Hon­duras: U.S. sides with the au­to­crats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Now that the Hon­duran cri­sis has moved back into the me­dia spot­light, we should ex­am­ine what ac­tu­ally took place in Hon­duras as well as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse be­cause it pro­vides an in­sight to where our for­eign pol­icy is headed. The an­tidemo­cratic move­ment led by the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (sup­ported by Cuba’s Fidel Cas­tro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega), who has de­stroyed democ­racy in Venezuela, has been de­railed in Hon­duras.

The key is­sue in the Hon­duran cri­sis was the re­moval of Pres­i­dent Manuel Ze­laya for his il­le­gal ac­tions to force a ref­er­en­dum to change the Hon­duran con­sti­tu­tion on pres­i­den­tial term lim­its, sim­i­lar to what his ally Mr. Chavez did in Venezuela. The Hon­duran Supreme Court ruled that his uni­lat­eral ref­er­en­dum was un­con­sti­tu­tional. The army, act­ing on or­ders from the Supreme Court, moved for his ar­rest and re­moval from of­fice, and he was­flown to Costa Rica. This was no tra­di­tional mil­i­tary coup, as has been por­trayed by the me­dia and Mr. Ze­laya’s left-wing sup­port­ers and re­gret­fully by many in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s re­sponse was to say he was deeply con­cerned and to call on Hon­duran of­fi­cials “to re­spect demo­cratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the In­terAmer­i­can Char­ters.” Well, that is ex­actly what the Hon­duran gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions did. Sowhy would the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion want to join forces with the anti-Amer­i­can, anti-demo­cratic forces led by Mr. Chavez, Fidel and Raul Cas­tro, Mr. Ortega et al. to thwart the demo­cratic process and in­stall a Chavez-like dic­ta­tor­ship in Hon­duras?

We now have the sec­re­tary of state cut­ting more than $30 mil­lion in U.S. de­vel­op­ment aid (which only hurts the Hon­duran peo­ple) as one means of forc­ing Hon­duran of­fi­cials to re­in­state the ousted pres­i­dent for the re­main­der of his term. With help most likely from his left­ist al­lies, Mr. Ze­laya has sur­rep­ti­tiously re­turned to Hon­duras and has taken refuge in the Brazil­ian Em­bassy to avoid ar­rest. New elec­tions are due in Novem­ber.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion seems to be obliv­i­ous to how democ­racy can be chal­lenged from within by ide­o­logues who use the free­doms guar­an­teed by demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions to sub­vert it, as is hap­pen­ing in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bo­livia and Nicaragua. The United States should be help­ing those coun­tries pre­serve the in­de­pen­dence of in­sti­tu­tions that keep elected pres­i­dents from be­com­ing dic­ta­tors. In Venezuela, Mr. Chavez is guided by Cuba’s ex­am­ple as he at­tacks the press and sys­tem­at­i­cally de­stroys the checks and bal­ances of demo­craticin­sti­tu­tions. Is this what we want to see hap­pen in Hon­duras? Of course not!

Let’s not for­get Mr. Chavez’s re­la­tion­ship with Iran. The Venezue­lan pres­i­dent has signed eco­nomic and en­ergy agree­ments to­tal­ing roughly $17 bil­lion with the tar­nished Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad. He also hosts and pro­vides vil­las for rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Hezbol­lah and Ha­mas ter­ror­ists groups, both of which are sup­ported by Iran.

Mr. Chavez also has es­tab­lished a strong mil­i­tary re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia and has em­barked on a huge pur­chase ($15 bil­lion to $17 bil­lion) of mil­i­tary equip­ment, in­clud­ing tanks and Sukhoi jet fight­ers. None of this type of equip­ment will be of much use in the jun­gle, but it will help Mr. Chavez main­tain con­trol of the Venezue­lan masses.

At a re­cently con­cluded a spe­cial sum­mit in Ar­gentina spon­sored by Venezuela and Ar­gentina, Mr. Chavez led his al­lies in op­po­si­tion to the United States’ long-term ac­cess to Colom­bian bases to fight drug-traf­fick­ing and Marx­ist rebels. How­ever, they were un­suc­cess­ful in de­rail­ing this im­por­tant Colom­bian-U.S. re­la­tion­ship.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­si­tion on Hon­duras is symp­to­matic of a larger re­treat from lead­er­ship that has our al­lies and friends ner­vous. For ex­am­ple, the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s scrap­ping of the planned mis­sile de­fense sys­tem to be de­ployed in Poland and the Czech Repub­lic by 2013 — with ap­par­ently noth­ing in re­turn — will be seen as sell­ing out our al­lies in East­ern Europe. Ad­min­is­tra­tion fund­ing cuts for our anti-bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams and ad­vanced fight­ers like the F-22 may cause oth­ers to doubt Amer­ica’s will­ing­ness to de­fend even it­self.

This plus Mr. Obama’s will­ing­ness to em­brace Amer­ica’s ad­ver­saries will not make for suc­cess­ful for­eign pol­icy. Ap­pease­ment has not worked in the past and is des­tined to fail again. Mr. Obama en­dured a 50-minute di­a­tribe on Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy by Nicaragua’s paragon of democ­racy, Mr. Ortega, at the fifth sum­mit of the Amer­i­cas in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in July. The best re­sponse he could muster was that he was glad Mr. Ortega didn’t per­son­ally blame him for things that had hap­pened when he was 3 months old. Shock­ing! Since when does the com­mu­nist Mr. Ortega set the cri­te­ria for Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy?

The prac­ticed cool de­meanor of our pres­i­dent will not en­hance his stature or his pop­u­lar­ity with those who plan to do harm to the United States. Re­spect for Amer­i­can ideals and the com­pe­tence of our mil­i­tary forces should be the pil­lars for our for­eign pol­icy, which should sup­port con­sti­tu­tional democ­ra­cies and de­fend them against the pre­da­tions of Mr. Chavez, the Cas­tro broth­ers, Mr. Ortega and Mr. Mo­rales.

Re­tired Navy Adm. James A. Lyons was com­man­der in chief of the U.S. Pa­cific Fleet, se­nior U.S. mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions and deputy chief of naval op­er­a­tions, in which po­si­tion he was prin­ci­pal ad­viser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff mat­ters.

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