Well, it's not a great week for defenders of Bush foreign policy.
Let's start with Venezuela, where the administration is desperately
trying to spin its early support for a failed military coup against
elected president Hugo Chavez. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo
has been all over this, and particularly the close involvement of
Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Otto Reich, who was dialing
up the coup leaders within a day or two after, possibly within
hours, depending on which administration spin you believe.
The Bush administration's corner in the blogosphere is busily
spinning that the coup was a good thing, and its overthrow, and the
return of the "dictatorial" Chavez a bad thing. The OAS, an
organization not notably fond of Chavez's policies, gives him pretty good
marks on human rights and governance issues, and endorsed his
election. But this piece from the
Idler, recipient of a coveted link from Instapundit,
argues that Chavez is antidemocratic and his return to power is
a tragedy based on such charges as
- His warm relations with Fidel Castro (whose Cuban regime, the Idler
fails to mention, is a major trading partner)
- His warm relations with Colombian rebels. (The United States, of
course, hasn't supported Latin American insurgents since, oh, maybe
the '80s, when the Reagan administration was selling arms to Iran
to get money for them, and there was an illegal propaganda shop
being run in
the State Department on their
behalf by --- who'da thunk it --- Otto Reich)
For this, his democratic credentials are compared unfavorably with
the abortive regime of Carmona, who came to power in a military coup,
and whose first (and pretty much last) act
in office was to dissolve the assembly and suspend the constitution.
With "anti-Idiotarians" like these, who needs idiots?
Then there's the Powell trip to the Middle East. No one claims
that it succeeded in its stated purpose of bringing about a reconciliation
between the parties. Its failure, in fact, was so predictable that many
Bush-philes say it wasn't supposed to succeed in its announced purpose, but was rather
supposed to do other things.
One oft-heard claim is that the trip was meant to play for time,
giving Sharon diplomatic cover to continue his operations in the
territories. But diplomatic protests got ever more shrill, and the
Israeli border with Lebanon kept
on heating up. The best you can say on this score is that while
Powell was in the region, no open war broke out.
Another line is that Powell was giving Arafat a last chance to be
reasonable, in the expectation that he wouldn't, and that would clear
the decks for some unspecified other option. But in Powell's press
conference after the trip, he said that Arafat, among other
things, "that he will now lead his people down a path to peace and
reconciliation and let the international community help him." Hardly
clearing the decks for a successor.
Already forgotten is Cheney's earlier trip, in which he was
supposed to set the agenda for the upcoming war that everyone expects
with Iraq --- and found the Arab governments setting the agenda for
There's more being written on all these topics, of course; for more
on the Venezuela spin, and particularly on the nonsense which has been
flying around for months in the Anglosphere press, see this piece from Narco News.
See also this
analysis of evidence of collaboration with the coup plotters going
back months, and the hints
that are beginning to appear that the violence which supposedly
sparked the coup was staged by the plotters. And a special razz to
Bush himself for asking Chavez to "embrace
those institutions which are fundamental to democracy, including
freedom of the press and freedom for the ability of the opposition to
speak", even though the Venezuelan media themselves are embarassed by their own close cooperation with the abortive coup.
Remember we're talking here about the administration that was going
to step back from the amateurism of the Clinton administration, with
its utopian nation-building projects and meddling in the mideast.
Now, in the mideast, it's engaged in continuous mideast shuttle
diplomacy (Cheney, Zinni, Powell --- the cast changes but the show
goes on), and nation-building in Afghanistan (which they say is
something different, but the denial is as
tortured as the worst of Bill Clinton). As to putting the
grownups in charge, Bush at points last week was notoriously
clueless about the policy and statements of his own administration.
And then there's the Venezuela business, which seems more and more like
the Mad Magazine version of a novel by John le Carré.
So far, this is all just embarassing. But a war with Iraq could
make things worse in a hurry. Are we sure they know what they're doing?