Undermine our allies. Embolden our enemies. Diminish our country. If anyone doubted those nine words summed up the Obama Doctrine, look at what the President’s team perpetrated last week in Honduras.
Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon and the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Dan Restrepo, visited the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday to compel the country’s recalcitrant democrats to make a deal with the man the latter had lawfully removed from the presidency on June 28th. It remains to be seen whether, pursuant to this deal, ex-President Manuel Zelaya will now be – as he claims – restored to power. What is already unmistakable, though, is that it is better to be a foe of America than its friend.
The Obama administration has been on the wrong side in this affair from the moment the Honduran supreme court and congress acted as required by their nation’s constitution in the face of Zelaya’s effort to engineer an illegal second term. Instead of standing with those who lawfully protected democracy, President Obama and his minions immediately joined the region’s authoritarians – including notably Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Castro brothers – in declaring Zelaya a victim of a “coup.”
When the interim Honduran president, Roberto Micheletti, a member of Zelaya’s own party, and his countrymen refused to reinstall the latter, Team Obama unleashed their full “soft power” arsenal upon America’s impoverished ally. Drawing upon an opinion authored by notorious transnationalist Harold Koh, the State Department’s Legal Advisor, which found that the Hondurans’ action was indeed a “coup” and must be reversed, the U.S. administration and/or its allies on Capitol Hill: cut off most aid to Honduras; issued travel warnings to discourage tourism; blocked visas for officials of the interim government; tried to preclude fact-finding missions to Tegucigalpa by Republican legislators; and promoted the heavy-handed, pro-Zelaya “diplomacy” of the Organization of American States’ leftist Chilean secretary general, José Miguel Insulza.
As the Honduran democrats refused to bend to such coercion, Obama’s team dropped the big one: The United States would join the hemisphere’s large and growing block of authoritarian nations in refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the election scheduled for the end of this month.
The effect of this power-play would be to deny the people of Honduras the one peaceful means they would have to end the nightmare Zelaya unleashed. Representatives of all of the parties, including Zelaya’s, were anxious to have the elections go forward as planned and, on the basis of free and fair balloting, democratically select a new president. During their visit last week, however, the American officials – joined by the widely reviled U.S. Ambassador to Tegucigalpa Hugo Llorens – evidently made the Hondurans, as mafia godfather Vito Corleone would say, “an offer they can’t refuse.”
According to the resulting deal, it will be up to the Honduran high court and legislature to decide whether Manuel Zelaya will be restored to power for the remaining three months of what was once his term in office. As both acted in the first place to depose him, that would not seem likely.
But with the likes of Harold Koh, Tom Shannon and Dan Restrepo calling the shots, the would-be dictator may be right when, according to the Associated Press he claimed on Friday that the “U.S.-brokered pact will restore him to power in about a week.” In addition to authoring the opinion that justified Obama’s hard line on the Honduran democrats, Koh is fixated on having international norms (for example, opposing “coups”) trump national sovereignty (for example, the Honduran constitution).
Worse yet, as Nicolle Ferrand points out in the Center for Security Policy’s Americas Report, Shannon was no help to Latin American friends of freedom during his tenure in the Bush administration. That profile would certainly square with a report in Honduras’ El Pais newsapaper on Sunday that Shannon is now lobbying legislators there to allow Zelaya’s restoration.
Then, there is Dan Restrepo, yet-another problematic product of John Podesta’s left-wing Center for American Progress (CAP) – an organization whose staffing of and influence over the Obama administration is extremely worrisome. Ferrand speculates that Restrepo’s attachment to Zelaya’s restoration may have something to do with his sympathy for the radical drug-legalization agenda of George Soros, a key CAP benefactor. After all, among Zelaya’s other misdeeds, the ousted president stands accused of being deeply involved in the narco-trafficking that Chavez and the Colombian FARC have increasingly used Honduran territory to conduct.
At the very least, it is predictable that Venezuela and other Chavista regimes will be doing all they can to intervene in Honduras’ pending decisions about Comrade Zelaya’s fate. They surely will calculate that, with the Americans forcing open the door to their man’s return to power, the more trouble they threaten or foment in Honduras, the more likely it is that he will be allowed to walk through it.
There has been a “coup” alright in Honduras. America’s friends there have been undercut and demeaned. This country’s many enemies in the region have been encouraged to redouble their attempt to hijack yet another of its few remaining democracies. And the United States is diminished by demonstrating that it is willing to use its influence and leverage to hurt the former and help the latter. Whether Manuel Zelaya actually regains the presidency or not, last week’s “deal” represents a coup for the Obama Doctrine.