September 28, 2009

Hands Off Honduras

The United States government, along with the rest of the Western Hemisphere’s governments, is so worked up about returning ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to power that it hasn’t thought through the long- or even medium-term consequences of its threats and demands.

Millions of dollars in aid to Honduras–one of the poorest countries in Latin America–was cut off after Zelaya was arrested by the military and sent into exile in June. The U.S. is not only threatening to cut off hundreds of millions more, it’s threatening to impose sanctions and not recognize the results of the November election if he isn’t first allowed back in office. These threats, if carried out, will put both Honduras and the U.S. in impossible positions.

Sanctions are supposed to be temporary. Targeted countries are always told what they can do to restore the status quo ante. Iran, for instance, can dismantle its nuclear-weapons program. Syria can cease and desist its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Saddam Hussein, while he still ruled Iraq, had the option of admitting weapons inspectors.

Honduras, though, will have no way out if the interim government doesn’t return Zelaya to power before his term ends in January. Because the Honduran constitution prohibits him and every other president from serving more than one term, it won’t be legally possible for Honduras to do what’s demanded of it after the end of this year. Unlike Iraq, Iran, and Syria, it will be isolated and trapped under sanctions indefinitely.

Sanctions and diplomatic isolation aren’t the geopolitical equivalents of jail time and fines; they’re used to coax rogue regimes into changing their behavior. They are tools of coercion, not punishment. By the time 2010 rolls around, it won’t make any difference how badly the current interim government of Honduras is or is not behaving right now if the next one is elected in a free and fair election. The “coup regime” will have been replaced. The crisis will be over, the problem resolved. Punishing the next government–and by extension, the people of Honduras–for something a temporary former government did the previous year is gratuitous and, as far as I know, unprecedented. Even a country as roguish and oppressive as North Korea can come in from the cold if it holds a genuinely free and fair election.

While Honduras will be placed in an impossible position that it can’t escape from, refusing to recognize the results of the November election will put the U.S. in an equally impossible position. Reality will force the U.S. to back down for one simple reason–it will be possible for the U.S. to back down, while Honduras could only surrender to our demands by using a time machine. We might as well play “chicken” with an inanimate object.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 28, 2009 7:30 PM

I find it horrific that the U.S. would oppose a country's exercise of its constitution. Are we not for constitutional government? The Honduran polity accomplished an amazing feat, and proved that the Rule of Law is alive and well, and the U.S., in direct opposition to its interests both economic and strategic, wants to return a protege of Chavez to power? Honduras has performed one of the most sophisticated exercises of constitutional power, and we, the "guardian of Freedom," want to quash it? Every time I read about the Honduran situation, I'm flabbergasted by the aimless direction of our foreign policy.

Posted by: Fat Dave Author Profile Page at September 29, 2009 6:43 AM

Well, I would say that American aid should stay cut off, but for other reasons.

It is ridiculous that the US is giving any foreign aid to anyone. Those millions of $$ given to Honduras could surely buy a health insurance policy for millions of Americans who lack it. Hondurans aren’t more worthy than those who actually pay the taxes.

As for Honduras, the US should mind its own business and let the Hondurans work it out.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at September 29, 2009 11:31 AM

Boojum, Honduras is our ally, and as our ally we are obligated to scratch their backs if they scratch ours. And they do scratch our backs, permitting us to maintain an important military base within their borders (one which Zelaya was planning on handing over to Chavez), and by sending real, honest-to-goodness fighting men to serve alongside our own in the Middle East. Furthermore, their police and military risk their lives attempting to clamp down on the pipeline that feeds narcotics into the US. Narcotics which, in turn, feed all manner of criminal activity within our own borders, from petty theft to murder.

As for, "Hondurans aren’t more worthy than those who actually pay the taxes," do you think those people you are advocating being given "free" health care really pay taxes?

The past year has seen any nuber of enormities committed at national and international levels, but the campaign of disinformation and naked coercion targeting Honduras has been, in my opinion, by far one of the most despicable and infuriating.

Posted by: Squires Author Profile Page at September 30, 2009 2:25 AM


Yes, the decades old War on Drugs has been a spectacular success, hasn’t it? We’re really getting our money’s worth for the 40 billion a year we spend on it.

We pay rent on that base. We should pay Honduras for their fighting men. That’s it, full stop.

We’re not the world’s ATM machine. Bleeding hearts should donate out of their own pockets, not that of the treasury.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at September 30, 2009 10:22 AM

I'm with Boojum on this one.
If we had an accurate method determining how much of our USAID money is now warmly inside personal interest-bearing off-shore accounts, even the liberals would shriek. Palestinians now seem to think foreign aid is an entitlement. Same goes for's almost as though it's demanded as 'protection money'.
Will the World Bank and IMF ever present candid detailed accounts publicly? 'Overhead' expenses versus needy recipients' actual infusion?
In like manner, if we had an accurate way of determining the 'overhead' involved in our old USAID projects and how much of it filtered finally to individuals in genuine need, the liberals would yet again get the vapors.
Further, that pungent U.N. Oil For Food 'program' comes to mind.

How about Appalachia's needs here at home? Health care? Looming deficits here at home for decades to come?

Sorry for this blooming rant, but we need a much lower threshold for 'AID' and its attendant B.S.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at September 30, 2009 1:40 PM

...needed amendment here:
Change the word order to read:

"...a much lower threshold for the B.S. attendant to AID".

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at September 30, 2009 4:35 PM

Who is really surprised the Obama's stance in regards to Honduras? This administration must have the worst foreign policy since the Carter administration. The Messi-uh just finished his "apologize to the world tour" with a long winded speech at the UN. He also appeased the Russians by throwing overboard the planned missile shield that would have protected our allies, Poland and the Czech Republic. Now he's willing to let the US to be led around the nose by that jew hater Ahmadinejad. The only thing he hasn't done is pull down and kiss his own has to show how sincere he is.

Finally, I'm with Boojum. Screw the Hondurans. We need to pay for illegal aliens government mandated health care here in this country. It will greatly improve US national security by having Hugo Chavez clones running Latin America It is short-sided and a waste of money to promote democracies in our hemisphere. It's a waste of money. It's not like the United States needed French assistance of arms, troops or money to be established. The colonials would've defeated the British Redcoats all by themselves.

Posted by: PeteDawg Author Profile Page at October 1, 2009 1:21 AM

"The only thing he hasn't done is pull down and kiss his own ASS has to show how sincere he is."

Posted by: PeteDawg Author Profile Page at October 1, 2009 1:23 AM

Zelayah is getting US support only because he is a wannabe leftist dictator, a bird-of-a-feather with Obama, in other words. His attempt to highjack the country was outrageous, and US pronouncements on the issue have been contemptible.

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at October 2, 2009 4:40 AM

But, that is the whole point, isn't it? To bring down a constitutional, democratically elected government in favor of a leftist dictator.

Posted by: George Bruce Author Profile Page at October 5, 2009 6:32 PM
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