Monday, March 05, 2007

Mar 05/05 | Mr. Bush Goes South: The Risks of Setting High Expectations

Close to the White House but still quite RED

PMBComment: in a stage setting speech for his trip to Latin America, President Bush today outlined his social-justice-prosperity vision for the “neighborhood”. He started with an all-too-common remembrance of JFK’s Alliance for Progress and ended declaring that we –the citizens of the Americas – are the children of a pair of true – and childless - revolutionaries: George Washington and Simon Bolivar.

“You know, not far from the White House is a statue of the great liberator, Simon Bolivar. He's often compared to George Washington -- Jorge W. (Laughter.) Like Washington, he was a general who fought for the right of his people to govern themselves. Like Washington, he succeeded in defeating a much stronger colonial power, and like Washington, he belongs to all of us who love liberty. One Latin American diplomat put it this way: "Neither Washington, nor Bolivar was destined to have children of their own, so that we Americans might call ourselves their children." George W. Bush, March 5, 2007

In between those imposing historical bookmarks he introduced a number of initiatives to reinsert the United States into the social agenda of a region battered by the slow – and at times unfair - results of globalized capitalism, and enticed by the bombastic - and always fraudulent - promises of a growing cadre of populist leaders.

The initiatives on health – get the U.S. military fully involved in provisioning by sea and by land; education – teach teachers how to teach, and housing – help the development of mortgage markets, are well intended but financially quite modest due to Katrina and Iraq double whammies. Relative to the daily, weekly or monthly cost of a wildly unpopular war in Iraq, the amounts do not even qualify for the usual “drop in the bucket” putdown.

It is also impossible to avoid making the point that by belatedly mimicking Hugo Chavez’s motives and initiatives, President Bush runs the risk of validating the words and deeds of the undemocratic strongman in Caracas. While the administration might cringe at the accusation of being more reactive than creative, this is exactly the case. Having said this, there is nothing wrong with being reactive; some of the best policies and moments of the U.S. – which is commonly accused of being too proactive – have been in response to something that was unknown, undesired, unplanned or unexpected. Problems will emerge if walk does not follow talk, and if the reborn focus on the region is lost as soon as the U.S steps onto the next foreign minefield.

Seeing a once almighty U.S. President struggling for attention in a region historically in awe of the United States and its leaders, is something that Hugo Chávez could have savored as a sparkling victory had he not chosen to take his battle and his country to the gutters. The sorry state of every social indicator in Venezuela voids the credit due to a man that in his egocentric dash for regional, and even global, power managed to awaken an irresponsibly distracted superpower.

In conclusion, a small credit for the anti-imperialist dictator, and VERY HIGH expectations for the imperial lame duck on this historic trip and the remainder of his presidency. PMB

See also White House Fact Sheet on the above mentioned speech to see what they want us to get out of it.


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Friday, March 02, 2007

Mar 2/07 | On Heavy Handed Oil Regimes



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