Commentary Magazine


What Comes from Meddling

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors explain the Honduras fiasco. After the legislature, supreme court, and military moved to block Manuel Zelaya’s unconstitutional power grab, the Obama team went to work:

Every major Honduran institution supported the move [to oust Zelaya], even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country’s human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.

The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya’s transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn’t run again.

An emboldened Zelaya of course seized the opportunity presented—which was almost too good to be true—by the American government’s bizarre indifference to the country’s public opinion and constitution. The U.S. exerted a full-court diplomatic press, cut off aid, and insisted that Zelaya return to power. The result is predictable:

This remarkable diplomatic pressure against a small Central American ally has only reinforced Mr. Zelaya’s refusal to compromise short of a return to the presidency, with all of the instability and potential for violence that could involve. It also probably encouraged him to gamble on returning to Honduras on Monday, figuring even that provocation won’t endanger U.S. support. And so far it hasn’t.

Now that he is back, Mr. Zelaya and his allies aren’t calling for calm. His supporters have flocked to Brazil’s embassy with cinder blocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. “The fatherland, restitution or death,” he shouted to demonstrators outside the embassy. In anticipation of trouble and with concern for public safety, President Roberto Micheletti announced a curfew. But when police tried to enforce the curfew, the zelayistas resisted and there is now a Honduran standoff.

One can only marvel at the series of missteps and the unending display of hubris by the Obama not-very-smart diplomats, who have had ample opportunity to crawl back from the diplomatic limb where they now are perched. Why they have not done so remains a mystery. And given that they have made hash of our relations with a democratic friend, encouraged Zelaya and his patron Hugo Chavez, and pushed the country to the brink of civil war—what now? Maybe they should adopt the administration’s Iran playbook—say as little as possible and don’t interfere.

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