Friday, March 5, 2010

Obamists Get Latin America Wrong (Redux)

Commentarama has discussed many of the Obama administration's insane misfires in matters Latin American. It finally came out all right in Honduras, though American prestige has a few new scars to show for it. The latest dumb move has come during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Argentina.

The young Argentine soldier in the photo is standing guard at Monumento a los Caidos en Malvinas (Monument for the Fallen on the Falkland Islands). The Argentinians have never entirely gotten over their defeat at the hands of the naval and armed forces of Great Britain in 1982. The UK had exercised sovereignty over the islands off Argentina's territorial limits since 1833, but a foolish administration in Buenos Aires had decided it was time to settle that old grudge. It didn't come out well for Argentina.

Still, Argentina has been getting along quite well with Great Britain for a couple of decades. Some enmities need to be put behind, the dead on both sides honored, and good relations re-established. Imagine how different the world would be if America refused to give up its resentment for the British burning the White House in 1814. We honored our dead, they honored theirs, and we formed an ultimate alliance that lasts right up to today.

And that's pretty much the way it stood between Argentina and the UK until Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner decided to cover up her disastrous domestic and economic policies by rattling sabers at the Brits and demanding a renegotiation of the truce agreement which came out of the Falklands War. It was a good feint, and it would have made her slightly more popular in Argentina while having zero effect on the status of the islands.

And then along came Obama's blunderer extraordinaire, Hillary Clinton. Instead of sticking to the agenda of warming up relations between Argentina and the United States, Clinton decided that this was just a dandy time to join in Fernandez de Kirchner's vendetta. In fact, she went the Argentinian one better by proposing that the two nations "sit down and negotiate." After picking at the scab that had almost healed, Hillary naturally suggested that the United States would be willing to mediate. Or perhaps they could turn the whole matter over to the United Nations (yeah, those guys). Isn't that wonderful? The propaganda statements of the new and improved Eva Peron which were designed solely to enhance her own image have now been turned into an international issue which stirs up old hatreds and festering grudges.

The two relied on UN resolutions which came in the wake of the Falklands War. The words in the resolutions say that "any negotiations aimed at finding a peaceful resolution should bear in mind the interests of the inhabitants as well as the objectives of a 1960 General Assembly resolution calling for an end to colonization." The residents of the Falkland Islands do not consider themselves to be colonials, and fully recognize that their interests are best served by remaining a part of the British Commonwealth. So Cristina and Hillary disparage the resolutions by saying they don't address the wishes of the inhabitants. Thus, the rational decision to attend to the inhabitants' interests is replaced by the more therapeutic "and how do you feel about that?" This reopens the debate with entirely new ground rules.

States, nations, and islands for that matter don't have "wishes" or "feelings." It is a fact of life that international relations experts in Washington recognized for most of our history. They have interests, and enlightened self-interest has always been a sound basis for decision-making. Lying down on psychologists' couches to "get in touch with their feelings" is no way for nations to behave. Not to mention it's a physical and rational impossibility.

The Brits have responded to the nonsense with what we might call "typical English reserve." Said one representative of Downing Street: "We don't think that's necessary." At least the Prime Minister didn't pick up the Obama mantra that would have worked in this situation--"We won." Still, Fernandez de Kirchner has found an ally in destroying a relatively benign peace. And as with Honduras, Clinton stands with the great human rights leaders of South and Central America such as Hugo Chavez and Luiz Lula da Silva. As before, the Obama administration is on the wrong side of this issue.

Chavez is now even more emboldened than in the recent past. He has said that this time Argentina would not be alone in fighting the British oppressors. His exact words on the state controlled Venezuelan TV services were: "If Argentina and Britain went to war again over the islands, Argentina would 'not be alone like it was' in 1982." It would be likely have the support of the great Venezuelan Navy and the Brazilian Air Force, or something like that. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Clinton has taken the rhetoric of a slightly nutty head of state and turned it into a potential international incident by encouraging the Argentine president to turn her words into actions. Where is Neville Chamberlain when we need him?

The United Kingdom is a substantial and long term ally and friend of the United States. Argentina has usually been not much more than a non-hostile acquaintance. So by all means, Hillary, let's take a good kick at the ally. Stir up those animosities. Pick at that scab. And while you're at it, get yourself and your country on the wrong side.

