Wednesday, January 17, 2007

South American Slide to The Left

The war in Iraq has had caused many foreign policy problems. Most of which are very well documented. What is not being discussed is our lack of attention in any country or region outside of the Middle East.
While most foreign policy energies are directed towards fighting terrorism, states in many parts of the world have been adopting vitriol anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism is nothing new. There were many nations allied with the Soviet Union with their proverbial guns pointed towards our shores, but geopolitics has morphed. It is no longer us versus them, it is now them versus us.
The left would love for us to think that this movement has been a product of President Bush but that is pure folly. Instead, the movement is a product of the United States position as the sole superpower in the world. In this context leaders have only two choices; they can obey the master nation and appear as a weak lapdog, or turn to a nationalistic form of politics that naturally evokes other populist policies. They have chosen the later.
Singularly, these nations do not pose a threat. Coalescing domestic power, choking free markets, and curbing foreign direct investment are all direct paths to economic hardship not a place at the geopolitical table. The problem begins when these states begin to form a bloc in opposition to the United States and are in geographic proximity, attempt to expand their brand of politics to neighbors, and seek other like minded states for partnerships.
All of these characteristics of a brewing problem are present in South America. Hugo Chavez, a competitor for the anti-American movement crown, has begun to create a situation that can only get worse. This is not news. What is news is that he is no longer alone. Bolivia and Equador have now joined the party. The recent elections of Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Equador have created a solid and distinguishable bloc of anti-American states.
Their geographic proximity to each other makes for a much stronger bloc. Being in close proximity creates for a stronger bond because of a (somewhat) shared history, and a cultural familiarity that is not present between states which ally simply because of a shared ideology.
Spreading anti-Americanism is not confined to these states in the region. The United States has regularly been the target of campaign speeches and the media in the region. Chavez was previously isolated in his belief that he could turn his rhetoric into substance but is now a force because of the elections in Equador and Bolivia (and almost Mexico). Political entrepreneurs have heeded the message that Chavez is a potential partner to be worked with and not a poison pill to avoid.
Chavez has also reached out to Iran and other potential American rivals. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was even a guest of honor at Rafael Correa’s inauguration, showing his commitment to Chavez’s bloc.
This is a dangerous trend and there is no reason to believe (outside of Columbia) that it will not continue. When the continent integrates into the South American Community of Nations the situation may debilitate further. The Community will be similar to the European Union and will no doubt attempt to counter US power. US policy should be to strengthen trade deals and work to create new bilateral deals to create relationships before the continent becomes a somewhat homogeneous entity.

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