Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poor Old Hugo Chavez

President Obama has been making a lot of diplomatic gestures aimed at improving US relations with other countries, including rogue states like Cuba and Iran, and rogue-ish states like Venezuela and Russia. Trying to improve foreign relations is a good goal, and of course to do this will involve lots of high-level talks between representatives of our government and their governments.

Obama wants to do more than improve intergovernmental cooperation, though. He wants to conduct public diplomacy, to speak to foreign publics directly and try to improve their feelings about America. That's also a fine goal.

But Obama needs to remember one important thing: all heads of state represent their governments, but not all heads of state represent their people. This is particularly important to remember when you are feeling apologetic. Because dictators like Hugo Chavez do not represent the oppressed. They are oppressors.

Consider Cuba, where the case is even clearer. Many people believe that President Obama will relax the half-century-old US embargo on trade with Cuba. When he does so, it would fit with his foreign policy style to apologize for the suffering that the embargo has caused in Cuba. Okay, but who can he apologize to? Not Castro. Because Castro does not represent the suffering Cuban people. He is the chief cause of the suffering of the Cuban people. He is an oppressor.

Obama needs to remember as he goes around the world that some of the smiling men who shake his hand are vicious thugs who have murdered their political rivals, chased them out of the country, or thrown them in jail. It's the fate that lots of loony lefties kept thinking was right around the corner for them during the Bush years. Except that Bush was not a dictator. He didn't cancel the elections. Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore and all the other paranoid moonbats spent the Bush years on CNN, not in jail.

But in Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, etc., the people who speak up against the oppressors really are in jail. So as President Obama travels around the world, I just wish he would ask himself one question before he shakes anyone's hand: "How will this look to the people in the camps?"



squirrelyearl said...

This really is such an interesting dilemma. Typically I'm a big proponent of engagement. It seems like if you want people to play by the rules you can't really remove them from the game. However, it certainly is hard to reconcile spending much time with people that are so tyrannical and vicious. By practicing engagement it definitely conveys some tacit approval and that doesn't seem quite so appropriate in the case of people like the Castros or Kim Jong Il

the House of Payne said...

Yeah, you don't want to approve of the evil leader, but you want to engage the society. Unfortunately it's pretty tough to figure out how to do that.

Anonymous said...

Well, well said, House!--Vienna F. Wilson