Honduras: WTF?

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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187 Responses

  1. Avatar Travis says:

    Maybe it’s the idea that military coups are inherently illegitimate, and allowing military forces to overthrow the elected president of a country without at least some sharp condemnation sets a terrible precedent?Report

    • I guess that’s at least a plausible explanation, even if it’s one that doesn’t sound like the framework for a wise policy given that he was himself acting in defiance of other democratic institutions. Then again, I have a hard time seeing the qualitative difference between the Basij and the Honduran military, at least as applied here.Report

  2. Avatar Dan says:

    This is merely the politics of guilt. It was wrong to support the Shah in the past so involvement in Iran is wrong. It was wrong to support coups in Latin America in the past so we must involve ourselves to prevent coups now.Report

  3. I’m just going to riff a bit here…

    I think first and foremost the key factor in the differing approaches is simply one of preparation. Obama had to brush up on his knowledge of Iran and decide on his approach while campaigning. Something tells me Honduras never came up in his foreign policy crash courses. With regards to Iran, we knew that election was coming and no doubt the administration talked about possible outcomes and how they would address various scenarios. Again, I don’t think they planned for a military coup in Honduras.

    As for him sticking his rhetorical foot in his mouth, I think it will be a lesson learned. One of the things that I think a lot of Americans, especially liberals, find appealing about Obama is his habit of thinking out loud. Rather than speak with conviction all the time he will share his in-process thoughts with the public and admit he’s still grappling with issues and thinking through them. So when he says that he is still trying to decide the best course of action on a given topic, fans of humble intellectualism swoon. I really think with Honduras he just jumped before he thought. He probably knew exactly as much about Zelaya as most of us do, which is nil and should have kept his mouth shut.

    The last thing I will mention is that I think democratically elected leaders have an instinctual dislike of seeing other democratically elected leaders removed from office in a coup. It upsets the natural order of things and makes them feel just a little bit less secure in their own job. Perhaps that colored Obama’s thinking.Report

    • This has some surface appeal, I’ll admit. But it doesn’t look like he’s been shooting from the hip here – presumably, he’s been getting fully briefed on the situation from career diplomats and intelligence agents before making any statements or policy decisions. I suppose it’s possible that State and the CIA were advocating intervention in both cases, but Obama had enough knowledge on Iran to overrule them but not enough to overrule them on Honduras.

      Your last point makes a fair amount of sense, although given the confusing Constitutional context in which this is all occuring, the definitiveness and certainty in some of Obama’s actions and statements doesn’t seem to fit.Report

  4. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Honduras is not a threat in any way, nor are they threatened or strategically allied to any of our enemies. Thus we can strong-arm and pontificate all we like without any practical political backlash. Obama is prudent, but I’m not sure he’s ideologically non-interventionist. Power is an aphrodisiac, you know?Report

    • I’m not sure about that – Zelaya seems pretty closely aligned with Chavez, at a minimum. Additionally, the lack of backlash effects is actually an argument for doing nothing, since doing something is precisely what a lot of other nations wanted us to do, even though there is no interest, either from a realist or ideological perspective, in intervening on Zelaya’s behalf.

      That said, the fact that other countries wanted us to intervene on Zelaya’s behalf may be a workable explanation for Obama’s actions – arguably, it helps improve the US’ image at virtually no political cost.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        And Chavez is an “enemy” in what way? The most he’s done is seek to operate Venezuela’s oil industry for the benefit of Venezuela rather than the US and foreign companies, and use a lot of heated rhetoric. Neither of those things give any indication that he’s a threat or that he intends any harm to the US.Report

  5. Avatar Katherine says:

    Wannabe dictator? Let’s be clear on what the whole fuss is over: he wanted to hold a non-binding referendum on whether people would, in future, like to vote on whether the constitution should be changed to permit running for re-election.

    Even the US allows Presidents to run for re-election once; Honduras doesn’t. If the people didn’t want to make the change, or didn’t want to re-elect Zelaya, there was the very simple option of voting down the referendum or voting him out of office in November.

    Instead, there was a military coup. The US has a long history of supporting military coups in Latin America, and given this history failure to condemn the coup would be taken as an indication of tacit support and even US complicity in it.

    Obama wants to 1.) indicate that things have changed in this respect and 2.) avoid alienating Latin America and showing the US as a hostile empire as Bush did in 2002 when he supported the coup against Chavez.

    As for “rabidly anti-American”, it would be nice if you provided something to back this up.

    The contrast to Iran is very simple. In Iran, an already undemocratic state is having a contest between two prospective leaders, neither of which support policies the US would like (regarding the nuclear program and Israel), and US intervention would have the effect of damaging the pro-Mousavi groups because the US is so mistrusted in Iran.

    In Honduras, there has been a military coup against an elected democratic government. It is sensible for Obama to oppose it both on principle, and because not doing so will damage the US image in the region given its history of support for right-wing dictators and military governments.

    I think the strangeness of the distinction to you is a product of your political philosophy. Larison’s response has been similar to yours. There’s simply a lot more hostility towards the government of Honduras – or Nicaragua, or Venezuela, or Bolivia – than there is towards the government of Iran, because their economic policies are the utter converse of your own. A lot of otherwise anti-imperial conservatives have the mindset of still fighting the Cold War.Report

    • Avatar Lev says:

      I’ve heard a lot of talk about how Obama’s a hard-bitten realist, but I don’t believe it. For better or worse, Obama is a foreign policy liberal, and he supports expanding liberalism and democracy outward. So I agree with much of Katherine’s assessment here, though I’d go further: Obama speaking out on Iran hurts expanding liberalism and democracy to Iran, so he didn’t do it. Obama speaking out on Honduras may help avoid leaching those qualities out of Honduras (at the very least, it probably won’t hurt matters), so he spoke out against the coup. Obama’s goal was and is Bush’s goal, fundamentally. The major difference is that Obama is smart and measured (and knows himself and his goals) while Bush wasn’t and, furthermore, lacked any sort of political talent that translated outside of the United States. Obama, obviously, doesn’t have that problem.

      Honestly, though, I’m not sure if Obama is right or wrong on this. I don’t know what to think about Honduras at this point. I can see what Obama’s getting at, and I understand his detractors’ points (to an extent–you’re really going with the “he’s a Chavez fan” here?). I am just a little suspicious about tossing around moral absolutes when it comes to foreign policy, though.Report

      • Lev: I’m not going with the “he’s a Chavez fan” line here – it was just the only explanation that I heard that fit the facts, even if it was one that I found highly improbable. That’s why I asked the question for more explanations, and thankfully, our commenters have been kind enough to offer better explanations.

        I am not viewing Obama as a hard-hearted realist, but I have a hard time viewing Zelaya as in anyway representing a liberal democrat given the actions of the last several weeks. So I guess my point is that if the goal is the spread of liberalism and democracy, then backing Zelaya seems like a very poor vehicle for doing so. That’s not to say that I think the coup leaders are much better – I don’t – just that Zelaya’s actions leading up to the coup don’t suggest someone with much interest in upholding the rule of law and other democratic norms.Report

        • Avatar Katherine says:

          Even if Zelaya is an illiberal democrat – and I’m not willing to conclude that’s the case based only on the desire to hold a vote on whether removing term limits should be considered – it is clear that those who have replaced him are even less so, given that they came to power by military force, have institued a dusk-to-dawn curfew, prevented the media from reporting on the coup, and are using police and military forces to fight protesters. Honduras has to have some kind of formal impeachment proceedings that don’t involve the military, and declaring the president person not grata after the military have kicked him out isn’t an acceptable way of handling things.

          But there is a more realpolitik explanation for Obama’s actions as well. Chavez would gain more influence from being able to be a voice for democracy and against a presumably-US-supported coup, if Obama had said nothing, than he gains from having a friend as president of Honduras, a small country with no influence. Obama opposing the coup undercut Chavez because his stance is no longer the brave and controversial one – he’s just saying the same thing as every other leader in the Western Hemisphere.

          The more mistrusted the United States is in Latin America, the more influence Chavez has because even leaders who don’t greatly like him will see the value of having him on side if the US decides to undermine or overthrow their government. If the US is trusted and liked, people who don’t already share Chavez’s views have little reason to pay attention to him.Report

          • Avatar Kyle says:

            With all due respect, Katherine, I don’t think people in other countries get to decide in policy or judgement what’s acceptable or unacceptable for the people of Honduras. I strongly disagree with your first paragraph, that the Government of Honduras – such as it is – and its people have to abide by an international notion of how one conducts their government business.

            Other than that, I’d like to commend you for some very good answers/analyses.Report

            • Avatar Katherine says:

              Er, which line are you objecting to? What I was trying to say is that I’m sure there’s some non-military means that could have been used to remove Zelaya, and if they wanted to remove him they should have used it.

              I have opinions on the actions of many governments, including that of the US. I don’t think stating opposition to a coup in Honduras is any more out of line than stating my opposition to the Patriot Act.Report

              • Avatar Kyle says:

                Honduras has to have some kind of formal impeachment proceedings that don’t involve the military, and declaring the president person not grata after the military have kicked him out isn’t an acceptable way of handling things.

                I don’t mean to say your opinion isn’t valid, I just find that sentiment to be a close cousin to chastising the uncivilized natives. While I don’t think you’re supporting imperial intervention, I do think there’s a degree of cultural anthropomorphism (please excuse the imprecision) present.

                Put simply, we do not know what we do not know. There’s sufficient reason to suspect that the good people of Honduras have a better grasp of the events affecting them than the many people of NOT Honduras and until such time as they choose to involve us, we should keep our own counsel.Report

  6. Avatar Javier says:

    Much venezuelans, like me, feel in some state of shock after the possition taken by president obama in support of the ousted ex president zelaya.
    He just took the side of the Chavistofacistas, condemning the coup and demanding the respect of the democratic institutions in honduras while looking at the other side with the abuses comminted by chavez against venezuela and our own democratic institutions, we knew for a while that the OAS was already in chavez pocket, that insulza was his clown, but we never though obama was going to fall that low…
    But i think this is the perfect example venezuelan democratic opposition can take to finnaly realize that the united states has never been our true friend, and that obama is as sympathetic to chavez as anyother of the left wing robin hood wanna-be all around the world.
    Its really sad this possition taken by obamas administration, going all around theworld apologizing for americas crime, taking sides in conflicts, interving in other countries, doing exactly what he acussed Bush of doing, but doing it supporting the other side, the side that hates america by the way.
    in the end everything the far right said about obama seems to be true… he only cares about making people like america, no matter any moral standing or democratic freedong or the respect for human rights… if it help him become more popular, hes more than willing to turn the other way and never look back.
    We (venezuelan opposition) cant help feel betray. and its sad that the other side of this country that didnt hate america already, are getting big reasons to strt doing so.Report

    • Avatar James says:

      I can see why most Venezuelans don’t support you.Report

      • Avatar Javier says:

        that – Most venezuelans – represent only 54% of the country.
        And in a country like this where the president can use the money from the country to buy whatever or whoever he wants, that 54% really means nothing.
        The same nothing. the votes of ledezman means to chavez or to cinics like you.Report

        • Avatar James says:

          And in a country like this where the president can use the money from the country to buy whatever or whoever he wants, that 54% really means nothing.

          Then you go on to imply that I don’t care about democracy, lol. Face it: Chavez looks out for the poor & disregards the annoyance he causes to the (still) fantastically wealthy. There are a lot more poor than rich, thus he wins elections & referendums.

          That’s democracy. If you want to be an anti-democratic liberal then fine, that works out fairly well. Just don’t expect to get too far. Especially not during a global recession!Report

          • Actually, winning 54% of the vote when you’ve muzzled your opposition is not exactly a democratic ideal.Report

            • Avatar James says:

              A television station that backs a coup against it’s nation’s president is a rabid dog much in need of muzzling. They were lucky that they weren’t hung for treason.Report

              • So much for free speech being a fundamental and absolute human right. So much for freedom of the press (especially when that leaves no or virtually no outlet for opposition voices). I wonder- I’m no fan of Glenn Beck, but do you think that he should be hung for treason and his employer completely shut down for the silliness he says? Because to me, the answer is not only no, it’s the sort of Hell No! for which I’d be willing to get myself killed.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                They have free speech at present, just not on the public airwaves. That you use Beck is an instructive example: he can rant & rave all he wants during his show, which is aired on the FOX television network over cable & satellite. Exactly the same is of the treasonous coupists, Radio Caracas Television. They are just as “shut down” as FOX are.

                Additionally, I would note that even at his craziest extremes Beck has only advocated a non-violent revolution. RFC through their weight behind a violent one, their support was not enough (although it was immensely appreciated by the coup stagers, a leader of whom cited them as a major pillar of support for their treacherous efforts) & now they have to settle for cable & satellite.

                I say that they should be grateful to still have their heads, let alone their television network.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

      Hola Javier,
      Me disculpas por escribirte en español. No se trata de menospreciar tu inglés, que es totalmente adecuado e inclusive mejor que muchos de los que escriben acá. No más quiero que sepas de mi solidaridad contigo y el español me parece mejor.

      Escribes desde la oposición a Chávez y criticas a Obama. Dos pecados acá en gringolandia. Chávez tiene que ser el avatar de la verdadera democracia y Obama–ni se diga–tiene que ser el infalible Lightworker. La gente acá no puede procesar tus antecedentes. No sabe cómo es vivir bajo una autocracia como la de Chávez. Inventan historias para que se sientan de lo más hip posible y esto se ve en el buen James, quien tiene la audacia de decirte tus verdades sobre tu propio país. Igual el Master Teólogo Dierkies (más abajo). Estuvo en Nicaragua un mes y ya sabe todo de América Latina.

      Confieso que me haces sentir una pena horrible con lo que dices la traición de este país a la oposición venezolana. No puedo discutirlo y sentiría igual en tu lugar. Pero no creo que el show Obama|Chávez (por ejemplo, el regalo de Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina como si se indentificaran con esa reliquia del tercermundismo vencido y rancio) represente el sentir del pueblo americano. La gente acá no lee blogs pretenciosos como este porque… tienen que trabajar. Pero te aseguro que sienten la misma pena que yo. Cuando mencionas la indoctrinación al odio anti Americano que opera Chávez y luego que la traición que tú dices hacen que la otra mitad de la población también nos odien… da ganas de gritar de frustración e impotencia.

