the offer, Italy plans to cut off the head of Gaddafi’s favorite camel and place it in the dictator’s bed.

* * *

“Robbers pretended to sell President Obama health insurance policies to invade Long Island home”

-New York Daily News, 8.29.09

The victims got wary when they were told that the first insurance premium payment would consist of the plasma TV, the kid’s iPod and the “really cute shepherdess lamp.”