Wednesday, March 26, 2014

U.S. Disengagement with Latin America

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere held a hearing yesterday on "U.S. Disengagement from Latin America: Compromised Security and Economic Interests." Given the title, you get what you expect: paranoid conspiracy theories. At least Michael Shifter did briefly mention that disengagement was in fact the wrong term to use since the U.S. is actually heavily, constantly and positively engaged in Latin America (as I've argued many times).

These testimonies were even worse than the usually disengagement arguments because they reduced "Latin America" to "Venezuela and Cuba, with a heavy sprinkling of Iran and Russia" and "disengagement" to "lack of intervention." You know it's bad when you get the congressional testimony equivalent of Godwin's law since one makes a specific comparison to Nazi Germany (though, to be fair, not Hitler himself). But it was Otto Reich so, again, you get what you expect. Arguments about disengagement--and these testimonies in particular--suffer very badly from confirmation bias. They zero in on very specific cases and completely ignore the vast number of cases that contradict them.

You also get what you expect because the chair of the subcommittee is Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) who is strongly on the "Iran is a Threat in Latin America" bandwagon. He is far enough right to be quoted favorably by Mary Anastasia O'Grady. You don't really need to add anything to that.

Scrolling through the names of people who testify before the committee or subcommittee on Latin America-related issues, you see very few academics, and then only a tiny amount from DC universities. I understand how things work--it is a think tank dominated process with a tremendous amount of ideology involved. But the quality of so much of the testimony is so low and depressingly simplistic.


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