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Friday, April 17, 2009

This Photo Op Will Reverberate Everywhere

I have said over and over that President Bush's biggest foreign policy error was ever trusting Vladimir Putin. He allowed that tyrant his trust. He gave him several powerful photo ops. Putin repaid Bush's trust by turning a budding democracy into a near totalitarian state. When this phot op was created for Bashar Assad.

Within weeks, Assad turned up the heat and he began to crack down on his critics throwing significant numbers of political opponents in jail in a way that he hadn't before this photo was taken. The legitimacy that this photo and the meeting created gave him the leverage he needed to crack down on his opponents in a way he wasn't before the meeting.

Now, we have another photo op that will strengthen our enemies, weaken our friends, and it will likely lead to a crackdown on dissidents of an oppressive regime.

This embrace will give Hugo Chavez a legitimacy that he desperately needs. That legitimacy gives him more leverage in the region. There is a power struggle in South America between the faction lead by Chavez and other socialists in coutries like Bolivia and budding democracies lead by our allies in Colombia.

Such an embrace also sends the signal that you need not reform or end tyranny to be legitimized by America. Totalitarians all over the world are rejoicing because America just said with this handshake that they don't need to change and they will be recognized as equals by America just the same. Stay tuned, we will likely give the same kind of treatment to Mr. Castro. After the bow to the King of Saud, this continues a symbolism of respect to despots and tyrants all over the world. You can bet that this photo will be used by anti America media all over the world to legitimize this tyrant.

In geopolitics, symbolism is awfully important and this sends the worst kind of symbol.


Anonymous said...

Frankly, Chavez's dissidents deserve to be cracked down upon. They did try to overthrow him, after all. And when they realized they couldn't get away with it without risking civil war, then they tried to scuttle the economy with a lockout at PDVSA. Then they tried to recall him. Its clear that whatever people think of Chavez, they don't think of him as more of a tyrant than Carmona, the Chamber of Commerce guy who led the coup against him. Its also clear that you don't like Chavez for no other reason than he's a leftist. By that same vein your tea party friends don't believe Obama or his supporters are legitimate Americans. How else can you claim that Obama is destroying America even as his supporters outnumber yours?

mike volpe said...

That' an interesting perspective. By your reasoning, the founding fathers deserved to be cracked down on as well since everything you say about dissidents in Venezuela is true of them.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you received an anonymous e-mail
from Rahm Emanual or his intern.

Anonymous said...

Don't confuse one geographic entity declaring independence from another with one group taking power away from the other within a single geographic entity.

In order for your comparison to be valid, the Founding Fathers would have had to not just declare the colonies independent of England, they would have had to actually conquer England.

A better Latin American comparison would be in Bolivia, where the people in Santa Cruz, who are predominantly European ancestry, want to break away from the rest of the country, which is primarily Native American. In that case, its mostly about control over the country's natural gas reserves.

What bothers me is when people complain that Obama has not just bad ideas, but illegitimate ones. Because then everything Obama does is tyranny, but everything they do is "fighting tyranny." It won't matter that he's democratically elected, it won't matter that more Americans support him than his opponents, because "people shouldn't be allowed to vote for someone like Obama."

Anonymous said...

Well yes this is the ugly side of [a small minority] of the right.

Claiming he is a Muslim [so what?], an illegal citizen etc

It does great harm to perceptions of the the right.

Anonymous said...

Wow Mike,

It seems you walked into an argument where you are out of your depth!

Game on!

Anonymous said...

Critics focused on strut-your-stuff symbolism -- as in the silly debate over whether he bowed to Saudi King Abdullah.

But on a practical level, Obama began to repair the alliances that are necessary for the effective exercise of American power.

A handshake does NOT equal policy towards that country.

Keep focusing on "symbolism". I will look at his actual policy toward Chavez and co.

mike volpe said...

Funny, I didn't know there was a debate.

I will focus on symbolism and it appears you will focus on rhetoric. I don't know what it means to "repair alliances" but practically speaking it means nothing. He's gotten nothing.

