From Under The Rubble
by Christopher Manion
The Wanderer, July 2, 2009
So Obama has weighed in on the removal of Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales by the country’s Congress and Supreme Court, and, ultimately, the Honduran army. It’s “not legal,” says Obama – but neither was Zelaya’s plan to pull a Chavez-style coup of his own. The Honduran constitution limits the president to a single term. Zelaya, elected in 2005 with 49% of the vote, wanted to defy the constitution – undoubtedly modeling himself not only on Venezuela’s Chavez, but perhaps also on our own stateside Democrats and Republicans who routinely ignore the U.S. Constitution at home and abroad. Well, Zelaya announced that, whatever the Honduran constitution says, he would run for re-election anyway. To accomplish that goal, he announced a referendum, which the country’s Supreme Court and Congress both declared illegal. He ignored them, and demanded that the army provide security for it.
Army Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez refused, citing the constitution. Zelaya fired him and branded the rest of the government as “elitists.” The rest of the country’s top military commanders quit in support of General Vasquez Velasquez, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the general’s firing was illegal. The Honduran Congress stripped Zelaya of his presidential powers, and instead of providing security for the Sunday referendum, the army surrounded Zelaya’s house and sent him packing to Costa Rica.
Since Zelaya is a leftist, this event is popularly known as a “coup.” Were he a rightist, his removal would be hailed as “national liberation.” But let’s not quibble about vocabulary, since by now the reader might be experiencing what Bill Safire, who used to be funny, once coined as “MEGO” – “My Eyes Glaze Over.”
The average American isn’t expected to keep up on all those Latin American tinhorns, and neither is our own youthful, energetic president. Obama certainly doesn’t want to be bothered with such depth of detail without his teleprompter – after all, isn’t General Motors bigger than General what’s-his-name in Honduras anyway? But we can all rest assured that our State Department, under the seasoned hand of Hillary, has everything under control – right?
Well, as one Foreign Service lifer used to answer every question, “only up to a point.” And how we arrived at that point – that is, history – is worth looking at. Let’s start with the last eight years.
The Seven Lean Years
In attempting by force to enkindle the “natural democratic spirit” in Middle Eastern Islamic societies after 9-11, the Bush Administration missed a golden opportunity to solidify the still fragile, America-friendly democracies in Latin America. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan had managed to clean up after Jimmy Carter and nurture that continent’s move away from dictatorship while directing the final, triumphant conduct of the Cold War leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A historic feat indeed. Alas, the Bush years were different. In fact, the contrast with the Reagan years could not be more stark, nor the consequences more dire. Latin America has for years been a foreign policy backwater, attracting sentimental leftists to academic and government posts dealing with the area. The tough assignments were Russia, Asia (primarily China), and the Middle East, and Europe. Regarding Latin America, Bush’s first Secretary of State, Colin Powell, didn’t have a chance. After a long battle, he lost control of foreign policy to the neocons. They then damaged him beyond repair by feeding him disinformation regarding Iraq and WMD that Powell repeated in public testimony before the U.N. Security Council. Dismayed and discredited, Powell finally left office.
Colin Powell was succeeded by Condi Rice, Bush’s National Security Advisor. Rice was undoubtedly well-intentioned, but she was simply inept. Nonetheless, President Bush valued her highly, as he did his other gentle protectors, Karen Hughes and Harriet Miers, whose support he relied on most during the years that Dick Cheney ran the executive branch and foreign policy as the most powerful vice-president in history.
While the Bush Administration studiously ignored our neighbors to the south, China’s top leaders treated Latin America like their backyard, sealing long-term economic and political deals, encouraging leftists and anti-Americans of every stripe, and simply outclassing their American counterparts. During the Bush years, U.S. officials appeared to be merely bewildered as Latin America veered ever more leftward. With Obama, that momentum will now be facilitated by Hillary’s State Department and the Senate veteran Chris Dodd, who has steered Latin American policy to the left for the Democrats there for almost 30 years.
A Whiff Of An Empty Bottle
Dr. Erik von Kuehneldt-Leddihn was a conservative original. He traveled the world, lecturing six months out of every year, spending the other months studying at his home in the Austrian Tirol. He knew a dozen languages and was always busy learning another one (“I have to go upstairs and study Japanese,” he said on one of his last visits, as he finished breakfast). Dr. von Kuehneldt-Leddihn was “an expert on everything, including expertise,” one wag fondly observed, and Leftism, his magnum opus, still stands as a true work of genius.
He once told me about a short story he had written (I’ve never been able to find it – he published it under a pseudonym, and in an obscure journal) -- in the late 1940s. He referred to it on several occasions to illustrate the inevitable decline of a culture, or even a civilization, once its central core of truth is abandoned.
The final scene is unforgettable. A young man has become a revolutionary. His father, a weak-kneed Lutheran minister, tried to restrain his son with reminders of the civic virtues, admonishing him to avoid extremes – all typical of the plaintive liberal weakling. The son, fed up with his father’s vacillations between progressivism and propriety, finally erupts. He points to the portrait hanging over his father’s desk. It depicts his grandfather, whom his father reveres – who was all his life a staunch and devoted Lutheran minister.
“He believed in something,” the son shouts, pointing to his grandfather. “He had principles, he had faith, he had courage, he had convictions. But you – (here his father cringes) – you -- you are living off the whiff of an empty bottle!”
I was reminded of Dr. von Kuehneldt-Leddihn’s young revolutionary by Hilaire Belloc’s description of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury under Charles I. Laud came to power as “the leader of and representative of those who feared and disliked Puritanism as a moral disease.” Laud had “sympathy” with all things Catholic – images, Our Lady, the Sacraments, even the Eucharist. But he and his cohorts “remained (though they would not have admitted it) thoroughly anti-Catholic, because they rejected that one part of Catholic doctrine which is its essential -- the combination of unity and authority. The unity of the visible Church and its invincible authority were repugnant to their growing nationalism, and those who preserved such an attitude of mind were just as much the enemies of Catholicism as the most rabid Puritan could be, or the most complete agnostic.”
As we survey the cultural wreckage around us, and hear platitudes about “human rights” (the homosexual slogan) and “I am personally opposed to abortion but…” – we see everywhere a dying body politic. But the whiff of an empty bottle cannot revive it. Only the Truth – Christ crucified, who unites us while platitudes and perversion divide and destroy us – can save us. Loyalty to Christ, to his Vicar on earth, and to the unity he represents is the true hope of the world.