Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Losing" Latin America

I’ve been browsing through the news on Bush’s trip to Latin America (google news can be addicting) and the wide divergence of opinions. One in particular caught my eye, from the conservative Washington Times, penned by Senator Kaye Bailey Hutchison. It’s disturbing.

The overall message is that we are “losing” Latin America to Hugo Chávez. Further, we need to use the same strategies we employed during the Cold War (“we need to dust off the Cold War playbook”) to deal with him. As one reason she cites the fact that U.S. citizens might end up paying more for gas because of Chávez machinations.

She then moves on to the Iran connection, which certainly bears watching, but as I’ve argued before is wildly overstated:

Left unchecked, Messrs. Ahmadinejad and Chavez could be the Khrushchev-Castro tandem of the early 21st century, funneling arms, money and propaganda to Latin America, and endangering that region's fragile democracies and volatile economies. If these two pariahs succeed, the next terrorist training camp could shift from the Middle East to America's doorstep.

The Cold War has thus started again. What to do?

We need to face reality and confront this threat head-on. At the pinnacle of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan seized the initiative and repulsed Soviet efforts to set up camp in our hemisphere. The Gipper's leadership should serve as a model in thwarting the advance of tyranny and terrorism in our times.

If you dust off the Cold War playbook and follow Reagan’s example in Latin America, then you come up with one thing: indiscriminate use of massive violence. Otherwise terrorists will control the hemisphere and patriotic Americans will pay more at the pump.


MSS 10:58 AM  

So Sen. Hutchison wants her gullible readers and constituents to believe that Ahmadinejad and Chavez will replicate "the Khrushchev-Castro tandem"?

My, I must have missed it. When did Iran become a rival superpower?

Amazing the lengths the right will go to in order to justify, as Greg put it, "the indiscriminate use of of massive violence."

Anonymous,  3:58 PM  

I don't entirely disagree with former Senator Hutchinson. The Iran/Venezuela combo is more dangerous than Cuba ever was or will be. Mr Ahmadinejad wants to destroy Israel (which he can) and the USA (which he can't today). Castro was at least content to destroy his own country and leave his neighbors alone (except for the Cuban Missile Crisis). And don't forget that it was a Democrat who stared down Castro and Kruschev. As for Reagan's policies, did we know in the mid-1980s that the Soviet Union would fall? The threat (at the time) of another communist nation in the Americas was a threat that Reagan did not want under his watch. With hindsight, it is easy to see it was never a grave threat. But we did not know it at the time.

Left unchecked, Chavez will spread his brand of 21st century dictatorship across Latin America, with the help of his friends in Iran and beyond. So far we have Bolivia and Ecuador in his corner. Argentina is not, but Kirchner would like to be. Nicaragua? Not sure yet. Mexico would have been too if AMLO had won. It can't be overstated how fortunate the US is that AMLO lost.

It's not a left or right issue. Do we want to see Iranian warheads in Caracas that can reach Miami in 10 minutes? Or worse, in a Mexico under AMLO, nuclear weapons and Hezbollah in Tijuana and Juarez?

Anonymous,  4:02 PM  

Strangely enough, the best way to keep Chavez pacified is for the US to keep buying his oil. As long as the US represents his largest revenue stream, he probably won't try to kill the hand that feeds him (or let his friends try to do it for him).

Greg Weeks 4:14 PM  

Yikes. Miguel, if you believe those things you need to take both my Latin American Politics and US-Latin American Relations courses. You also need to learn more about Iranian politics.

Anonymous,  4:29 PM  

Seriously, the current Iranian government is the most potent threat the US faces today. Chavez alone is not much of a threat at all, but if the Iranians are serious about half of what they say, Chavez becomes dangerous by affiliation. We have no idea of knowing how the Chavez-Ahmadinejas partnership plays out. It could be completely innocuous, but it could also evolve into a real threat to stability.

Anonymous,  5:04 PM  

Even though Greg already weighed in, I just can't resist...

Mr Ahmadinejad wants to destroy Israel (which he can)

How, exactly? I suppose Mike would say "nukes!" But Iran does not have them and won't while Ahmadinejad is in office. but let's suppose I am wrong. Even in that case, Mike is grossly exaggerating the capability Iran could have. And overlooking that Israel has a good deal greater nuclear capacity (notably second-strike capability, were it to come to that). Oh, and while we should not sweat such details, the president of Iran lacks the ability to make these kinds of decisions. Real power is not in the presidency, and the Supreme Leader has chastised the president over his making of nuclear threats. Ahmadinejad's bluster has a lot more to do with domestic Iranian politics than with anything else.

Castro was at least content to destroy his own country and leave his neighbors alone (except for the Cuban Missile Crisis).

In other words, except for the one moment when the world came "this close" to nuclear war. Some exception!

And wait a second. Weren't Reagan's policies (which Mike evidently likes) supposedly all about Cuban subversion of its neighbors?

Seriously, the current Iranian government is the most potent threat the US faces today.

Then we are in pretty good shape.

OK, I have pitcked enough low-hanging fruit for one day.

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