      De cualquier manera, hang in there.Report

  7. Avatar Javier says:

    By the way… i guess the person that asked in what way was chavez a united state enemy… maybe calling it the damn empire and asking for its complete destruction wont make it the united state enemy… But maybe, teaching young kids to grow up hating america, thinking that they are poor because the americans took all our wealth and prevent us from becoming free will in a few years, as it radicalize those young minds, and eventually produce some very disturbed minds willing to do anything to get a revenge on that evil empire guilty of everything wrong thats exist in the world, will… but i guess it will still be bush’s fault.
    basta de hipocrecia.Report

  8. Avatar James says:

    God, there’s so much that’s moronic with this post I don’t know where to begin…

    I fully supported, and continue to support, Obama’s minimal to nonexistent intervention in the Iranian situation last month. What I cannot fathom is why Obama would now think that intervention on behalf of Zelaya in Honduras is totally appropriate.

    Right, so intervention against anti-American demagogues who are salivating over the chance to smear their opponents as imperialist stooges is a fair comparison to someone who was trying to reform a Reagan era constitution designed to keep their country under America’s thumb. Right.

    While non-intervention was definitely the way to go in Iran, that situation involved a group of highly sympathetic protesters who were at least nominally less hostile to the US than the establishment. In Honduras, however, the situation involves intervening on behalf of a highly unsympathetic and unpopular wannabe dictator seeking to follow in the steps of Hugo Chavez, who also happens to be rabidly anti-American.

    Hurrah! Out come the smears. 😀 What he was seeking to do was hold a referendum (how’s that for undemocratic?) on whether constiutional reform should happen. I fail to see how this is in any way dictatorial, & I also fail to see what’s wrong with Chavez. As for Chavez hating America…Well, I can understand him hating the American state, given the copious evidence suggesting CIA involvement in the coup against him.

    A coup, incidentally, which was only unsuccessful owing to a massive movement of resistance amongst…Oh…The Venezuelan public. That same public which still loves him after his alleged despotism.

    Perhaps you should actually read up on some history instead of regurgitating neo-con talking points, Mark.

    Meanwhile, in intervening, the Administration seems to be following the lead of Chavez.

    Actually nobody wants Latin America to plunge back into an era of continual military coups. That’s pretty much a consensus point amongst…Well…Everyone who isn’t a Latin American military strongman. & even most of them are happy enough without all that stress…

    Can someone please explain to me under what rationale intervention was not warranted in Iran but somehow is warranted in Honduras?

    Could it perhaps be that the situations aren’t as similar as you depict them? That a military junta which is trying to preserve a Reagan era constitution is unlikely to be as rabidly anti-American as the Grand Ayatollah is?

    I mean, did you even think before typing this drivel out? Or is this free-flow word association? You ought to save this sort of nonsense for a Gmail draft in future.

    The partisan explanation, that Obama is in fact secretly a big fan of Chavistas, is an explanation that I have a hard time believing… but right now, it’s the only explanation that seems to fit the facts. I have little doubt that a better explanation exists, but I haven’t heard one even attempted.

    So can someone please offer up an explanation that explains this discrepancy without descending into conspiratorial absurdity? Because right now, I’m in Sherlock Holmes territory: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” I can’t help but think that there’s an explanation that I just haven’t considered yet.

    How about: Latin America plunging back into an era of military coups would be a fucking catastrophe & Obama actually cares about democracy?Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

      James,

      the idea that Zelaya is some hero for democracy is pathetic. The guy has like a 25% approval rating, got voted down by the Supreme Court, The Congress (including majority of his own party who were probably going to impeach him anyway), & the Electoral Board. Hell he can basically amend the entire constitution with the consent of the legislature without any referendum. Everything that is except basically those provisions which have to do with his power (and hence conflict of interest).

      Which is what he seems to wanted to have done. Then he canned the head of the Army because the guy wouldn’t follow his order illegally over-riding the Supreme Court and surprise the military doesn’t back him. Gee couldn’t have guessed that one might happen.

      If the military is acting on orders of The Supreme Court is that a coup?

      Now I’m not saying all those other institutions in that country are perfect examples of liberal democracy. Hell no. That’s the point. It’s an illiberal country–all the levers of power are illiberal. So it’s basically one group of illiberals fighting another.Report

    • James: I’m sorry that you think this post was so terrible. The points I had in mind when I was writing this were precisely the points to which Chris just referred, which I thought were fairly well-known.

      That said, I think your statement that I am simply “regurgitating neo-con talking points” is drastically unfair given that I’ve made no bones about my general belief in non-interventionism (not to mention my support of a drastically reduced military).

      Beyond that, the point of this post was to elicit responses to a frankly honest question – why is intervention warranted here when you have someone who is far from a sympathetic character in the US and is deeply unpopular with his own people but not warranted in the Iran situation, where intervention would have been on behalf of a particularly sympathetic group. In my opinion, intervention in either case was the wrong move.

      The fact is that the writers I read who are usually supportive of Obama have been abnormally silent on this question. The handful of writers I have seen who support intervening on Zelaya’s behalf are writers who are, in fact, very supportive of Zelaya’s worldview, which puts them well outside the mainstream of American opinion.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        How about: Latin America plunging back into an era of military coups would be a fucking catastrophe & Obama actually cares about democracy?

        God, there are so many things wrong with this completely incoherent comment. Where to begin? 😉

        James, so you say that we’ve intervened too much in Latin America and thus we should intervene now to stop more military coups? So we wash the blood off our hands by intervening further? Did you even bother to stop and note how ludicrous and contradictory this drivel was or is it just free-flow word association?

        The two points I’m making being: 1) it is better to treat those you debate with with just a tiny modicum of respect lest you come across as a jerk for no reason; and 2) look to your own arguments for their fallacies if you plan on raving against others for theirs.

        Now, go on and support American intervention in order to cleanse us of our past interventions. Which sounds oddly neo-conish to me….Report

      • Avatar James says:

        That said, I think your statement that I am simply “regurgitating neo-con talking points” is drastically unfair given that I’ve made no bones about my general belief in non-interventionism (not to mention my support of a drastically reduced military).

        Irrespective of your policy suggestions, a lot of your post seemed to rest upon the neo-con generated fantasy that Chavez is some kind of tyrant. That was a convenient lie & had Iraq gone well it might have served them well in their master-plan of American Invades The World (I imagine Iran was next on their list, with Venezuela third, tops, but still…), & it’s caught on fairly well amongst the various species of less cuddly liberals (frankly, the over-lap there was always substantial) & I suppose there’s some debate to be had of the refusal to refuse the license of a television station which backed the coup against him (frankly, I’d have shut it down immediately after I returned to power if I was him, in fact he’s been remarkably lenient with still allowing them to broadcast on satelittle & cable, but there’s possibly some sort of debate to be had there) but it isn’t something you can wrest much weight on too safely.

        Beyond that, the point of this post was to elicit responses to a frankly honest question – why is intervention warranted here when you have someone who is far from a sympathetic character in the US and is deeply unpopular with his own people but not warranted in the Iran situation, where intervention would have been on behalf of a particularly sympathetic group.

        Again, any statements in support of the “Green Revolution” in Iran would have tarnished it. Statements in support of the legitimate president of Honduras would not tarnish him, not least because the broadly “pro-US” faction is the one which staged the coup, thus the usage of anti-imperialist propaganda would be somewhat bizarre.

        Chris – His approval rating is a complete red herring & a smear. Bush’s approvals sank pretty damn low towards the dog-end of his adminstration, but he was still the president for that time. Zelaya was attempting to perform a non-binding consulation with the public (again, exactly how anti-democratic is that?), which is hardly a coup-worthy offence in my book.

        As for your claim that he could have expected to be a victim of a coup after removing the head of the army, well, unless you are outright advocate of Juntaism you will of course acknowledge the superiority of civilian authorities & that alleged expertise can not be allowed to overrule an electoral mandate.

        God, there are so many things wrong with this completely incoherent comment. Where to begin?

        Having read my response your best place to start might have been reading it.

        James, so you say that we’ve intervened too much in Latin America and thus we should intervene now to stop more military coups?

        Funny, I didn’t notice Obama giving anything like the support to the legitimately elected and illegitimately deposed president of Honduras that Reagan did to the Contras. It’s almost like you’re conflating rhetoric & action entirely, then blaming me for a position I don’t hold…

        So we wash the blood off our hands by intervening further? Did you even bother to stop and note how ludicrous and contradictory this drivel was or is it just free-flow word association?

        I agree, the strawman you crafted would have made me contradict myself.

        The two points I’m making being: 1) it is better to treat those you debate with with just a tiny modicum of respect lest you come across as a jerk for no reason;

        Heaven forfend E.D. Kain of the Internet have a low view of me! Chill, dood.

        and 2) look to your own arguments for their fallacies if you plan on raving against others for theirs.

        I think you should read my arguments before you accuse me of things. If you can find a point where I stated Obama should start funding anti-military death squads to roam around killing supporters of the coup then please point it out.

        All I recall doing was pointing out that Obama was hardly being deranged in making vocal opposition to the deposition of an elected president by the military, especially given that that’s the position of the rest of America. That hardly constitutes wild unilaterlaism, does it?

        Now, go on and support American intervention in order to cleanse us of our past interventions. Which sounds oddly neo-conish to me….

        Well let’s consider that, shall we? I’ve said that Obama should hold the same line that the rest of America (North & South) has taken. This is rather unlike the most notable neo-con project, Iraq, in that that line is largely one related to rhetoric and, more importantly, avowed refusal to accept the legitimacy of the new Honduras junta.

        What opponents of my position are arguing in relation to Iraq would be equivalent to saying that the US should not join the UN in giving Saddam a jolly good telling off. As I’ve said, I’m not saying Obama should invade. I think his approach so far has been sensible. It’s hardly imperialist: every other American state has come out with much the same line, & I doubt that’s because of their imperial ambitions (a lot of South American statesmen could be trying to save their own positions by trying to ensure that this incident doesn’t turn into a spate, but I don’t think that that’s an ignoble motivation, really. It’s the power-mad bastards staging coups who are to blame here, not the legitimate (or even illegitimate) leaders).Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Well perhaps I’ve overstated your case – but to my mind, Obama making even verbal demands or condemnations is a form of intervention in the affairs of Honduras. No death squads, fair enough, but nonetheless, a vocal support of a deposed President is intervention when it comes from the President of the US of A. And besides that, you add this condemnation to the pulling of diplomats and financial support, etc. of many European nations. It’s essentially intervention, even if it isn’t in the form of guns. Obama’s position is an interventionist one, albeit mild, and that – I think – is unwelcome there, for many of the reasons you’ve listed: past American intervention and our own belief that we somehow can shepherd this hemisphere.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Beyond this, two points: One does not have to support a coup to realize that it is none of our business getting involved.

          Second point: I’m not particularly worried about being offended, I just think it’s the more gentlemanly thing to do to not being one’s comment off with “this is such a moronic post, etc. etc.” Lacks tact. Lowers the chances we have of a good discussion. Has nothing to do with hurt feelings.Report

          • Avatar James says:

            Well perhaps I’ve overstated your case – but to my mind, Obama making even verbal demands or condemnations is a form of intervention in the affairs of Honduras. No death squads, fair enough, but nonetheless, a vocal support of a deposed President is intervention when it comes from the President of the US of A. And besides that, you add this condemnation to the pulling of diplomats and financial support, etc. of many European nations. It’s essentially intervention, even if it isn’t in the form of guns. Obama’s position is an interventionist one, albeit mild, and that – I think – is unwelcome there, for many of the reasons you’ve listed: past American intervention and our own belief that we somehow can shepherd this hemisphere.

            The rest of the entire pair of continents which America consists of has come out against the new junta. Don’t you think it would look a tad…Suspicious, if America failed to?

            Beyond this, two points: One does not have to support a coup to realize that it is none of our business getting involved.

            But silence from America would constitute a green light for further would be cout stagers. “Go right ahead” would be America’s implicit verbage, “We won’t so much as say a word against you!” & America is, at some stage, going to have to take sides: are they going to deal with the Honduras government as the illegitimate pack of hounds devoid of any legitimacy which it surely is or is it going to pretend that they’re perfectly entitled to be in power? One or the other is inevitable here.

            Second point: I’m not particularly worried about being offended, I just think it’s the more gentlemanly thing to do to not being one’s comment off with “this is such a moronic post, etc. etc.” Lacks tact. Lowers the chances we have of a good discussion. Has nothing to do with hurt feelings.

            I’m afraid I have very high expectations from this website, as most of the quality on it is so excellent. This is a post so bad I feel that it belongs on The Corner.

            I’ll try to elaborate: the idiocy eminates from an attempt to establish bizarre normative laws to bind up foreign policy. In this instance: Speaking out in favour of the Iranians was bad, so it must be therefore be bad to speak out against a military coup.

            This completely disregards the reason backing any faction in Iran (or at least any one we want to win) would be moronic: any section America offered vocal support to would instantly be tarred & harmed by this. By contrast, a junta government would be bolstered & substantiated by American acceptance of them. If they were allowed to get away with their crime it would promote others doing much the same, & would most likely lead to widespread speculation that America was behind the Honduras coup, to some degree or other. I’d imagine Chavez would be far more likely to take up the junta’s fairly blatant piece of provocation towards him if he saw the entire affair as an imperialist plot much like the one which almost saw him dethroned & executed.

            You can’t just blur different scenarios together to content your buzzing structuralism. You can’t create some magical formula for international relations which solves everything. You have to deal with things case by case.

            I would have thought that that was fairly obvious to everyone at the League, so seeing this low grade post on here was a real disappointment. It’s your fault for being so good, I suppose.

            Mark: If you are going to appeal to authority, at least have an authority to appeal to. You’re saying that we should cut the military coup some slack & basically assume that the case they made was correct. I disagree. They have to demonstrate their case & they have not done so.

