PMBComment: just when we thought we had enough of the OAS for this month, Jackson Diehl, Editorial Columnist for the Post, uses Insulza's election to make a point i have been harping on for months. I think the only element that was missed by Diehl is an acknowledgement that Mr. Noriega "serves" at the whim of the President. So whatever credit Dr. Rice duly deserves for cleaning up after this awkward ideologue (here I mean the Assistant Secretary, not the President who in my book is a WYSIWYG ideologue), one must remember that it was her boss, and no one else, who allowed three one-trick Florida representatives in the US Congress to hijack US policy execution towards the region (hint: two brothers and one gal).
Hopefully, as she travels the region, Dr. Rice will realize that Mr. Noriega and those that support him, are actually doing, one assumes involuntarily, exactly what Havana expects them to do. This is one sure way to ensure that US interests in Latin America get buried under the heap of manure Dr. Rice now gets credit for cleaning up. Unless she wants to walk pan in hand for the rest of her term, she should take up her labor complaint with the owner of the Circus. PMB
Note: WYSIWYG + what you see is what you get, a rather refreshing trait in a US politician (even if it infuriates the French).
The Rice Touch
By Jackson Diehl
Monday, May 9, 2005; A23
The election of Jose Miguel Insulza as secretary general of the Organization of American States last week was widely portrayed as a defeat for the United States, and in one obvious sense it was: Insulza, a Chilean socialist, won out after two successive U.S.-backed candidates failed to gain traction. But the deal that produced Insulza's uncontested selection was also a quiet victory for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- and a revealing chapter in what has emerged as an agenda to restore pragmatism to U.S. foreign policy.
As Rice departed on her first tour of South America as secretary of state, the OAS faced an unprecedented deadlock over its leadership, which in the past decade has played a critical role in defusing political crises and shoring up democracies around the region. The disarray was symptomatic of the growing disconnect between the Bush administration and Latin American governments over the past four years. And it was caused, in large part, by an all-too-familiar display of American arrogance: At the impetus of Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, Washington had backed a close ally, former Salvadoran president Francisco Flores. When his candidacy went nowhere, Noriega shifted to Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez, largely because Insulza does not share Noriega's hard-line views on Cuba.
The problem was that South America's big governments, democratic but left-leaning, were in no mood to yield to Noriega's highhanded tactics. Their determined support for Insulza, a skilled politician and former foreign minister, in turn provided a golden opportunity for Latin America's new anti-American demagogue, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Despite his own poor relations with the Chilean government, Chavez embarked on an aggressive campaign for Insulza in the hope of dealing an embarrassing defeat to President Bush.
It was then that Rice stepped in, and employed a tool that the Bush administration frequently neglected in its first term: consensus-building diplomacy focused on the countries that the United States needs in order to be effective. In the case of Latin America, that means Brazil, Argentina and Colombia as well as Mexico and Chile. On the sidelines of a political conference in Santiago, Chile, Rice quietly struck a deal under which Derbez withdrew his candidacy and the United States threw its support to Insulza. Not coincidentally, Insulza then issued a statement recommitting the OAS to supporting democracy, and pointedly observing that "elected governments that do not govern democratically must answer to the OAS." That was a direct rebuff to the elected-but-authoritarian Chavez, who was instantly deprived of his opportunity to crow over Insulza's election.
Close observers of Latin American affairs both in Washington and in the region say Rice's finesse made possible a turnaround in U.S.-Latin relations. "She saw the problem, acted well and wisely, and cleaned up the mess," says Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank. "It repairs relations with key countries like Brazil and puts the United States in a much better position to play a leadership role going forward."
It's not the first mess Rice has tidied up in her opening months at the State Department. In her first visit to Europe she negotiated an end to a self-defeating American campaign against European negotiations with Iran, a problem largely created by another conservative hard-liner, John Bolton. Last month she terminated Bolton's policy of uncompromising U.S. opposition to the International Criminal Court, making possible a deal with France on a U.N. Security Council resolution on the genocide underway in the Sudanese province of Darfur. Her nomination of Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations has been controversial in Congress, but it effectively removed a troublesome ideologue from the State Department's decision-making loop.
The emerging picture is of a secretary of state focused on solving problems and cutting deals with key allies. That necessarily means toning down U.S. preeminence and occasionally compromising on the hot-button causes of U.S. conservatives, such as Cuba or the ICC. Colin Powell tried and failed to lead Bush's first-term foreign policy in that direction. If her first months are any indication, Condoleezza Rice will make pragmatism a stronger feature of the second term.