Democrats, diplo­macy and Colom­bia

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Con­sider the record of Al­varo Uribe, pres­i­dent of Colom­bia, since his elec­tion in 2002. A deal with paramil­i­tary forces has re­sulted in more than 31,000 fight­ers sur­ren­der­ing their weapons. By boost­ing the size and strength of se­cu­rity forces and go­ing af­ter the Revo­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia (FARC), Mr. Uribe was able to re­duce the guerilla’s pres­ence in cen­tral Colom­bia. The coun­try is safer — the an­nual mur­der count, on a steady in­crease be­fore Mr. Uribe took of­fice, has de­clined by more than one-third — and Colom­bia is more pros­per­ous. The rate of in­crease in gross do­mes­tic prod­uct has gone up. Through­out his ten­ure, more­over, Mr. Uribe has been a strong U.S. ally in a re­gion with­out many.

With th­ese pos­i­tive steps, it’s lit­tle sur­prise that Mr. Uribe en­joys solid ap­proval rat­ings at home. In Wash­ing­ton ear­lier this month, how­ever, Mr. Uribe found that nei­ther his suc­cess nor his sup­port of the United States could win him so much as a cor­dial re­cep­tion on Capi­tol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, un­der pres­sure from in­ter­est groups, ini­tially re­buffed re­quests to meet with Mr. Uribe. She did meet with him, but later is­sued a press re­lease that did not even men­tion the U.S.-Colom­bia free trade agree­ment that Democrats have held up and that Mr. Uribe had trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton to ad­vance.

In­stead, the speaker used the meet­ing as an­other op­por­tu­nity to hit at rev­e­la­tions that mem­bers of Mr. Uribe’s gov­ern­ment had been in­volved with paramil­i­tary groups. Sen. Pa­trick Leahy cited the same as rea­son for block­ing some $55 mil­lion in mil­i­tary aid to Colom­bia last month. The scan­dal, widely known as “para-pol­i­tics,” has em­bar­rassed the Uribe gov­ern­ment, but, as we’ve ar­gued, is ev­i­dence that the once-ubiq­ui­tous paramil­i­tary net­works are be­ing slowly un­rav­eled, their per­va­sive­ness be­ing brought to light.

Lest any­one not un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tions of this kind of de­plorable con­duct, Colom­bian Vice Pres­i­dent Fran­cisco San­tos said last week, in rhetoric that bluntly re­flects the way Mr. Uribe was treated by Democrats in Wash­ing­ton, that killing the free trade act would “send a mes­sage to the eter­nal en­e­mies of the United States that [. . .] this is how Amer­ica treats its al­lies.” To right this ship, Democrats need to start work­ing in earnest to pass the trade agree­ment with Colom­bia.

This shame­ful treat­ment of a strong Amer­i­can ally fits dis­con­cert­ingly well into a se­ries of reck­less for­eign-pol­icy ini­tia­tives that we’ve seen from Democrats, from Mrs. Pelosi’s “diplo­matic mis­sion” to Syria to in­dif­fer­ence to the con­se­quences of leav­ing Iraq pre­ma­turely. This kind of un­se­ri­ous for­eign-pol­icy judg­ment puts Democrats squarely on track to re­turn to the level of McGover­nite for­eign pol­icy.

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