            You appear to be relying upon baseless speculation tinged with extremist legalism (maybe the constitution allows for military coups against democratically elected leaders, so it’s all alright!) & pieces of complete fantasy (maybe Zelaya would have staged a coup, OMG!!).Report

            • Ugh. You’re not even pretending to address my points anymore. Last I checked, neither the Supreme Court nor the legislature are the military. Using the military to defy not just one, but two, coequal branches of government and thereby usurp their authority strikes me as pretty much a coup in and of itself. Again, I have seen citations to the Honduran constitution that suggest that under the Constitution Zelaya ceased to be the President the moment he performed some of these actions.

              Is this interpretation correct? I have no idea – my Spanish is gawdawful. But it’s an interpretation that is far from ridiculous – its clear intent would be to create security against dictatorships.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I don’t care that much about the constitution. Constitutions are silly. What I care about is the coup.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Well, there you have it folks. What do you mean “constitutions are silly” exactly? Do you realize that defying a constitution is essentially the same damn thing as a coup – at least if said defiance means you are defying leaving office and thereby illegally holding said office to begin with? And why even care about coups or military control or any of that if you have such disdain for the rule of law?Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Oh, Americans.

                I firstly share the view of Jeremy Bentham in believing that: “Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts.”

                You can read the article which that quote is from here: http://www.ditext.com/bentham/bentham.html As far as I’m concerned it’s a thorough demolition of the constitutionalist case.

                I secondly would point out that when Mark alleges: “Well, in order to have a rule of law, you have to have a set of laws that define the limits of each branch of government. Otherwise, what you have is absolute power.” he is quite simply incorrect. Here in Britain we have no such system, indeed in so far as we can be said to have a constitution it exists in an uncodified form, scattered across a vast range of sources, each more obscure than the last.

                How does this work? Convention. But tbh there isn’t really a difference between convention & a codified constitution: you only respect the latter because you imagine you ought to, in much the same way as you act to the latter out of a sense of tradition, or “the way things are done”. It’s an ornate fiction.

                I’d far rather have a system which is earnest in it being merely tradition that one with copious pretentions & entirely unwarranted airs of grandeur. You’ll note that the Soviets had a fantastic constitution, established by Stalin, which promised them some of the most extensive rights of any citizens on the face of the planet.

                With that out of the way, let us talk of coups: these are clearly distinct from the abstract legalism of constitutional matters. These are a group of armed men seizing control of a country by force. It isn’t on the same level as Bentham vs. the codifiers, it’s a matter of brute force which is inarguable & lands power in the hands of a set of brutal reactionaries.

                I don’t give a shit about a set of legal fictions getting trampled over, I do care about a country’s entire people getting trampled over by a highly organised pack of thugs. That is what a coup constitutes, that is what the difference is between a constitutional breach and a military deposition.

                I’m actually fairly amazed that I need to point that blazingly obvious distinction out to you, but I guess it just goes to demonstrate that there are no self-evident truths…Report

              • Avatar James says:

                For more on coups check out Hobsbawm’s essay on the topic, reprinted most recently (& accessibly) in his excellent Revolutionaries collection. That doesn’t say it all, but for my purposes certainly says enough. (IIRC there might even be more than one on the matter from the man in there, you lucky devils.)Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                So you think the Hondurans should rely on conventions, traditions, etc. as opposed to a pesky constitution? This assumes, of course, that Honduras has that sort of groundwork laid already – and I suspect, that like most nations, it has nowhere near the historical legacy that Britain does and thus has not the traditions necessary to shape a very stable society. Constitutions come in handy especially for young nations. Beyond that, of course, you assume two other things: one, that all coups are launched by “packs of thugs” and that there is no way that said pack of thugs could in fact be the ones currently being tossed out rather than the ones doing the tossing; and secondly, that even if all of this is true, that America somehow ought to impose its will or opinion or mood on the internal kerfuffle in Honduras – and you still have not made anything like a coherent case for that….Report

              • Setting aside your condescension towards my nationality, this quite misses the point here. I am fully aware of how the British system of government operates, the role of common law, etc., etc. I’ve even read Bagehot.

                As E.D. noted, convention requires centuries to develop, constitutions don’t. The idea of a constitution is at least in part to allow a country to settle the whole messy question of who is in charge and how much power they hold without having to go through multiple Civil Wars, succession crises, etc.

                Beyond that, there is the simple fact that even if constitutions didn’t matter, the prevailing convention in Honduras is that there are three branches of government. The usurpation of authority by one branch in defiance of the other two (at least one of which, btw, is also popularly elected) via the use of the military is, in itself, a coup. By intervening, the US is at least arguably (and I would say clearly) signalling that coups by the executive branch of a government are ok. Intervening on the opposite side would possibly send the message that judicial and/or legislative coups are ok. Not intervening at all sends neither message.

                That the executive branches of other countries in the region are supporting the executive branch of Honduras should not exactly be surprising and doesn’t really provide any evidence of the rightness of Obama’s decision.Report

              • Well, in order to have a rule of law, you have to have a set of laws that define the limits of each branch of government. Otherwise, what you have is absolute power. Honduras has such a set of laws, and Zelaya was required to obey them. Zelaya doesn’t get absolute power just because he was elected President, and no one in Honduras ever voted to give him such power.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                So you think the Hondurans should rely on conventions, traditions, etc. as opposed to a pesky constitution?

                Like I said, I’m not into normativity where normativity does not belong. I don’t know what would do them well, but I think assuming that the Honduras Constitution is a helpful document that should be displayed reverence is unwise. That’s a Reagan era document.

                This assumes, of course, that Honduras has that sort of groundwork laid already – and I suspect, that like most nations, it has nowhere near the historical legacy that Britain does and thus has not the traditions necessary to shape a very stable society. Constitutions come in handy especially for young nations.

                Yes, quite clearly Honduras is a good deal more stable courtesy of its constitution. Hence the coup.

                Perhaps it’s uncharitable for me to open up on you guys this close to July 4th?

                Beyond that, of course, you assume two other things: one, that all coups are launched by “packs of thugs” and that there is no way that said pack of thugs could in fact be the ones currently being tossed out rather than the ones doing the tossing;

                The ones tossing have won no elections. Elections matter, I’m a fan of this “democracy” stuff, unlike some people here it would seem.

                and secondly, that even if all of this is true, that America somehow ought to impose its will or opinion or mood on the internal kerfuffle in Honduras –

                …”impose its…opinion”? wtf?

                and you still have not made anything like a coherent case for that….

                Again: I have to wonder if you are even reading my comments! As I said, recognising the present Honduras junta as legitimate (which the Obama admin. is going to have to do, or not do at some stage) would green light further coups in Latin America. Additionally: not saying anything at all would make it seem like an imperialist plot (lord knows there have been enough staged by America in South America!) & could prompt Chavez to pursue the tease the junta made towards him (only external force will see us removed, they told the world, no doubt with a wink towards him). Silence can have as big an impact as expression of concern, indeed it can have a greater one.

                Is that really entirely incoherent? & that is simply a summary of what I’ve been saying on this thread, really…Report

              • “The ones tossing have won no elections.”

                So the legislature of Honduras was unelected? Really?Report

              • Avatar Dave says:

                I didn’t see that before. LOLReport

              • Avatar James says:

                As E.D. noted, convention requires centuries to develop, constitutions don’t. The idea of a constitution is at least in part to allow a country to settle the whole messy question of who is in charge and how much power they hold without having to go through multiple Civil Wars, succession crises, etc.

                A constitution clearly didn’t do the job here.

                Beyond that, there is the simple fact that even if constitutions didn’t matter, the prevailing convention in Honduras is that there are three branches of government. The usurpation of authority by one branch in defiance of the other two (at least one of which, btw, is also popularly elected) via the use of the military is, in itself, a coup.

                He was trying to stage a non-binding referendum with the Honduran people. You can try and spin that as anti-democratic all you want, but it isn’t.

                By intervening, the US is at least arguably (and I would say clearly) signalling that coups by the executive branch of a government are ok. Intervening on the opposite side would possibly send the message that judicial and/or legislative coups are ok. Not intervening at all sends neither message.

                What callow sophistry. It is not a matter of intervening or not intervening, it is a matter of recognising as legitimate or not recognising as legitimate the successful perpetrators a putsch. Clearly your rampant legalism allows you to do that, but that Obama does not share this defect of yours is both something which is to be expected & something which I am entirely grateful for.

                That the executive branches of other countries in the region are supporting the executive branch of Honduras should not exactly be surprising and doesn’t really provide any evidence of the rightness of Obama’s decision.

                It does, however, dismiss the nonsense that coming out against a coup is in any way imperialist, despite the coup serving the imperial interests of America…

                So the legislature of Honduras was unelected? Really?

                The legislature of Honduras performed the coup? Really?Report

              • Actually, the military’s actions occured only upon the orders of the Supreme Court and with the tacit support of the legislature, which – at the behest of Zelaya’s own party – had already begun impeachment proceedings.Report

              • In 2001, the democratically-elected US Congress, with the overwhelming support of the American people, in response to the 9/11 attacks, passed the PATRIOT Act. What could be more democratic than that? Several provisions of the PATRIOT Act have been ruled unconstitutional (not enough, IMHO). Had George Bush attempted to enforce those provisions anyhow, would removing him from office have been justified? After all, he would have only been doing the democratically correct thing.Report

        • James:
          We’re going to have to agree to disagree on Chavez. Frankly, I find the issue of the television licensing to be a profound attack on fundamental human rights, amongst plenty of other actions of his.

          But to characterize Zelaya as merely attempting to put a nonbinding referendum before the public is to ignore a boatload of context, and/or to place yourself in the position of an expert on Honduran constitutional law. There have been more than a few questions of corruption and thirst for power that have been raised against him over the years. But beyond that, you have a situation where the legislature – including his own party! – refused to put forward his proposal via constitutional convention; he then tried to do it via referendum, but the Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional. The head of the military, relying on the Supreme Court’s decision, then refused Zelaya’s subsequent order to go forward with the referendum nonetheless. Had the situation stopped there, no problem. But then Zelaya fired the head of the military so that he could disregard the Supreme Court’s decision and go ahead with the referendum nonetheless. Needless to say, this is a tad bit illegal and problematic on Zelaya’s part. At a minimum, it precipitates a constitutional crisis about the authority of the Executive in which the Executive is quite literally declaring himself above the law. Was the subsequent action in arresting him and exiling him excessive and procedurally deficient? Quite possibly, but then again, I’ve seen people point to provisions of the Honduran Constitution that suggest that this may well have been the constitutionally required step. I may be a lawyer, but I am no expert on Honduran Constitutional law – are you?

          Regardless, this is not a situation that easily boils down to claims that it was a military coup – it’s far more complicated than that, and Zelaya’s transparent attempts to use the military to serve his personal aims rather than the rule of law in Honduras rightly raise concerns that had he remained in power, he would have committed a coup himself.

          Does this mean that I think what happened was good and right? No – again, I’m not an expert on Honduran law (and, I assume, neither are you). But this situation is far too complex and involves far too many Honduran-specific issues for outside countries to be jumping to conclusions that Zelaya should be supported. Supporting Zelaya may very well wind up mean supporting a coup of sorts going in the other direction.Report

          • Avatar James says:

            Incidentally, by sympathies for you over having to read Bagehot. I imagine that it’s him more than any other who’s set back the case for a British written constitution. 😛Report

            • Avatar James says:

              In 2001, the democratically-elected US Congress, with the overwhelming support of the American people, in response to the 9/11 attacks, passed the PATRIOT Act. What could be more democratic than that? Several provisions of the PATRIOT Act have been ruled unconstitutional (not enough, IMHO). Had George Bush attempted to enforce those provisions anyhow, would removing him from office have been justified? After all, he would have only been doing the democratically correct thing.

              Yes, that was entirely democratic. Aren’t you failing to distinguish between ‘liberal’ & ‘democratic’, here?

              Actually, the military’s actions occured only upon the orders of the Supreme Court and with the tacit support of the legislature, which – at the behest of Zelaya’s own party – had already begun impeachment proceedings.

              An impeachment is one thing, a coup another.

              Not at all. We’re talking about two coups here – one perpetrated by the Prez and one by the other two branches of government. Mark’s stance, and mine, is that the second coup was in reaction to the first, and that since a government has to be recognized, as you rightly argue, the one to recognize is the one remaining. And the best way to do this is without noise, without bluster, without condemnation or silly antics.

              If you can’t tell the difference between the military ejecting an elected leader & taking over the country & a democratically elected leader attempting to stage a non-binding referendum then you are not worth debating with. I’m bored of baby-feeding you, E.D.Report

              • Avatar Dave says:

                James,

                then you are not worth debating with. I’m bored of baby-feeding you, E.D.

                Baby feed on this…

                http://www.ordinary-gentlemen.com/commenting-policy/

                That you are an insufferable condenscending little prick does not bother me so long as you don’t behave like an insufferable little prick in violation of our commenting policy.

                Disagreement is fine. Throwing jabs at your opponents is fine. The sorts of comments I referenced above are unacceptable. I’m not warning you again.Report

              • 1. We have a comments policy. You’re walking on increasingly thin ice here with the “baby-feeding” line.

                2. Using force, or the threat of force, to overturn the completely legitimate decisions of two coequal branches of government is a coup unto itself. The issue is not that he attempted to push through a referendum; it’s that when his attempt was denied, he tried to use force to overturn those denials. At best – and most likely – we’re in a situation where there really are no angels, and choosing a side to support is a decision fraught with peril – there may be arguments for supporting one side or the other, but the case is not clear and open-and-shut. At worst, albeit less likely, Zelaya’s removal, at the behest of the supreme court (which is a legitimate democratic institution even if not directly elected) and with the tacit support of the legislature was in line with both constitutional and conventional procedures, such that intervention on Zelaya’s behalf not only undermines the rule of law, but also undermines Honduran democracy.