Two things militate strongly against any such armed conflict actually occurring, despite Clinton's very best efforts to stir things up. First, no matter how much Fernandez de Kirchner would like it to to be otherwise, her nation is a democracy which became one again after the downfall of the colonels in the aftermath of the first Falklands War. And in democracies the will of the people matters. Polls indicate that 80% of the Argentine people believe that the Falklands are an important issue and over 80% believe that the British presence is (or at least was) a violation of Argentine sovereignty. But only 3.2% believe that war between the two countries should even be contemplated.

Second, Great Britain's military was only beginning to emerge from its years of neglect when Dame Thatcher became Prime Minister. Today, the Brits have revitalized their military, and particularly their Navy. The Labour Government of Tony Blair stood with us in the Middle East. Despite the fact that America is carrying most of the burden in the two-front war in Islamistan, our allies the Brits have shown themselves to be brave, resourceful, tough, and well-armed. This means the British armed forces are tested and ready should Argentina be so foolish as to launch another undeclared war in the Falklands and rely on the help of speechifiers like Chavez and da Silva.

Once again, the Obama administration has stepped into the relatively quiet grudges of a South American wannabe world leader and turned a harmless situation into another diplomatic debacle for the United States. Did Hillary even bother to consult with the Brits before shooting her mouth off? Does she understand that supporting the political rhetoric of an inconstant friend might seriously harm our relations with a powerful ally? Does anybody in the Obama administration have any genuine understanding of the realities of foreign policy, or even the simple concept of "think before you act?" And most germane to this foul-up, does Hillary Clinton understand the difference between "friend" and "fair-weather friend?"

SIDE NOTE: Argentina has the two-tiered nationalized health care system so beloved of rich socialists. If you're rich, you can go to one of the private hospitals and pay the difference between the hospital's charges and what the state pays. If you're among the 90% who aren't rich, you can go to any of the state-run hospitals which look like a rural veterinary clinic on a bad day after waiting six weeks for your appointment and six months for the treatment for your cancer that will kill you in five months. Needless to say, Hillary has a kindred spirit in the president of Argentina.

20 comments:

StanH said...

Wow! When you think about it though, this is what we’re dealing with “60s emotional nitwits, “if it feels good do it.”

Writer X said...

Somebody better take away Hilary's reset button! And her plane. Too bad she can't be kept in the secret bunker with Biden. What a doufus! Has she done anything right as Secretary of State?

AndrewPrice said...

This administration is a collection of fools. I saw the other day as well that Brazil, Obama's "good friend" who supposed to respect us now because of Obama's election, has decided that they might not go along with any sanctions against Iran. Figures.

BevfromNYC said...

I second that "WOW!" Once is a mistake; twice is an emerging pattern. Let's hope Spain and Portugal are prepared and hope she doesn't bring up Columbus or, even worse, Cortez?

The world was much safer when she was a Senator.

Joel Farnham said...

I wonder where the breaking point is and which country will break first. Great Britain, Germany, France......

Hillary is like a firefighter who starts fires, then waits to be called in for the rescue. Most of her fires have been more of the small type that burn itself out quickly. Eventually she will set one that can't be stopped easily.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: There's a lot of truth to that. It could go a long way toward explaining why they don't think of long-range and tangential consequences. Act in haste, repent at leisure.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: I wonder how much of what she's doing now will become the main content of her future book: "Obama Made Me Do It."

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Brazil is quickly developing allegiances toward China, and to a certain extent, to Russia. Any country that does that is acting foolishly in the long run, but at least they seem to have a strategy, while America seems to be making things up as we go along. Brazil is currently being run by a socialist who has a better understanding of capitalism than does our own administration. Philosophically, that would put them in the socialist camp, but in the end, a solid leader in Washington DC could bring them back into the natural alliances of the Western Hemisphere. What is lacking now is any respect for America's leadership.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: The world was much safer when she was making crooked deals with the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas. LOL

BevfromNYC said...

And to make things worse, we are screwing with a strategic ally - Turkey. The Turks threaten to cut ties with the US, if the House votes on a "genocide" resolution regarding the slaughter of Armenians during WW1.

