Need proof that the election of Barack Obama foreshadows a new era of global tranquility? Yesterday, Reuters reported that Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s fiery president, released an album of songs. Not impressed? Well, let me say this: while the pudgy socialist belts out the hits with his unmistakable baritone, he is not imprisoning his foes, nationalizing our property, or destroying the country’s fragile constitution. Nor is he moving Venezuela closer toward either the other two members of the “axis of diesel“-Iran and Russia-or his fellow renegades, like Cuba, not blessed with abundant supplies of hydrocarbons.
Will we really see worldwide peace in our time? Many of the planet’s rogue states sent congratulations to our President-elect, among them Iran and Burma. North Korea this week signaled it is willing to work with America once President Bush is out of the way. China issued a series of its highly formulaic messages, which closely resembles the ones it sends to new leaders in Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Burkina Faso. Even non-state actors got in on the act. Today, Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas, said his group was willing to establish a dialogue with Obama “on the basis that the American administration respects our rights and our options.”
Of course, Russia had to remind us how little things really changed this week. As Abe noted, the Kremlin, immediately after Obama’s election, manufactured a crisis by announcing that it would base short-range missiles near its border with Poland. Yet with so many harsh words emanating from Moscow these days, almost no one-apart from the Poles-got too excited. (Memo to Putin: there is an inverse relationship between the frequency of threats and their effect on your intended victims, even the European ones.)
With so many despicable foes to choose from, it will be hard for Obama to decide which of them to engage first. Maybe he will not be able to change their minds after heartfelt discussions over cups of tea, but perhaps he can persuade them to sing. Singing, after all, seems to take Chavez’s mind off destabilizing the international community.