                3. The fact that a constitution is Reagan-era does not, ipso facto, make it illegitimate or unworthy of any respect whatsoever. This is particularly true when the dispute at issue has not a damn thing to do with the US and has everything to do with Honduran politics and whether or not there is to be a rule of law at all.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Oh Mark, you American you know so little about anything. In fact, you’re just a moronic moron who needs to be baby-fed by your superiors who know so much more about just about everything and can refute your arguments without actually addressing any of them (magic!) On that note, this post, your comments, and your arguments are all just obviously sophomoric and banal. I pity you. I really do, as I sit here in my heady cloud of pretension and look down upon ye mere mortals from my lofty, enlightened perch….

                If only I could insult you into understanding things from my point of view.

                **sigh**Report

              • Avatar James says:

                E.D. – Your argument seems to be that attempting to ask the population what they think after they elected you with a mandate to ask them what they think about the constitutional reform & implement it if they agree that it needs to change constitutes a coup. I honestly have no idea how to respond to that other than to suggest that we are speaking different languages.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Actually, my argument is that it is none of our damn business and we should keep our damn noses out of it.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Well Mark, bizarre as this may sound Constitutions often don’t change much – that’s sort of the point of them, I believe. They can be altered, but it’s a tricky thing, as Zelaya is now discovering.

                Accordingly if it was botched constitution written to facilitate Reagan’s dirty, & one which restricts the Honduran’s people in a variety of silly ways (as an Englishman I am, once again, quite baffled at the presumably feigned horror over an absence of term limits, as I had no cognisence that I was living in a dictatorship…) it will still be a botched one now.

                Now the majority of Hondurans seem to agree, given that constiutional reform was the/a campaign Zelaya ran on: he stated that he would reform the constitution if a majority of the population agreed with the proposed changes, & that was what he was trying to implement.

                I am quite frankly baffled by your position: apparently the Constitution is vital, yet unalterable & all attempts to see how many people are happy with that should be suppressed, & anyone acting against this suppression (I have yet to see any evidence for this action being brutal or in any way excessive on Zelaya’s part, incidentally) should be removed in a coup & that’s perfectly alright.

                So a majority of the Honduras wants to alter the damn thing that is apparently keeping them so safe, secure & stable, but you think that the people who it suits to have it stay the way it is refusing Zelaya permission to even ask them that formally should be banned.

                Yet you purport to be a democrat?Report

              • Actually, I’ve never purported to be a democrat – at best, it’s the least bad form of government. Regardless, the elevation of democracy above all else is usually the mark of the neo-conservatives that you so knowingly accuse me of parroting. Frankly, based on your definition, which seems to be that everything should be subject to the whims of the majority (no matter how much that majority is subject to the manipulation of a state-controlled media), just about no one would qualify as a democrat.

                I have no problems with a country altering its Constitution via constitutional means. Just about every constitution has an amendment process. In this case, a constitutional amendment needed to go through the legislature, which you seem to keep ignoring is democratically elected .

                It is not that term limits are sacrosanct – no one is claiming that they are. It’s that respect for the rule of law is sacrosanct. It’s that one who attempts to usurp the authority of not just one, but two, other democratic institutions that are coequal branches of government through the use of the military (and let’s not pretend that the firing of the military chief was anything but an attempt to use the military to circumvent the decisions of those branches of government).

                Look, the rule of law is a valuable principle. An awful lot of people think it to be as or more important than the principle of democracy. You can agree or disagree with that weighting. What you cannot say is that such a weighting is clearly unjust such that respect for the rule of law is worthy of no consideration whatsoever such that a country’s foreign policy should always support the side that is most interested in pushing democratic values.

                In the end, I have no idea whether Zelaya or the legislature and courts have acted more damnably. What I do know is that it’s not a clear cut case from a foreigner’s perspective and intervening on behalf of one side or the other makes very little sense.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Your argument doesn’t add up: as I’ve mentioned repeatedly before, the referendum was going to be non-binding. He couldn’t just declare it implemented once he was done. The legislature couldn’t have been avoided, but they would have been presented with a proposal the Hondurans had voted in favour of, thus would have been hard pressed to refuse it.

                As for him firing the military chief, well I’d imagine that that was Zelaya attempting to evade a coup through removing an opponent from control of the army. A pity that that didn’t work out for him.

                Finally, I think your approach sums up the poverty of contemporary isolationsism: we are going to have to have dealings with the Honduran government at some stage. We simply can’t pretend that they don’t exist. So what the official US view of them is is going to come up – are they a legitimate force or not?

                Besides, as I have stated before, we have reached the stage where America’s silence has impacts: it would make the Honduras situation seem a good deal like a coup (the US refused to come out against Chavez, you might recall, & Reagan invaded the nation in 1988 so it’s not as if there’s never been any stake in it), thus making the idea of a war justified by an anti-imperialist edge between Chavez and the new Honduran junta more likely (with each sides seemingly spoiling for a fight). Additionally, it would leave America the odd-man-out amongst the entirety of America, exacerbating the aforementioned, while offering a clear hint (whether you wanted to, or otherwise) to other military wannabe coupists that they will be seen as entirely legitimate so long as they can concoct some appropriate constitutional figleaf before riding over the will of their nation’s people.

                That all sounding like a better deal than Obama saying that “Coup’s are bad, man”, then falling quiet to you?Report

  9. Avatar James says:

    This is actually the worst post I’ve ever read on this website. Worse even than the hilariously inaccurate one where Freddie ham-fistedly jabbed at Watchmen & accused comics of having no critical audience, which is an achievement.Report

  10. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

    I spent a month in Nicaragua last year (on my honeymoon no less) and the topic of both Nic and Hondurean leadership came up. As Danny Ortega is back in power in Nic. and Zelaya in Honduras both supported talks with Morales and Castro and Chavez towards an alternate Western hemisphere alignment (i.e. a non NAFTA-CAFTA kinda thing).

    I don’t take it as any great threat but there has been especially with Zelaya and Ortega illiberality. Or at least some Hondurenos that I talked to claimed. Now to be fair, the history of course is all kinds of illiberality/dictatorships backed by the US. Both sides can be illiberal and fairly corrupt and in this case that basically seems to me to be the case.

    But to Mark’s question, I have no idea really why Obama jumped in. Some of the theories above (his liberalism, his lack of knowledge, his desire to appear to not fall into the classic gringo imperialism) sound plausible to me but I just don’t know. My guess is reflexive Monroe Doctrine-ism.Report

  11. Avatar Katherine says:

    Another point is that it’s far from being just Obama who has jumped in on this. Canada’s PM, Steven Harper, has also voiced opposition to the coup, and he’s far from being sympathetic to the Latin American left. There’s a pretty solid consensus across the board that coups against elected governments are bad.Report

    • Katherine – my problem isn’t so much with Obama voicing opposition to the coup (there’s nothing with such statements), it’s with the fact that he has taken steps far beyond that, including, it would seem, supporting the imposition of sanctions against Honduras.

      As for the idea of this being different because it’s a coup against an elected government, I would just note that this is precisely the same rationale that was put forward for intervening in Iran last month.

      Finally, I think it’s simply incorrect to ascribe my – or, for that matter, Larison’s – confusion and/or frustration with this to the fact that we have a problem with Zelaya’s economic policies. It’s not as if I’m any more a fan of Ahmadinejad’s economic policies. But the fact is that those economic policies aren’t really our business, and I’ve never pretended otherwise.Report

  12. Avatar James says:

    Stability. Intervene in Iran and you upset a stable (if despicable) regime. Intervene in Honduras and you preserve an existing order.

    I don’t know that I believe this, but I found it implausible that the S word hadn’t shown up at least once in this discussion.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Wherever we intervene we create instability. How absurd to think otherwise. What “existing regime” would we preserve flaunting our might over the will of the people, the supreme court, and the military in favor of one elected official who was tossed out of office? Really. This is actually the worst comment I’ve ever read at this website.

      Oh I kid! I kid! But your argument does lack a certain, uhm, consistency. I suppose that’s the trouble with interventionist logic, though.Report

  13. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Dude, read Giordano.
    That is all you need.Report

  14. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    James wrote:

    It is not a matter of intervening or not intervening, it is a matter of recognising as legitimate or not recognising as legitimate the successful perpetrators a putsch.

    Not at all. We’re talking about two coups here – one perpetrated by the Prez and one by the other two branches of government. Mark’s stance, and mine, is that the second coup was in reaction to the first, and that since a government has to be recognized, as you rightly argue, the one to recognize is the one remaining. And the best way to do this is without noise, without bluster, without condemnation or silly antics.Report

  15. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    This guy has it right:

    What If It Happened Here?

    Suppose, from a purely hypothetical standpoint, the crisis in Honduras was mimicked in the United States? A fictional American president, lacking the votes in Congress and the judicial nod from the Supreme Court, circumvents the constitutional process and holds an illegal national referendum to repeal the 22nd Amendment — thus infinitely extending his potential for reelection.

    The obvious legislative differences between the United States and Honduras aside, reactions would be nearly identical. Members of the Armed Forces take a solemn oath to “support and defend the Constitution,” not to a specific individual. The oath further specifies an obligation to defend the Constitution and the Republic against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This was a revolutionary concept back in the 18th century, when most of the dominant European armies mandated an oath of loyalty to their respective monarch, though it’s wholly in line with the clear Platonist distinction between an organized, functional republic and the chaos of pure democracy. An American military coup in a similar Honduran scenario, against the tyranny of the majority, wouldn’t just be likely — it would be the obligation of every serviceman who swore to uphold the rule of law.

    The Honduran military coup — if it even fits that definition — has separated itself from its South and Central American cousins in that it’s one of those rare occasions when the military stands to deny, not support, the aspirations of a dictator-in-waiting. No junta has or will be formed, and a new election is forthcoming. Not only was Honduras’ action legal, it stands as a model for how a republic steels itself against internal subjugation. When you theoretically transplant that very same scenario to the United States, it’s nothing less than shameful that the Obama administration has failed to recognize the very same standards to which its own troops are bound.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      An American military coup would be acceptable? Are you kidding?

      The absolute subordination of military forces to civilian authority is required for the operation of a democratic state.

      Should a military unit receive an order it believes to be unconstitutional, the proper response would be to refuse it and, if necessary, lay down its arms and disband – not engage in organized military action to remove civilian leadership.

      It is never acceptable for the military to decide it knows better than its civilian leaders. That way leads totalitarianism.Report

      • What seems to be missing in your point here is that in the Honduran case, and implicitly in the case of the counterfactual Roque cites, the military is not acting on its own. It’s acting at the behest of the Supreme Court(well, in the US scenario, it would be at the behest of either Congress or an appropriate law enforcement official), which had decided that the President’s actions were not only illegal, but also criminal. In the Honduran situation, though, you have the added fact that the court had determined that the President’s actions quite literally forfeited the Presidency. I have seen translations of the Honduran constitution that back this up (although I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the translation – perhaps Roque could help me out on this?).
        In such a situation, assuming the Supreme Court’s order is at least arguably a correct interpretation of the Honduran constitution, what does the military do? Do they disobey the Court’s order, which states quite literally that Zelaya is no longer the President, and has not been legally the President for several days?

        Because of the court order, and because authority was immediately given to the elected official who was Constitutionally next in line for the Presidency, the ease with which the word “coup” is being flung about here is a bit troubling.

        Don’t get me wrong – I think the actions that have been taken against the protesters are condemnable, despicable, and indeed criminal. My problem is with the notion that Zelaya’s arrest and removal is something on which the US (and really other countries in general) should be taking a position.Report

        • FWIW – the provision I’m referring to is Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution, the translation of which reads:

          “Article 239 — No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President.

          Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform , as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”

          Personally (and assuming the translation is accurate), I think this is not a particularly wise Constitutional provision, but the intent of it is pretty clear given Central America’s history of dictators – it’s an obvious attempt to prevent someone from using the power of the Presidency to become a dictator. Advocacy of such a reform is perfectly fine – so long as you personally are not seeking to use it for your immediate personal advantage to create a stranglehold on power.

          In intervening on Zelaya’s personal behalf, including with the threat of sanctions (an act with an exceptionally poor track record, but I digress…), other countries are placing themselves in the position of experts on the Honduran constitution.Report

        • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

          Since you asked, the translation you cite is accurate.

          As for the answer to your “WTF” question, I just want to second Javier (above). It’s about Obama’s popularity, not about democracy, the consent of the governed, human rights, a “realist” foreign policy, smartough diplomacy etc etc.:

          But i think this is the perfect example venezuelan democratic opposition can take to finnaly realize that the united states has never been our true friend, and that obama is as sympathetic to chavez as anyother of the left wing robin hood wanna-be all around the world.
          Its really sad this possition taken by obamas administration, going all around theworld apologizing for americas crime, taking sides in conflicts, interving in other countries, doing exactly what he acussed Bush of doing, but doing it supporting the other side, the side that hates america by the way.
          in the end everything the far right said about obama seems to be true… he only cares about making people like america, no matter any moral standing or democratic freedong or the respect for human rights… if it help him become more popular, hes more than willing to turn the other way and never look back.
          We (venezuelan opposition) cant help feel betray. and its sad that the other side of this country that didnt hate america already, are getting big reasons to strt doing so.

          It amazes me how people like Katherine can pick up her leftist talking-points so quickly and repeat them with such apparent authority. I’ve been reading so many nearly identical comments to hers that I’d even suspect plagarism. But this small episode does confirm my hypothesis that her ideology is a degraded form of thirdworldism gone rancid, which is the position from which she constantly questions Israel’s right to exist. This leftist position is based on the idea that Zelaya was only planning a referendum–and what could be possibly be more democratic than that? However, democracy is not important here. Defending Zelaya/Chávez is. That’s because they, like Katherine/James, et al, are rancid thirdworldists. Thirdworldism is true democracy, in case you don’t know. True democracy is not related to votes, constitutional rule etc etc. These things are simply smoke screens for the thirdworldist. True democracy means empathy for the poor–although it also means the destruction of any policy with the least chance of helping people defead the poverty of their own lives, i.e., capitalism. Anyone who tries to consider the situation beyond the referendum-propaganda is shouted down in true Leninist style (see James, above.Report

          • Roque: I’ve come to the position that it probably is primarily about Obama’s popularity/improving the US’ image abroad. I actually think improving the US’ image is a valid consideration in making foreign policy decisions – but it should not be the only one, or even the foremost one, by any stretch of the imagination, particularly when it involves committing to a particular course of actions (in this case sanctions) that can have some pretty nasty side effects.