The Falklands are one thing, but pissing off a strategic (and moderate Islamic) ally during a war is just crazy!

LawHawkSF said...

Joel: I wonder constantly how much of what these people do is intentional and how much is just simple bull-in-the-china-shop clumsiness. They're used to glad-handing people in private and making self-serving deals. Now that what they do is very public, they don't seem to realize that words have consequences. You just can't say something to make your current host feel good without realizing that it's likely to tick off much more important people who aren't at the dinner table that night.

The words "diplomatic language" are not just a phrase. There's a reason why trained and experienced diplomats use extremely cautious language. Nothing that is said during diplomatic visits goes unnoticed, and casual "taking of sides" can be disastrous for relations with those "on the other side." Fortunately, I think the Brits have already figured out that nothing coming from the Obama administration has any depth of meaning.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: Great example of Democratic foolishness. They are always talking about how "being mean" to Islamic terrorists drives moderate Muslims into the Islamofascist camp. Yet this perpetually-recurring Armenian atrocities bill could do exactly what they're worried about.

The secularist descendants of Ataturk are struggling to keep Turkey from becoming another Islamic "republic." And it's a very dicey proposition. So let's do something that slaps Turkey in the face and drives moderate Turks into the radical Islamic camp. Brilliant.

The enmity between the Armenians and the Turks runs far deeper than the silly Falkland Islands debate. This is a much bigger and much more dangerous scab that we're picking at. Perhaps some day we can find a way to address the slaughter of a major ethnic group by a current ally nearly a century ago. This is not that time. In fact, it's the worst possible time to bring the issue up. Doing something at the right time is almost as important as doing the right thing itself. We've been sitting on this resolution since 1915. It couldn't wait a little longer?

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--You mean to say that Argentina was smart enough to pass Hillarycare and we're still mindlessly debating Hillary-Obama-Pelosicare? LOL

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: You got it. Maybe some day we'll be as enlightened as Argentina if those darned obstructionist Republicans will just listen to Hillary and The One.

Tennessee Jed said...

The Obama Administration seems to have a real animosity towards the Brits, whether it is insulting the queen or the p.m. or whomever. It is almost as much animosity as he holds for the United States, which, I suppose, is only natural thanks to our long cultural and political ties to that country. Anything to muck things up.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: Obama doesn't understand that the President of the United States doesn't bow to anyone, period. If he had treated the Saudi King the same way he treated Queen Elizabeth, it wouldn't have caused a ripple. But this idiot found it necessary to bow, deeply, to the primitive tyrant who rules a country that produced Osama bin Laden, while standing rigidly upright in front of the sovereign of a nation that produced, however reluctantly, the nation Obama represents. There is simply no excuse for this lapse in judgment. There is even less excuse if the snub was intentional.

CalFederalist said...

Lawhawk. I suppose her next stop will be Panama, where she'll tell them that Teddy Roosevelt screwed them, and they shouldn't allow American ships to pass through The Canal until there has been further discussion in both countries and at the UN. I'm sure she'll suggest that American warships should never be allowed to pass through lest they offend the Chinese operators of The Canal.

LawHawkSF said...

CalFed: And let us not forget that arrogant America removed the peaceful Manuel Noriega from office. That should be worth at least a double-toll through the canal, shouldn't it? Let's negotiate.

I now have a song from The Music Man running through my head: "Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, pick pick pick, pick a lot, pick a little more."

Individualist said...

Chavez is a joke....

I read that when he was trying to threaten Columbia over their getting a member of FARC his army was stopped by angry taxidrivers on strike.

Still he is buying weapons from the Russians, he has put military bases in Bolivia which has angered Chile.

One of these days I am afraid that Chavez is going to step in it and inadvertantly start a war down there and Lord only knows what happens then.

LawHawkSF said...

Individualist: Chavez is a loose cannon, and he's buying ordinance to match his looseness. I see him as a bully whose mouth is bigger than his fists, but if they think they can get away with it, bullies hurt people. He is over-confident right now because he knows we have a coward in the White House who incidentally follows the same political philosophy. But I suspect that by the time he can actually be a serious threat to his neighbors, the pantywaists in DC will be headed back to their caves elsewhere. And he still faces a serious opposition in his own country who would quickly pounce on the inevitable losses Venezuela would suffer.

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