The following article by Caroline Glick, Why Latin America Turned Against Israel, is well worth a read. Glick argues there are three trends that have given rise to anti-Israel sentiment in the region: (1) Hugo Chavez; (2) the Venezuela-Iran alliance; and (3) cravenness of U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America and the Middle East.
Some comments from yours truly.
Despite severe economic and internal political challenges, Cuba remains the head of the anti-American axis in the Americas. Venezuela is a tentacle. Hugo Chavez is incapable of leading such a group because of his deep personality flaws and very reckless regional brinkmanship. Fidel Castro and his brother are missing a few screws no doubt, but Chavez is off the charts. The Castro brothers are not going to allow him to ruin their long-term quixotic anti-American game.
There is little doubt that since the Reagan Administration, the U.S. has not had a coherent policy posture for the Americas. Democracy one year, trade the other, and nothing for some, we never seem to devote sufficient and persistent principals to our regional actions. The attacks of September 11, 2001 changed that somewhat, but we failed to addressed the principal problem child, state sponsor of terrorism Cuba.
Cuba’s network of trouble, created during the Cold War, is vast and deadly. It reaches every corner of the Western Hemisphere. This feeder system of political, cultural, economic, and military troublemakers has received a lot of Venezuela’s oil money in recent years. Iran has benefited from it, as have other countries such as Russia, China, and a wide-array of bad actors including numerous foreign terrorist organizations.
Glick labels it “cravenness,” I would call it reckless curious ambivalence. We Americans have not been able to get in our thick cabezas that are neighbors are able or capable of conspiring against us, harming us. We think that we can co-opt and win folks over using trade and cultural exchanges alone. For example, coddling Brazil has given us nothing but political headaches and a back door for Cuba and Venezuela to figure out what the U.S. was thinking in many areas. Maybe even Iran benefited.
Latin America has been easily exploited by bad actors, such as Iran, because of regional problems such as rampant poverty and government corruption. These countries need to be told that they have a choice. A good place to start is with cutting U.S. foreign aid, restricting access to our financial markets, as well as visas to high-ranking government officials. But the principal thing that needs to be done is resolve the Cuba menace once and for all. Playing nice such as by easing sanctions or allowing more sales of U.S. products, will not work.
The region has become a little less friendly for the one thing we Americans (and the region) really need, the right political environment for more U.S. trade and investment. We can change that, piece by piece, but by tackling the hard problems first. Adopting a political ostrich strategy has not worked and never well. A robust engagement that puts U.S. interests ahead of all others, with security being at the top of the list, is the only way to do it. It may irritate populist leaders, and OAS diplomats. So much so the better – folks in the Americas think “change” for them is long overdue.
Read Glick’s piece here.