            But then that leads to another question, which I’m really trying to wrap my head around: why is intervention on Zelaya’s behalf the more popular position even amongst countries whose leaders are demonstrably not fans of any element of Zelaya’s worldview? Moreover, why has the media utterly failed to report the existence of the above-cited Constitutional provision, and largely downplayed the fact that the military’s actions were at the behest of the courts, done with the tacit approval of the legislature, and led to the installation of the next in line for the Presidency (who happens to be of the same party as Zelaya)?
            While most in the US news media identify as roughly left-of-center, they are also usually pro-trade mixed economy sorts who would not be particularly sympathetic to Zelaya in most circumstances. My guess is that they simply heard “military,” “arrest,” “Central America” and “President” in the same sentence, and immediately said “coup!” Besides, coups sell more papers.Report

            • Avatar Travis says:

              I don’t know, they’re calling it a coup d’etat because armed soldiers dragging the popularly-elected president out of bed at gunpoint and exiling him from the country, followed by the armed takeover of media outlets and the fabrication of a resignation, is pretty much the dictionary definition of a coup d’etat?Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                Since when are “dictionary definitions” any guide for publicists? Besides, you fail to consider the fact that constitutional rule has continued in Honduras. There is no ruling junta or other gorila-like anti democratic government there. This doesn’t much fit the dictionary definition you say you prize so much, does it?Report

            • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

              You can see from Javier’s comments that “improving our image” is not as straightforward as some people would like it to be. By supporting Zelaya, Obama has alienated wide swaths of Venezuelans (if Javier is correct), not to mention wide swaths of Hondurans and other Latin Americans who don’t take communion at the same thirdworldist church that Obama does. These are the vast majority. The vast majority of so-called intellectuals are thirdworldists, which is why it may be confusing for people like Katherine to understand. The intellectuals do not speak for the people. Obama is currying favor with LA intellectuals and alienating the continent’s majorities.

              Does this count as “improving our image?” Maybe newspaper columnists will refrain from calling Obama dirty names for now, but consider what Javier has to say, “We (venezuelan opposition) cant help feel betray. and its sad that the other side of this country that didnt hate america already, are getting big reasons to strt doing so.”

              I wish I could answer your questions clearly. Then I could write a book and make some real money. I can only refer you to the thirdworldist world-view. It’s like a religion for these people–impossible to question. Once Zelaya began to push the thirdworldist buttons, and ally himself with Chávez, he guaranteed himself support from the congregation. Of course nobody in this country would tolerate a politician like Zelaya or Chávez. People here love their freedoms. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t support autocrats who spout thirdworlist gobbedlygook. I really don’t know why. In a normal world, if one is part of the world’s most powerful nation–a world empire, according to the thirdworldists–this would be reason for overwhelming pride, not shame and apology. Can one imagine a Roman citizen apologizing to the Germanic tribes for their conquest or for imposing centuries of peace on the Mediterrean world and thereby centuries of material progress?Report

              • Avatar Travis says:

                Can we assume that we know the hopes and wishes and goals of the majority of Latin Americans based on the post of a single commenter with an obvious bias?

                I don’t think we can.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                Well … the post of a single commenter with an obvious bias is better to me than the post of a “dictionary definition” with an obvious bias, if he’s honest about it.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Javier is in a tiny minority. Chavez is popular amongst most Venezuelans, because he helps the poor with massive state projects paid for by the oil which previously idled in investment accounts owned by a miniscule clique of billionaires.

                Naturally, this upset the billionaires, but if they’d ever been too numerous then capitalism would be unflawed…Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Chavez is popular so long as he keeps gas prices low. He’s no bloody hero though. He uses lots and lots of state power to dish out meaningless and temporary services to the poor instead of working to build actual wealth over the long term.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                So meaningless and temporary they’ve kept him hugely popular for over a decade.Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

                If we take the Feb referendum as a guide, then Javier is in a minority of 46 percent. Hardly “tiny.”

                Chávez “helps the poor.” So that’s why he’s so goddamn popular! Aside from problem of distinguising between expanding entitlements and “helping,” you should consider that Chávez has locked the opposition out of the political process and that his followers are “led by” well-armed militias.

                I say that Javier’s opinions are worth considering because they resonate with a lot of people in Latin America, although these people are not so-called intellectuals and in fact spurn so-called intellectuals as a bane of existence. I say they’re worth considering because they focus on the contradiction inherent in Obama’s support for Zelaya: he panders to the intellectual class in Latin America while ignoring the rest. At least 46 percent of Venezuelans are in this last group, so if Obama’s objective was better public diplomacy, like Mark wants to imagine it is, he’s alienating most people in the continent. He will get points with the intellectuals, but they’re an even “tinier” minority than Javier’s. He’s not only losing points with Javier’s minority, he’s losing their trust entirely. Not very good “public diplomacy” is it?

                I think that this is what happens when one lacks convictions to begin with. By trying to favor one group, the intellectual thirdworldists in Latin America and in the the US/Europe, he’s spurning another. That’s what happens when government tries to favor some party of society over another. That’s what happens when government lacks convictions that anyone can understand.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          What seems to be missing in your point is any discussion of the bizarre, lunatic Weekly Standard theory that the American military can remove its civilian leadership if it thinks the leadership has violated the Constitution.

          That’s quite simply antithetical to the founding principles of our nation.

          The civilian authorities are responsible for enforcing civil law. If the president had been arrested and jailed by the national police pursuant to a warrant, so that he could stand trial, you’re probably looking at an entirely different scenario.

          Instead, we get the repetition of a sordid South and Central American tradition – a military junta taking an elected president out at gunpoint and exiling him from the country.

          Please stop acting as if Obama is somehow alone here out on a limb – the entire world community, including the UN and the OAS have condemned the actions of the Honduran military in this case. Ten other Latin American countries have withdrawn their ambassadors and the World Bank has ceased lending.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_reaction_to_the_2009_Honduran_coup_d%27étatReport

          • I’m not pretending that Obama is alone. I am, however, explicitly questioning why the global mood is so in favor of interventionism here, and why Obama has gone along with that mood. The latter question, I think, has been answered more than sufficiently for my purposes. But I still take issue with the global mood here – so far as I can tell, Zelaya was removed by a process that is at least arguably consistent with the Honduran constitution. Moreover, it seems exceedingly naive to think that Zelaya’s acts in defiance of both the legislative and judicial branches were really just about giving the people a referendum to vote on. Those acts cannot be ignored, yet they are.

            Look, if the above interpretation of their Constitution is correct, and so far as I can tell, almost no one outside of Honduras has attempted to dispute it, then Zelaya was as a Constitutional matter no longer President.

            The Court ordered the military to carry out the arrest. I think this was a stupid and wrong move, but it should not affect whether the Court’s decision was legitimate and whether the immediate removal from power was appropriate. Moreover, military coups usually involve putting in place military leadership, not putting in place civilian leadership that has in fact been elected at the behest of two other institutions essential to just about any representative democracy.
            Military coups require that the military call the shots – not civilian branches of government.

            But at the very least, this context is absolutely essential to deciding whether and to what extent action is appropriate. Yet it is context that seems missing from just about every major report that I’ve come across.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        “I am, however, explicitly questioning why the global mood is so in favor of interventionism here”

        Because your preposterous strain of abstract legalism has never been popular.Report

        • Uhh….the idea of the “rule of law” is neither preposterous nor abstract. Based on popular opinion in Honduras, I’d say that plenty of Hondurans themselves think of it as a pretty important thing. Frankly, I can think of few things more important than the idea that a government ought to be required to follow the rules it sets up for itself. Simply put, a government that refuses to follow the rules that it has set up for itself, whether by custom or, in the vast majority of places, by Constitution is an illegitimate and authoritarian government. Perhaps authoritarianism is perfectly acceptable in some places; but based on opinions about Zelaya, it does not seem this is the case in Honduras.

          Finally, you continue to dodge my point about the courts and the legislature. Are they not legitimate institutions in any representative democracy? In a representative democracy with a separation of powers, which branch most closely represents the will of the people? The legislature or the Executive? Which branch makes the laws? Isn’t it a bit of a problem – a coup, even – when the Executive attempts to seize the legislature’s power? These are not abstract legal principles unless you think the very idea of “the law” is abstract, in which case there is no limit to what any given branch of the government may do, particularly the Executive. When you determine that “the law” is merely an abstract principle entitled to no deference, you are in fact granting absolute power to the Executive branch (perhaps this is a particularly difficult concept for you since parliamentary systems technically lack an executive branch), which is by definition the only branch that has the use of physical force at its disposal. An executive that does not abide by the decisions of its coequal branches is an authoritarian government; had the military (which is part of the executive branch) refused to enforce the court order, it would have been abandoning any pretense of the rule of law, and explicitly enabling Zelaya to act quite literally as a dictator if he so desired.Report

          • Avatar James says:

            Your citation of the seemingly invulnerable section of a Constitution is indeed abstract legalism. Attempting to stage a non-binding referendum is not a coup, it is a democratic tool. Arresting the head of state and banishing them from the country, then taking power is what a coup is, & that is what has happened in Honduras. You might claim it is a good kind of coup, or that it’s a justified coup, but that’s what it is.

            Latin America does not want more coups. The World Bank does not want more coups. Obama does not want more coups. I still struggle to see why you don’t get why this might be.Report

            • Uhh, maybe because something that takes place within the confines of a legal process is by definition not a coup. The idea of a coup presupposes that it is illegal. No one outside of Honduras seems interested in addressing whether the arrest was legal under Honduran law.

              Simply calling something “abstract legalism” does not make it so. Moreover, it is I think a fairly reasonable position that openly, brazenly, illegally, and under threat of force defying two other undeniably democratic institutions with the intent of using that defiance to seize additional power for oneself is, in fact, a much greater threat than the enforcement of an order removing that individual from power.

              What is particularly frustrating about this is that you seem utterly incapable of even acknowledging that the legislature and courts are democratically legitimate institutions, who acted near-unanimously with the support of the people. It’s apparently important only that Zelaya was democratically elected; the directly democratic nature of the legislature and (indirectly) the judiciary is, it would seem, irrelevant.

              It would be nice if you would at some point at least attempt to address these and the other arguments I’ve put forth rather than simply dismissing them as “abstract legalisms.”

              The question is very simple – is a government required to abide by its own Constitution and laws, or can one branch (and only one branch) do whatever the hell it wants without consequence, just picking and choosing what laws it will and will not follow? Should a government be able to go ahead and arrest someone with extremely unpopular views just because, hey, that’s what the people want, or should it be required to abide by its Constitution (if it has one), perhaps by amending it through proper procedures, before it makes that move?Report

  16. One last thing that may add some context here. I just found this comment at Boing Boing (not exactly a bastion of right-wing thought):
    http://boingboing.net/2009/06/29/honduras-photos-of-c.html#comment-530199

    It is well worth a read. If it’s true – and I’ll admit that it needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, then it makes a pretty clear case that this was not just going to be a non-binding referendum.Report

  17. Avatar Travis says:

    The historical context is key here.

    The United States has a sordid history of covertly (and overtly) supporting military-backed coups in the Latin American region anytime a popularly-elected government did something we didn’t like. We are responsible for the installation of numerous repressive military dictatorships because, OMG the people elected a leftist leader, he must be a Commie, time to call the CIA.

    If we don’t join virtually every other nation on Earth in condemning the actions of the military here, there’d be rather well-founded (even if wrong) speculation that we had some involvement.Report

  18. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    So meaningless and temporary they’ve kept him hugely popular for over a decade.

    Oh my God! A DECADE? Wow. Such a long reign for a dictator. I’m sure this will be very comforting in thirty years. Or when the oil dries up. For future generations reliant on government entitlements rather than any true prosperity.Report

    • Avatar James says:

      Substantiate the neo-con talking point of him being a “dictator”, please.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        Well, this is exactly what Hondurans were afraid of. I suppose you can spin this any way you like. And you will, because you approve of his politics (and deride those who oppose massive state control as “neocons”). But to me, indefinite rule, bribery of the populace through cheap gas prices and massive redistributive policies, increasing nationalization of the economy, etc. etc. etc. all point to leftist dictator. Which is exactly the point isn’t it? To do all the things he wants to do you sort of need a dictator. Oh they’ll elect him time and again because they will become more and more dependent on him. So it goes, until the oil dries up and they’re left holding the bag.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          Yes, E.D., that’s called democracy.

          The voters of a sovereign nation get to elect socialist leaders if they want – and they get to re-elect them over and over and over again if they want.

          The voters of a sovereign nation get to nationalize their economy if they want.

          The voters of a sovereign nation get to choose how their nation is run, and we have absolutely no business telling them what economic and political policies are best for them.

          That is not “dictatorship,” that is democracy in action. The fact that you don’t like the results of Venezuela’s democracy does not change the fact that it is a democracy.

          The voters of this nation elected Franklin D. Roosevelt to four terms in office. Does that make him a dictator?Report

        • Avatar James says:

          Argh.

          E.D., you want to know of another dictatorship? Try Britain. Another one? Pre-Roosevelt America. Term limitless leaders are the norm in the world, & throughout democratic history. Chavez will remain ruler until he is voted out of power. That’s perfectly fine.

          As for redistributive policy & nationalisation, that is in this context democratic socialism. As in: socialists implement socialism after having been democraticall elected. That isn’t called being a dictator, & if it is Clement Attlee was a dictator. Is that your view of one of the most popular post-war Prime Ministers, E.D? Was he just Stalin with a better mandate due to his nationalisation of the hospitals?

          As for your bizarre fear for Venezuela’s future (you think that letting the plutocrats horde all the oil wealth for themselves really benefits the countries more, do you? How, exactly? Wouldn’t oil run out regardless of whether Chavez was in power?), all I can say is that the education program underway is something which would give J.S. Mill spasms of pleasure. That’s how you secure a nation’s future, not letting a handful of mega-rich aristocrats line their bank accounts.

          Your definition of dictatorship appears to include democratic socialism. I think you ought to reconsider your usage such terms.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Here’s my problem with the whole “talking point” thing.