If you think symbolism is not important, then quit using rhetoric like "repari alliances" because that is purely a symbolic statement.

When an evil tyrant uses a photo for maximum propaganda value there is a tangible results from that "symbolism".

Anonymous said...

The conclusion of the Obama administration was that Bush's way didn't work too well.

Having seen the results of Bush "diplomacy", I am surprised you don't have a little more humility.

The future is uncertain as to how Obama's strategy plays out to the benefit of the U.S over the long term or not.

Predictions mean nothing.

We will see in a few years or so who is right.

mike volpe said...

First of all, Bush's diplomacy wasn't nearly the disaster that you claim it to be. Second, I am not criticizing his his diplomacy per se, but this particular hand shake.

Anonymous said...

And what I'm saying is the idea that Chavez is "evil" is inherently questionable. Chavez hasn't "cracked down" on his opponents any more than the Allies "cracked down" on the Axis. They tried to (and for 2 days succeeded) in overthrowing him. Freedom and Democracy meant absolutely nothing at all to his opponents. The only things that mattered were wealth, power, and forcing a right-wing government upon an unwilling populace.

Yet Chavez could keep winning elections by a 2-1 margin till the cows come home and you'd still think of him as "evil" and illegitimate just because he's left. The fact that he didn't execute the people who overthrew him should give lie to your argument. I suppose you would have preferred if Chavez pulled an Allende and killed himself.

In Iran, they claim to have a democratic government. And to the extent that people can vote, they do. However, what makes the whole thing a farce is that the Supreme Leader and his Guardians of the Islamic Revolution get to choose who can stand for election. So what good is being able to vote if someone else gets to decide who you are allowed to vote for? By that same token, that's what you're advocating. By claiming that he's "evil" even though the worst thing he's really done is not renew the broadcast license of media outlets who supported his overthrow, you're saying that people shouldn't be "allowed" to vote for someone left.

mike volpe said...

Did you just compare what Chavez is doing to the Allies? I think that analogy speaks for itself.

Evil is not a cut and dry issue, so you can have your opinion on it. That said, if you have to make ridiculous analogies about Chavez and the Allies that says all we need to know about your argument.

Every opponent, media, dissident, and political faces persecution, jail, and even death in Venezuela. If you don't consider that evil, that is your business, but I do.

Anonymous said...

To the extent that the Allies fought to prevent themselves from being conquered by fascists, yes, it is a valid comparison. That is the only aspect I attempted to compare. Both the ocean and the sky are blue. That being said, it would be ridiculous to assert that you could breathe the ocean or drink the sky. But that doesn't change the fact that you could make a comparison between their colors. But if you want to summarily reject a valid comparison just because the irrelevant aspects of the two things I was comparing don't match up, then perhaps you need to look up the words "same" and "similar" in the dictionary.

And no, I don't consider it "evil" to "persecute" or jail people who have tried to overthrow Chavez once already and would do it again if they had the chance. Especially since they showed absolutely no hesitation to shoot and kill Chavez supporters in the few days they were in charge, in between indefinitely suspending the court and legislature.

But apparently the only difference between a tyrant and a freedom fighter is their subscription to right wing politics.

And some how you expect Obama to be "bipartisan" with people who share your Catch-22 "to the extent that conservatives are wrong, its because they're not conservative enough" attitude.

mike volpe said...

I think I speak for every person that lives in reality when I say, HUH???????

I don't know what you are trying to say.

Most of the people that Chavez has jailed were not trying to overthrow him through anything but democratic means. He silenced the major television network that dared to criticize him. More recently, a former ally, turned critic, has turned missing.

You sound like his propagandist.

Anonymous said...

It annoys Mike that a leftist dare criticize and mock America.

That is his definition of "evil"


mike volpe said...

When leftists insult America, especially for their own internal benefit, that is annoying, however that is NOT my definition of evil.

When you jail all your opponents in order to hold onto power, that is an example however of evil.