Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Trump and Colombia

Lara Seligman has a curious article in Foreign Policy about U.S. policy toward Latin America. The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff was in Colombia, which was "part of a broader administration effort to reinforce alliances across Latin America."

All the U.S. did, though, was to complain. Is this what we call "reinforce" now? We're upset you're working with China. We're upset you're not buying our weapons systems. We're upset about the Russians. The article mentions "new alliances" but the U.S. does not appear to be pursuing any.

It boils down to the core idea that the U.S. is desperately holding onto existing military-military relationships so that they don't slip away entirely. The Colombian example is especially illustrative in this regard because it should be the simplest--the two countries and their militaries have been working closely together for many years. And yet even that one is more challenging these days.

Why is it so hard nowadays? Well, you know.

Donald Trump just recently cancelled a scheduled trip to Colombia, which is his second cancellation in a presidency less than two years old. Just a year ago he threatened to decertify Colombia for narcotics, which was a clear insult. Two months ago he mentioned the need for Colombia to combat the scourge of cocoa.

Diplomats, the military, and everyone else is fighting an uphill battle when the President of the United States has made abundantly clear that he does not particularly value the bilateral relationship. Perhaps the main goal for the moment is to maintain those personal relationships developed over years of such visits until someone else occupies the Oval House.


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