        It’s, effectively, saying “you have not thought about this, you’re just repeating arguments you’ve read elsewhere… no, not even arguments, you’re just saying stuff.”

        It irritates the hell out of me because I get involved in some pretty esoteric arguments and to have someone say “you’re repeating talking points” makes me feel two things at once:

        1) Dude, seriously, I have thought about this stuff
        2) Dude, there’s a central clearing house for this stuff that sends out talking points?

        I mean, seriously, it’s possible for a reasonable person to come to the conclusion that Chavez is a dictator. Seriously. Someone can read the papers, read the intertubes, and say “yep, he’s a dictator” after thinking about it.

        If you want to argue that he’s not a dictator, that’d be great too! I’d love to read the argument. “You have heard X,” it could begin, “but look here, here, and here and you will see that Y is actually the case!”

        And if someone accused you of reciting talking points for daring to suggest that they go there, there, and (seriously, you sent them there?) there, it’d inspire another mini-rant like this one.Report

        • Avatar James says:

          I’ve encountered constant contact with people who, when the topic of Venezuela is raised, allege that no term limits means Chavez is a dictator. That would mean that I am living under a dictatorship & so is everyone who lives in the nation I’m typing to you from.

          That’s a preposterous, but widespread view, & it is also a neo-conservative meme designed to discredit Chavez. Perhaps I’m being a little rude in assuming that people have fallen a victim to it until I see evidence otherwise, but frankly discussing this issue leaves me feeling rather like someone in a zombie film: assumption of innocence under such conditions is folly.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            See, I’d instead jump to the conclusion that they’re using “dictator” differently than you are.

            If a guy gets democratically elected on a platform of doing something exceptionally illiberal, gets elected, then does something exceptionally illiberal and gets called a dictator in response… well, saying “he was democratically elected!” ignores the (valid) point being made (however inartfully) by the guy calling Chavez a dictator.Report

            • Avatar James says:

              If E.D. Kain is of the view that Clement Attlee was a dictator, then fine. If not, I think he’s fallen into the easy-enough trap of using neo-con memes without realising, & despite having directly contrary ideological positions personally.

              I’d also like to enquire as to whether Barack Obama’s nationalisation of General Moters means he is now verging on being a dictator. I really don’t mind a new definition being added to that word, so long as we apply it consistently.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                See, now you’re asking me to talk all crazy because you know I totally will.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Wasn’t my intention, but is something I’d like to see. 😛 Go for it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                American elections in this day and age are about chosing the taller (and, by some reckonings, handsomer) of two limited dictators. The opposition party takes the 4-8 years of downtime and uses it to make a sufficiently tall guy to beat whomever is hand-picked by the current dictator (who is generally a regression to the mean when it comes to height) who then takes the big chair and starts finding some shorter guy to replace him.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Ok, well if that is your understanding of the word dictator then very well. I am not the Word Police, the use of language is descriptive, not proscriptive, etc. You’re perfectly entitled to use dictator in that fashion & refer to America as a dictatorship.

                I would say that if the word “Dictator” has to be stretched to fit Chavez & Obama it loses all heft as an insult, & continue to argue that reference towards the former by those who do not deem the latter, or even more pertinently the British Prime Minister who can stay in power indefinitely so long as his party wins elections, are perpetuating a slur engineered by neo-conservatives to further their hawkish agenda.

                But if that’s your outlook & definition, very well. Like I said, all I’m after is consistency.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                My definition of “dictator” centers around the illiberality of the acts once in office.

                How the dude gets to the office is somewhat besides the point… the illiberality makes the dictator, not the method whereby he got the power to be illiberal.Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      You know, E.D., calling the repeatedly-democratically-elected president of Venezuela a “dictator” doesn’t make him one.

      I wonder why your deep, heart-felt concern for the citizens of unsustainable petro-states doesn’t extend to Saudi Arabia or Qatar, which — unlike Venezuela — are demonstrably led by dictators. Why are you not calling for the removal of their heads of state?

      Oh, right… we like THOSE dictators. They’re OK.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Also, why hasn’t he been talking about Burma?

        WHY HAVEN’T YOU BEEN TALKING ABOUT BURMA, E.D.???Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          No, Jaybird. Nice try.

          If a person is going to level the argument that America should oppose Hugo Chavez because he’s an evil petrostate dictator, they must address the fact that America has cozy relationships with several other evil petrostate dictatorships which are far more repressive and totalitarian than Chavez ever dreamed of being – one of which served as the home base for the development of the terrorist organization that perpetrated the worst-ever terrorist attack on our homeland.

          And yet Hugo Chavez’s heated rhetoric is a threat? He’s a member of the Axis of Evil because he called Bush a warmonger?Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

            Who said we should oppose Chavez again? Where was that? Could you drudge up a quote?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Could I have a list of countries the leaders of which E.D. is allowed to call a dictator?

            As someone who *TOTALLY* thinks that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are ruled by dictators, I’m wondering if I would have a different list.

            For the record, I also oppose the awful human rights abuses being made in Burma, even if you are effectively an apologist for them through omission.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        First of all, I don’t have “deep heartfelt concern” for the citizens of Venezuela. They have their problems, I have mine. And second of all, that applies basically to the citizens of all countries in the world. I’m a non-interventionist. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. I think the chaps running the other petro-states are equally bad or perhaps even worse.

        And second of all, read what Jaybird just wrote, because he says it better than I can. Jeebus.Report

      • Uhh….when did E.D. ever call for the removal of anyone, Chavez included?Report

  19. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    A dictator is someone who dictates policy without meaningful checks on their authority.Report

    • This is how I’ve always understood it – it’s the residence of absolute or near-absolute power by a single person. I’ve never seen a qualifier that says someone is not a dictator if they have the support of the people – a lot of times a dictatorship comes with the support of the people. Julius Caesar was pretty popular with the people, which was a good chunk of why he was able to be named “dictator for life.” Hitler, too (Godwin’s law doesn’t apply here since we’re just discussing the definition of a dictator, which I think Hitler qualifies for – I am not comparing him to Chavez).

      I’m not entirely certain that Chavez qualifies as a dictator at this point, but he certainly wants to be, and there seem to be decreasingly few restraints on his power. He may not be there just yet, but he’s getting there pretty quickly.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        “Hitler, too.”

        Hitler was never elected as leader of Germany, he was appointed in a technocratic move by a pair of establishment fools who were under the misapprehension that they could control him. One of the greatest errors in history, but not the landslide victory which the popular imagination has fantasized into history.

        Were the Nazis in possession of mass support? Certainly. Majority support? I don’t think we’ll ever be able to tell, as there weren’t ever any free elections. Certainly not majority resistance, which is a black mark on the German people’s history & no question of it, but the damage posed to the case of the democrat by Hitler is more limited than many pompous liberals ahistorically imagine. I’m sure that there were plenty of Germans who hated the man and his party with a passion, but kept their mouths shut for fear of ending up in a camp with the commies & the troublesome trade unionists.

        As for your claim that Chavez “wants to be one”, well that’s a non-falsifiable guess. I wouldn’t agree, but there isn’t a good debate over the point to be had, as far as I’m concerned. Still, points for not using the d word, I suppose.Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      That’s incompatible with the dictionary definition of dictator – from Merriam-Webster:

      a: a person granted absolute emergency power ; especially : one appointed by the senate of ancient Rome b: one holding complete autocratic control c: one ruling absolutely and often oppressively

      Hugo Chavez does not hold complete autocratic control nor does he rule absolutely or oppressively, by any objective definition. He has been democratically elected in fair elections, is subject to the check of a National Assembly and some of his proposals have been democratically defeated.

      If you’re going to make up new definitions for the word “dictator,” that’s fine, but don’t expect others to accept them as meaningful.Report

      • From Random House:
        “1. a person exercising absolute power, esp. a ruler who has absolute, unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession.”

        Regardless, the fact that someone was democratically elected and has the support of the people is not an exception to the definition of “dictator” under either definition.

        E.D.’s definition is perfectly consistent with both the M-W and Random House definitions.

        And frankly, the warrantless and involuntary seizure of private property is viewed by many as an oppressive act.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          “Regardless, the fact that someone was democratically elected and has the support of the people is not an exception to the definition of “dictator” under either definition.”

          No, but to be a dictator, one must have absolute power.

          That is demonstrably untrue of Hugo Chavez. His powers are subject to the check of the National Assembly and the judiciary, he was subject to a recall election in 2002 (which failed, but the election took place and was free and fair) and his 2007 Constitutional proposals were rejected by Venezuelan voters.

          He did not act to block the recall election, nor did he impose the Constitutional changes by fiat. That’s fundamentally inconsistent with the claim that Chavez exercises absolute power.Report

          • Travis: I think you’re right that Chavez doesn’t qualify as a dictator at this point. But he certainly seems to be aiming for it, at least in terms of all of the restraints on power that he keeps trying (if failing in some instances) to remove.Report

    • Avatar James says:

      Any responses to my points, E.D?Report

  20. Avatar James says:

    Mark: I really don’t care about the constitution. It was clearly set up so as to be impossible to alter.Report

    • Avatar Dave says:

      Mark: I really don’t care about the constitution.

      I would have never guessed.

      It was clearly set up so as to be impossible to alter.

      The Constitution is not a majoritarian document nor is our system of law based on 50% plus one ruling the day. It may make the Constitution difficult to amend, but not impossible, although I know that concept got a little lost on the Progressives when they got a little tripped up with reading comprehension.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        Right. Well, I think I’ve told you what I think of the Constitution, & you’ve yet to convince me that it matters.Report

        • Avatar Dave says:

          Right. Well, I think I’ve told you what I think of the Constitution, & you’ve yet to convince me that it matters.

          Where in my previous post do I demonstrate that I have any interest in having that conversation or convincing you that the Constitution matters? I simply disagreed with a comment you made.

          Maybe someone else will have that conversation with you but I’ll respectfully decline and spare my last three brain cells some agony.Report

    • That’s your prerogative. It would be nice if you would at least acknowledge, however, that my concern for it is legitimate, valid, and reasonable.

      It would also be nice if you would acknowledge that this is ultimately a power struggle between three democratic institutions, a point which you continue to dodge. It is amazing to me that you can’t even acknowledge that the Honduran legislature and judiciary might, just might be better representatives of the Honduran people than Zelaya.

      Instead, you seem intent on trying to prove that I’m some unhinged whackjob who has no idea what he’s talking about, or, in the alternative, is simply regurgitating “neo-con” talking points in the hopes of undermining the rule of a leader whose policies I just don’t like. Oddly, I have not read a single article or blogpost by a “neo-con” on this issue.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        Roque linked to some upthread. As for this:

        “It is amazing to me that you can’t even acknowledge that the Honduran legislature and judiciary might, just might be better representatives of the Honduran people than Zelaya.”

        The reason they ousted him is because they feared a non-binding referendum. That tells you all you need to know about how much these characters care about the Honduran people.Report

        • And so it goes. Rather than acknowledging that my points are legitimately held and fact-based, even if you disagree with the interpretation, you yet again dodge my questions.

          But that you continue to insist that this was just about a nonbinding referendum demonstrates that you are unwilling to grapple with the facts here. So, let me lay it out for you, very simply:
          1. Zelaya proposes constitutional convention (not a referendum) to eliminate his one-term limit.
          2. Democratically-elected legislature overwhelmingly says “no.” Since the end of the one-term limit would benefit Zelaya personally and since the legislature has little to gain or lose from the amendment directly, it’s safe to say that the legislature’s decision was a proxy for public opinion.
          3. Zelaya proposes non-binding referendum to get around the legislature’s decision. Court rules that such a referendum is unconstitutional and illegal, a ruling on which neither of us is qualified to opine. You may find this a stupid result, but hey! there’s a remedy for that! Amend the constitution! Alas, that would take too long for Zelaya and there is no popular support for such an amendment. Just because you don’t care about constitutions doesn’t mean that courts get to ignore them – caring about constitutions is kind of a major raison d’etre for many court systems.
          4. Zelaya orders the military to proceed with the referendum in direct contravention of the court’s decision, and to do so immediately (clearly, a referendum run by the military on the orders of the Executive would be totally free and fair). The head of the military is thus in a difficult spot – does he obey his oath and uphold the Constitution, or does he do as ordered? He chose the former route.
          5. Zelaya, infuriated that he has been overwhelmingly denied by the legislature, judiciary, and now the most powerful part of the executive not named President, fires the head of the military and replaces that head with someone sympathetic to him, precipitating a constitutional crisis. Why, one wonders, is this supposedly non-binding referendum that obviously lacks popular support so important to Zelaya that it’s worth disobeying a court order and firing the head of the national military? Maybe this referendum wasn’t going to be so “free and fair”?
          6. The judiciary unanimously, and I think under any view, justly rules the firing illegal and reinstates the head of the military.
          7. Zelaya leads a group of supporters on a raid to seize the now-quarantined ballots, which had been printed and delivered by a foreign country to which Zelaya is personally aligned and which has been overtly seeking to bring Honduras into its sphere of influence. Again, is this really just going to be a ho-hum non-binding referendum that is, like, totally free and fair?
          8. Zelaya issues a decree, without any authority, ordering the referendum take place that weekend. Not two weeks down the line, much less a few months, but instead just a couple of days. Again, is this really just about a nonbinding referendum?
          9. Congress begins impeachment proceedings.
          10. Supreme Court, which has been investigating Zelaya for months on a wide variety of charges, recognizing the dangerous precedent of allowing Zelaya to directly defy a court order, and also with the knowledge that Zelaya’s actions have effectively ended his term as a matter of law under the Constitution, orders the military to arrest Zelaya, with an interim President replacing him as required under the Constitution. This interim President is an elected official who happens to be of the same political party as Zelaya.

          So, are we to really believe that Zelaya, despite being exceedingly unpopular, alone amongst the entire government of Honduras, actually cared about the people? Or is it more likely that he was the only one who didn’t?

