Friday, October 30, 2009

Honduran Debacle

Deposed President Manuel Zelaya is allegedly on the brink of reinstatement. This is bad news for the U.S. for two reasons.

First, while Honduras is not exactly the most consequential nation on the world stage, it is in our backyard and may act as a bellwether for relations with Latin America. Zelaya is not only not friendly to the U.S., he is quite friendly with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, an avowed enemy of ours. While provisional Honduran President Roberto Micheletti was a member of Zelaya's political party, he opposed Venezuelan interference and would have helped keep Honduras neutral. If Zelaya regains power, Honduras will fall back into Venezuela's sphere.

Second, and even more troubling, this crisis demonstrates a profound lack of respect for the rule of law by the U.S. and other foreign powers. Zelaya was deposed by Constitutional means after he was caught trying to illegally convert himself to a President-for-life along the lines of Hugo Chavez (you can see why they're friends). So what conceivable reason could there be for the Obama Administration to support Zelaya over the rest of the government (who were almost entirely united in their opposition to him)? Imagine that, during Watergate, major European nations announced their support for Nixon and that any attempt to remove him via impeachment would result in trade sanctions against and diplomatic isolation of the U.S. Would that not be cause for outrage? The story in Honduras is far more outrageous. Zelaya committed worse sins than Nixon ever contemplated; our influence on Honduras (in the form of military aid and trade) is greater than Europe's on us (especially in 1974).

I'm still trying to fathom the motivation behind our behavior in this crisis. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "This is a big step forward for the Inter-American system and its commitment to democracy." It's hard to see how this can be true in any sense. Had Zelaya not had foreign support, the "crisis" would probably have ended as soon as he was deposed, and he'd be living off his Swiss bank account on some Venezuelan beach by now. Instead, we've extended and exacerbated the crisis, undermined democratic rule of law, and helped to entrench an ally of our most outspoken Latin American enemy.

What's in it for us? Our interests and our principles were aligned in this case: support of Micheletti would have helped the U.S. That should have made our foreign policy easy. Instead, both interest and principle were ignored in a vain attempt to, what, court Chavez? Maddening.

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