          But, hey, I can see how the actions in removing him from power so quickly perhaps went a bit too far – probably, it would have been better if the police arrested him rather than the military, and probably the court should have just waited on the completion of the impeachment proceedings (although there seemed to be a real fear that Zelaya was going to use the referendum to seize power). But what happened seems to be legal, and for something to be a “coup” it has to be illegal.Report

          • Avatar James says:

            Clearly there’s a very strong faction that hates the idea of constutitional reform. It’s a pity we’ll never get to see whether most Hondurans agree with them, by the looks of things…Report

            • Look, I’m done with this. But it would be really nice if you would just acknowledge that I’ve got some legitimate reasons for taking the position I’ve taken. You can disagree with me all you want, but the tone of your comments is extremely disrespectful and denotes that you are insistent on proving that I am being either: 1. a moron, 2. completely insane, or 3. having some kind of ulterior motive.Report

  21. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    My take on Chavez:

    He is power-hungry. He is a populist which is something I distrust since they generally use the power of popular support to centralize power into their own hands. Jackson was a populist and drastically centralized power into the presidency. Many, many African dictators started out as populist reformers. Chavez is not the worst of all dictators, and may be a fairly limited one at that. But that does not mean he doesn’t want to have more power. Of course he does. He has a grand vision, and to enact it entirely he needs power – which he will get from his popular, democratic support – until he no longer needs that support because he has enough power to do without it. Maybe that will be fine for most of his people for a very long time. Maybe when gas costs go up as they inevitably will, they’ll toss the bum out for that reason alone or maybe they won’t have the power to anymore. I think it’s a slippery slope, and simply saying “well it’s democratic” isn’t good enough. That’s freaking neo-con speak. Democracy is only as good as the laws and traditions that it’s built upon, and the history of Latin America is one of tyrants, nepotism, revolution, and chaos. I don’t think Chavez is necessarily a bad man. I don’t know. He’s nowhere near as bad as dozens of other leaders across the globe. But he is taking Venezuela down a dangerous road – a path to serfdom, Mark might say – that might look good from the car window, but that I believe will lead to disaster for the people of Venezuela. He may be a benevolent dictator eventually. But that’s still not good enough.Report

    • Avatar James says:

      E.D. Kain, ladies & gentlemen, channeling the much missed fuckwit, Hayek.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Because, lord knows, E.D. can’t have reached conclusions after thinking about them.

        He’s got to be “channeling”.

        I’m not seeing this as measurably better than the whole “talking points” thing.Report

        • Avatar James says:

          “But he is taking Venezuela down a dangerous road – a path to serfdom”. Enough said, Jaybird.Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

            Oh, James didn’t like my pun! I’m so saddened by this. That James is essentially humorous is neither here nor there, I suppose. Beyond that, one of my own little pet peeves is when people don’t quote an entire sentence or phrase or whatever when they’re quoting other people. That seems purposefully dishonest unless they are very, very careful. And, well, James you just strike me as a dishonest broker when it comes to good faith arguments.Report

            • Avatar James says:

              Eh. Assume I noticed the “Mark might say –” intentionally in an effort to distort you if you will. I can’t disprove that assertion, although I can apologise for giving your comment an insuffeciently thorough reading first time around.

              Whether you take that in earnest or not is up to you.Report

      • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

        By using the word, “serfdom,” one is slavishly repeating Hayek? And then Hayek was a “fuckwit?”

        One may not agree with Hayek on some level–although it would take a much more knowlegeable and aware person than James is to refute him–but… a fuckwit? James should be ashamed of himself for using such language about Hayek and for thereby avoiding the points that ED laid out for him.Report

        • Avatar James says:

          Hayek was a fuckwit. I misread the post so the gist of my comment was incorrect, but I still think that. Great writer with mud for a mind.

          As for E.D.’s points: he might be right that receiving free healthcare & education is a terrible thing which the poor should spurn. We’ll see, shan’t we? Either way, the oil would run out when it runs out, irrespective of whether it’s a tiny minority of wealthy plutocrats who gets the cash (ala the entire Middle East, basically) or the Venezuelan people, via social works projects.

          I know which I prefer the sound of.Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

            That’s right. I said poor people shouldn’t have health care or education. Where was that again? And of course you think the only way to get that for people is through massive state programs, right?Report

            • Avatar James says:

              If you wish that Chavez had never happened & pre-revolutionary continuity had been sustained then that is what you are wishing for, yes.Report

            • Avatar Dave says:

              The fact that the recipients of healthcare and education may not have to pay for it hardly makes it free.

              I bet Bastiat was a fuckwit too.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                No, it is paid for by the massive oil surplus. I do feel very sorry for the tiny, elite caste of massively rich Venezuelans who might have to cut back to three Ferraris now they don’t get to leech off of the earth to line their pockets, though. My heart goes out to them. I’m sure that they’re weeping into their caviar at the thought of the poorest getting assistance with their basic needs from the government as I type.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Was Bastiat ever poor?Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Engel owned a mill, etc…Report

          • Fuckwits don’t win Nobel Prizes. Hayek may or may not have been wrong, but there’s something really arrogant about calling a Nobel Prize winner who also happens to be one of the four or five most influential economists/political theorists of the 20th century a “fuckwit.” I am no believer in Karl Marx, and think his philosophy was fatally flawed and destined to work some really bad results in practice; but the last thing in the world I would call him would be “fuckwit.” Well-meaning, but very wrong, yes. Influential but destructive, yes. Important, yes. A provider of valuable, but insufficient insights, yes. But a “fuckwit,” no.

            If you had actually read some of “fuckwit” Hayek’s work, though, you’d recognize that at the center of it is the principle that no one person or group of persons, or group of computers possesses the knowledge necessary to create a utopian society.

            Clearly, however, this central principle of Hayek’s is worthless, and just proves that he is a “fuckwit.” After all, anyone who does not know everything and thinks that knowing everything is an impossibility is a “fuckwit.” If they weren’t a “fuckwit,” they would know everything. Clearly, sir, you are not a “fuckwit,” and therefore you know everything.Report

            • Avatar James says:

              Mark – What exactly do you think that I was basing my view of his fuckwittery upon? I’ve read Hayek, & the man was an eloquent moron. Jonah Goldberg is a direct intellectual descendant of the man, indeed Liberal Fascism is basically a chapter, possibly a chapter and a half, of The Road… stretched out.

              At the core of that work, incidentally, is no uncertainty, but instead a driving uncertainty of his that those he disliked were one & the same, or at least close enough. This being written while socialists were still being sent to the chambers!

              He was unquestionably intellectual, but anyone who’s familiar with the concept of a meme & it’s rudimentary implications should be aware that to have a high impact you don’t have to be on any level better than those who have a low one. You just need to come up with stickier ideas than the rest. Hayek was a masterful writer, but as a thinker a raging, blundering imbecile.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Maybe Hayek has never been sucessfully implemented.

                Just kidding!

                I’d instead look at the piles of bodies and see which is higher.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                “I’d instead look at the piles of bodies and see which is higher.”

                Who are we talking about? : /Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Fuckwits with huge groups of people yelling “you da man!” behind them.Report

              • Yes, clearly you know exactly what was in Hayek’s mind; clearly, all those economists who were influenced by him and voted for him were deceived by him. Clearly, Hayek was in fact not concerned at all about what he witnessed during his years in Vienna and Germany in the prelude to WWII, but instead was only interested in humiliating his ideological opponents, who amounted to just about everyone else in his profession at the time. I’m not saying he’s above criticism or that everything he said was right; for all I know, maybe everything he ever wrote was wrong.

                I’m saying that I really wonder where you’ve developed the kind of knowledge and experience necessary to call him a “fuckwit.” The man spent his entire life studying and thinking about economics and political economy…yet you can not only prove he was wrong, but can also prove that he was so wrong that only a “fuckwit” would believe what he wrote.

                Again, criticize the man’s points all you want (it would help if you first actually addressed my points, but that’s neither here nor there). But have a little bit of respect for the fact that maybe, just maybe, the guy had good and valid reasons for what he wrote.

                I mean, I probably disagree with 90% of what that guy at the NYT to whom Jaybird refers writes. In fact, I think a lot of his ideas would be really, really bad. But I would never presume to be sufficiently knowledgeable about the topics to which he has dedicated his life (and earned plenty of well-deserved plaudits) so as to call him a “fuckwit.”Report

              • Avatar James says:

                “But have a little bit of respect for the fact that maybe, just maybe, the guy had good and valid reasons for what he wrote.”

                Whatevs. He’s been proven wrong: Britain still isn’t serfed, despite the successes of democratic socialists in establishing institutions which assist the public, & I doubt that rabid Hayek fangirl Mrs. Thatcher is the cause of that state being avoided. & if it hasn’t happened after this many years exactly how long is this inevitable progression (which we can be entirely sure of, btw) meant to take?Report

              • Actually, Hayek wrote in 1956 (I think) that he thought most of Europe had turned away from the type of socialism he was talking about in RTS. But, hey, he was just some ordinary “fuckwit.”Report

            • Avatar James says:

              Also, the irony of you arguing in favour of the realisation of uncertainty while starting your post with an-appeal-to-authority-in-order-to-establish-a-normative-law one-two punch is something that I find quite delightful. :3Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Dude.

              What’s his name. That guy. The shrill guy. NYT. Him.

              Dude.Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      So, there’s a history of coups and chaos and revolution in Latin America… where does that leave us?

      If your indictment of Hugo Chavez is that he could be going down the wrong economic road, I am willing to admit that quite possibly he could be going down the wrong economic road.

      Yet, I believe that the people of Venezuela have the right to try an economic path you find unpalatable and could be wrong.

      Are you saying that, given the choice, you’d prefer a capitalist totalitarian state to a socialist democracy?Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        I think the problem here is that we’re operating from different views of what creates “capitalist totalitarianism” in that I believe the only way to achieve such a state is through the cooperation of big business and big government – something that can happen in very similar form (with perhaps more nationalization) in the economy that Chavez is creating. Monopoly occurs one way or the other, whether it is industry protected and bolstered by the state, or the state itself. A limited government would not create or help bolster these monopolies. I’ve really come to believe that all monopoly is created by or with the assistance of the state. Wherever government grows, so too does the power of the oligarchy.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          So, if the government just got smaller, monopolies wouldn’t be a problem?

          That seems wishful thinking, given the historical context to American antitrust law.Report

          • Damn! I really need to finish my long-promised post on overcoming regulatory capture!

            Anywho, I want to note, as I pretty much always do when this subject comes up, the appropriate terminology to use is “more limited,” not smaller – the two are not synonyms, although sometimes conservatives and my fellow libertarians treat them as such (which is a big problem).

            While this is not remotely a sufficient answer on this question, to put on my “fuckwit Hayek” hat for a second, I tend to think that monopolies (by which I mean firms capable of charging monopoly pricing) can be momentarily created under a relatively limited government, but they cannot be sustained without the assistance of government. The reason for this is simply that at some point they run into the same calculation problems as socialism.

            That said, I’m somewhat open to the idea of antitrust laws, provided they’re truly neutral, because I recognize that the collapse of a monopoly or oligopoly, however short-lived, can have some really nasty side effects much as the collapse of a too-big government can have nasty side effects.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          And when there is big business and small government, big business runs rampant. It’s not like the American anti-trust laws and workplace safety laws and child labor laws and food inspection laws and pollution control laws were passed in a vacuum — they were specific responses to abusive business practices that were widespread among industries.

          But this is veering rather off on a tangent…Report

          • Avatar Travis says:

            And yes, I realize that some of this is changing cultural norms — in the 1700s, child labor was not considered as great an evil, in the 1890s if you died of black lung that was just too bad, in the 1920s the word “ecosystem” had yet to be coined, etc.

            But at each and every step, the business establishment fiercely resisted the changing cultural norm with the battle cry “profits uber alles” — the quest for the almighty dollar was to be held sacred, damn the societal or ecological consequences.Report

          • Yeah, this is veering of on a tangent. But it’s a good tangent that deserves a lot more exploration. Someday soon, I promise, it will be a tangent that gets plenty of attention.Report

  22. Avatar James says:

    If we take the Feb referendum as a guide, then Javier is in a minority of 46 percent. Hardly “tiny.”

    That’s a hefty “If”.

    Chávez “helps the poor.” So that’s why he’s so goddamn popular! Aside from problem of distinguising between expanding entitlements and “helping,”

    Ok, let me put it this way: he educates the poor. I’m sure that that makes them enslaved or enfeebled somehow in your mind, but they clearly disagree. You keep up that Randroid assertion that the poor don’t know what’s good for them if you like, though.

    you should consider that Chávez has locked the opposition out of the political process and that his followers are “led by” well-armed militias.

    Evidence.

    I say that Javier’s opinions are worth considering because they resonate with a lot of people in Latin America, although these people are not so-called intellectuals and in fact spurn so-called intellectuals as a bane of existence. I say they’re worth considering because they focus on the contradiction inherent in Obama’s support for Zelaya: he panders to the intellectual class in Latin America while ignoring the rest. At least 46 percent of Venezuelans are in this last group, so if Obama’s objective was better public diplomacy, like Mark wants to imagine it is, he’s alienating most people in the continent. He will get points with the intellectuals, but they’re an even “tinier” minority than Javier’s. He’s not only losing points with Javier’s minority, he’s losing their trust entirely. Not very good “public diplomacy” is it?

    So much presumption here I don’t know where to begin…Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

      Without refering to the Feb referendum, then how would you measure the opposition to Chávez?

      Chávez expands the entitlements of the poor. His education is indoctrination, not education.

      Evidence for Chávez’s locking the opposition out of politics? Evidence for the intimidation of his armed followers? I don’t have time right now to dig up references for you, but your question only shows your ignorance.

      You don’t know “where to begin” in attacking my “presumption?” Give it a try! Begin somewhere!Report

  23. Avatar Kyle says:

    Is it just me or do numerous threads here highlight the need for a blog commenting equivalent of “Bad Touch?”

    A little uncomfortable, not going to lie.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Elaborate for this ignorant s.o.b. por favor….Report

      • Avatar Kyle says:

        I was catching up on the comments posted after my last one here…babyfeeding, fuckwit, Hitler…?

        Though to be fair the Hitler invocation seems to be reasonably appropriate.

        Not that I’m a language prude but it just seems a bit heated here….Report

  24. Avatar James says:

    Without refering to the Feb referendum, then how would you measure the opposition to Chávez?

    Polls, elections…

    Chávez expands the entitlements of the poor. His education is indoctrination, not education.

    I.e. he helps the poor out using oil cash which used to go to a pack of plutocrats.

    Evidence for Chávez’s locking the opposition out of politics? Evidence for the intimidation of his armed followers? I don’t have time right now to dig up references for you, but your question only shows your ignorance.

    I’ve seen a massive amount of smears against Chavez, but precious few hard facts.

    You don’t know “where to begin” in attacking my “presumption?” Give it a try! Begin somewhere!

    We’ll make a deal: you get me some of the aforementioned facts & I’ll begin.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

      [Roque] Without refering to the Feb referendum, then how would you measure the opposition to Chávez?

      [James] Polls, elections…

      The Feb referendum was a poll, of course. So? That has to be a measurement according to you. Therefore, Javier is not in a “tiny minority” at all—again, according to you. He’s in a really large minority.

      [Roque] Chávez expands the entitlements of the poor. His education is indoctrination, not education.

      [James] I.e. he helps the poor out using oil cash which used to go to a pack of plutocrats.

      I.e., he expands entitlements. Obviously this is the same as “helping” to you, but… it’s still expanding entitlements—according to your own words. As for the indoctrination masquerading as education, well… Nothing to say? Even when you brought it up? If you want <i>evidence</i>, look at Javier’s posts (above).

      Evidence for Chávez’s locking the opposition out of politics? Evidence for the intimidation of his armed followers? I don’t have time right now to dig up references for you, but your question only shows your ignorance.

      Would the most recent news from Venezuela count as evidence for you? Somehow I doubt it, but here goes… The mayor of Caracas has called off a hunger strike he staged to protest against Chávez taking control of the capital in what he called a “coup.” The mayor goes on that Insulza\OAS must treat his case with as much seriousness as they treat the “coup” against Zelaya. What chutzpa, right? This is one mayor who needs to learn his place… But at least it shows a specific and timely example of how Chávez locks the opposition out of the political process.

      As for the intimidation wielded by Chávez’s armed militias, I think that this needs no further “evidence.” Armed bands of feckless youth running around under some spurious government mandate to enforce the party line is inherently intimidating. Do I really need to expand on this for you to accept the “evidence?”

      We’ll make a deal: you get me some of the aforementioned facts & I’ll begin.

      So begin, already!Report

      • Avatar James says:

        The Feb referendum was a poll, of course. So? That has to be a measurement according to you. Therefore, Javier is not in a “tiny minority” at all—again, according to you. He’s in a really large minority.

        Not everyone who voted against the constitutional amendment was anti-Chavez.
        I.e., he expands entitlements.

        No, he replaced the notion with the rich being entitled to the cash with the notion that the poor are entitled to the cash. Good move, in my view. Why do the wealthy deserve to monopolise all the wealth? Why is being entitled to a new mansion expansion so much better than being entitled to healthcare & education?

        Obviously this is the same as “helping” to you, but… it’s still expanding entitlements—according to your own words. As for the indoctrination masquerading as education, well… Nothing to say? Even when you brought it up? If you want evidence, look at Javier’s posts (above).

        I’m talking about people being taught to read & write.

        Would the most recent news from Venezuela count as evidence for you? Somehow I doubt it, but here goes… The mayor of Caracas has called off a hunger strike he staged to protest against Chávez taking control of the capital in what he called a “coup.” The mayor goes on that Insulza\OAS must treat his case with as much seriousness as they treat the “coup” against Zelaya. What chutzpa, right? This is one mayor who needs to learn his place… But at least it shows a specific and timely example of how Chávez locks the opposition out of the political process.

        Yes, Chavez has many enemies who make plenty of wild claims. I haven’t seen any evidence that supports them, I shall check it out shortly.

        As for the intimidation wielded by Chávez’s armed militias, I think that this needs no further “evidence.” Armed bands of feckless youth running around under some spurious government mandate to enforce the party line is inherently intimidating. Do I really need to expand on this for you to accept the “evidence?”

        Nice adjectives, pity about the lack of sources…Report

        • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

          Hey, not so fast! You were supposed to refute the following “presumptions,” in your words, if I gave you “evidence,” like I have done, above. That was the deal you proposed.

          I say that Javier’s opinions are worth considering because they resonate with a lot of people in Latin America, although these people are not so-called intellectuals and in fact spurn so-called intellectuals as a bane of existence. I say they’re worth considering because they focus on the contradiction inherent in Obama’s support for Zelaya: he panders to the intellectual class in Latin America while ignoring the rest. At least 46 percent of Venezuelans are in this last group, so if Obama’s objective was better public diplomacy, like Mark wants to imagine it is, he’s alienating most people in the continent. He will get points with the intellectuals, but they’re an even “tinier” minority than Javier’s. He’s not only losing points with Javier’s minority, he’s losing their trust entirely. Not very good “public diplomacy” is it?

          Not everyone who voted against the constitutional amendment was anti-Chavez.

          OK, I’ll bite: what percentage of Venezuelans are “anti-Chávez” according to your polls and elections?
          You’re talking about people learning to read and write and I’m talking about people being indoctrinated with hatred. So we’re both right! How does that make you feel?

          As part of your reply, please show me why the mayor of Caracas is lying (or whatever) when he says that Chávez has usurped his powers, i.e., has locked him out of politics. Show me why this is a “wild claim.”

          Here’s a source on Chávez’s militias. Don’t bother to say that this BBC report is a lie and so forth. It’s enough at this point that I’ve given you a source. Now it’s your turn to comply with the deal you proposed.Report

          • Avatar James says:

            I say that Javier’s opinions are worth considering because they resonate with a lot of people in Latin America, although these people are not so-called intellectuals and in fact spurn so-called intellectuals as a bane of existence.

            This bit you just pulled out of nowhere to content your anti-intellectualism. The poor are the least educated section of Latin American society, for obvious reasons, & it’s them who are most likely to be supporters of Chavez.

            It’s the massively rich elite who hate him most, & it’s them who are best educated. Apparently there are also wealthy “Chavistas”, but that’s not the base of his support.

            I say they’re worth considering because they focus on the contradiction inherent in Obama’s support for Zelaya: he panders to the intellectual class in Latin America while ignoring the rest.

            Again, you’re just making this up.

            At least 46 percent of Venezuelans are in this last group,

            Well this is true, obviously…

            so if Obama’s objective was better public diplomacy, like Mark wants to imagine it is, he’s alienating most people in the continent.

            46% is a majority? : /

            He will get points with the intellectuals, but they’re an even “tinier” minority than Javier’s. He’s not only losing points with Javier’s minority, he’s losing their trust entirely. Not very good “public diplomacy” is it?

            Yes, a great way for Obama to make himself more popular is to treat a leader appointed after a military coup as legitimate. That would win him over a continent which has had the past few decades of its existence ruined by (amongst other things) a string of messy coups by military elite. It would be far too intellectual not to want a repeat of that happy episode in their recent past.Report

  25. Avatar James says:

    Look, I’m done with this. But it would be really nice if you would just acknowledge that I’ve got some legitimate reasons for taking the position I’ve taken. You can disagree with me all you want, but the tone of your comments is extremely disrespectful and denotes that you are insistent on proving that I am being either: 1. a moron, 2. completely insane, or 3. having some kind of ulterior motive.

    You conflated Iran & Honduras (despite the complete ass-backwardsness of the two situations), then proceeded to suggest that the movement conservatives/partisan Republicans might be correct about Obama. That’s really, really stupid.

    I suppose my main problem is that your position is bafflement. Right there in the title is the acronym “wtf?”. I think you’ll find that the one treating things as outlandish isn’t myself. You’ve taken the standard position taken by every other Latin, Central & North American nation, not to mention that notorious bastion of statist progressivism the World Bank, & tried to cast it as something extreme.

    In reality, regardless of your legalism, what took place was a coup. E.D. Kain acknowledges that & says that’s it’s alright, since it was the second coup, a mere counter-coup, which is fairly specious & fallacious, but you are actually trying to argue that Zeleya did stage a coup, but the military (the one’s who’s job it kind of is to stage coup’s, & all…) did not stage a coup. That argument is, if you’ll forgive me some further unpleasantness, fairly garbled.

    I’m not denying you might be right, there’s a possibility of that as always, or saying that you have some secret motivation & a file was handed to you by the Lizard People at the start of this week issuing you your orders. Still less am I suggesting you’re mad.

    But to argue that it makes no sense at all for Obama to take the position adopted by every other leader in America, even once I’d mentioned the fact that this would make it look like an America backed coup, that this could prompt further military uprisings in a continent which has a grisly history of them & so on, & so on…To not just acknowledge that Obama took a perfectly understandable stance, but instead to turn your guns on the world community & demand of them why they haven’t been following your rather convoluted account of affairs…Well, it just strikes me as a tad presumptuous.

    I hold plenty of positions I’m never going to convince people of, & I’m perfectly aware of that. I do argue my case, & I’m not, & never would, suggesting that you shouldn’t. But don’t simply assume that people ought to go along with your extremism. Not respecting the new junta as legitimate is perfectly reasonable when considered in the context of Latin America & it’s past. If you think otherwise then I don’t think your crazy, sinister or even a mere idiot. But as well as it being an unpleasant surprise to see that sort of opinion here, it’s also unsightly to find you so shocked at something so predictable.

    If you still truly “cannot fathom” why Obama is taking the stance he, and the rest of America, is, then I find that a little unsettling. I do think that’s the sort of attitude which deserves disrespect, and I do not think that that is unreasonable.Report

    • Actually, I was trying to elicit a defense of Obama’s actions wrt Honduras that was both consistent with his (appropriate) inaction in Iran and did not involve pretending that Zelaya is either a beacon of liberal democracy or is good for American interests. The commentary I had seen on the subject was surprisingly lacking.

      Several commenters provided me rationales that did so, and I accepted those rationales as valid, even if I still believed the Obama response was a bad idea. I explicitly made clear right from the start that I thought the meme that Obama was a closet Chavista was extremely unlikely. All I wanted was alternative justifications, which, again, I got (even if I dispute those justifications).

      Moreover, I have never attempted in any way to portray the position of the international community as “extremist” – just wrong and ill-informed. I do, however, have a big problem with portraying the actions of the Honduran courts and legislature as “extremist” without any consideration whatsoever of whether those actions were legal under Honduran law.

      I also think it is extremely disrespectful to continue throwing around the accusation, without any support, that this position amounts to “abstract legalism” on my part, and is itself “extremist.” Last I checked, the idea of a “coup” presupposes the existence of an illegal takeover, usually by the military. Whether or not a takeover is legal or illegal is, well, by definition, a legal question.

      To say that a coup took place without any consideration of whether the mode of deposing the leader was legal or illegal is to redefine the meaning of the word “coup.”Report

      • Avatar James says:

        Arguing an elected leader removed in a coup by the military didn’t experience a coup because asking the opinion of his people on their constitution is illegal under the constiutution he was going to ask them about is extremist legalism. Simple as.Report

        • This is why I have found this exchange so frustrating – I keep explaining why, no, it’s not “simple as.” I go on to provide facts, citations, etc. to show that, at a minimum, it is not “simple as.” Your response to those citations is to refuse to address them and simply accuse me of “extremism,” and that this conclusion is “simple as.” Do you see how that might be viewed as a little disrespectful?

          If you think my analysis is wrong or that my facts are incorrect, then point me to an error. Simply repeating that Zelaya was just “asking the opinion of his people” disregards facts I have provided that demonstrate that he was doing a lot more than just “asking the opinion of his people.”

          Again, though, the word “coup” presupposes an illegal act – a violation of a law or, more often, a constitutional provision. Where is the illegal act in the removal of Zelaya? (The actions towards protesters are another story altogether). Should a country ignore its constitution whenever that constitution is deemed inconvenient or undemocratic? Should judges, legislators, and the military defy their oath in such situations, exposing themselves to liability? These are not mere technicalities. They’re at the very route of the question of what the Honduran government should have done and of what Zelaya should have done. Nor is it a mere technicality that the military was acting at the behest of two coequal branches of government – for there to be a “coup by the military,” the military by definition has to seize power for itself, not turn power over to the appropriate authority under the Constitution.

          But, no, I expect that, once again, you will simply dismiss all of this as “extremism” without even attempting to address a single one of these questions and points.

          At this point, I’m just going to assume that the reason you have consistently refused to address any of my questions or actual points, and instead simply dismiss them summarily as “extremism” is because you have no willingness to address the substance of those points.Report

  26. Avatar James says:

    I also think that this ties into Freddie’s writing on Israel (us secretly anti-semitic left-wingers, eh? We bring teh joos into everything!), in that you are adopting a rather severe position & attempting to establish it as the mainstream, with any deviation from it being bizarre & extremist. Freddie noted that rather than having an even-handed attitude as the norm in the conversation, that was the extreme & pro-Israeli boostering constituted the mainstream.

    As a consequence, you had to go pretty damn hard-line Zionist to seem even remarkable: to get his attention whoring self heard above the dim R. McCain had to publicly fantasize about the genocide of the Palestinians.

    In much the same way you are here trying to establish the norm as something which is actually a deviation from the response seem by the rest of the two American continents, plus the most powerful relevant international body (I mean, need it be said, the World Bank rather than the UN). I don’t think that that’s sneaky or underhand, but I do think you might need to think things through.

    Both our complaints seem to be about attitude instead of content. I don’t know whether that’s a good sign, or a distraction. Either way, I too am exhausted here.Report

  27. Avatar revbob22 says:

    Mark: Good article, I enjoyed reading it. You have just experienced what it’s like to debate with a breed of creature known in Spanish as a PSF.

    The acronym stands for Pendejos Sin Fronteras. In English it would be Idiots without Borders. Their tactics? “This is why I have found this exchange so frustrating – I keep explaining why, no, it’s not “simple as.” I go on to provide facts, citations, etc. to show that, at a minimum, it is not “simple as.” Your response to those citations is to refuse to address them and simply accuse me of “extremism,” and that this conclusion is “simple as.” You have already seen in this blog. All part of life on the Internet, though.Report