Kerry Whiffs on Latin America Opportunity
In between his shuttle diplomacy trips regarding Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the two-block trip to the Organization of American States (OAS) on Nov. 18 to deliver a speech on U.S.-Latin America relations. But anyone hoping that he was going to jump-start the administration’s moribund hemispheric policy would have come away disappointed. ...
In between his shuttle diplomacy trips regarding Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the two-block trip to the Organization of American States (OAS) on Nov. 18 to deliver a speech on U.S.-Latin America relations. But anyone hoping that he was going to jump-start the administration's moribund hemispheric policy would have come away disappointed.
In between his shuttle diplomacy trips regarding Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the two-block trip to the Organization of American States (OAS) on Nov. 18 to deliver a speech on U.S.-Latin America relations. But anyone hoping that he was going to jump-start the administration’s moribund hemispheric policy would have come away disappointed.
In place of articulating an aggressive, forward-looking strategy for the Americas, he offered just more-of-the-same style over substance, another stop on the administration’s apology tour, with the main media takeaway being Kerry’s apology for the Monroe Doctrine, promulgated in 1823, which he mischaracterized as a U.S. license to intervene in the affairs of other states in the Western Hemisphere.
(For the record, the Monroe Doctrine stated that the United States will not abide outside imperial powers interfering in hemispheric affairs. Whether that is to be apologized for, I suppose, depends on whether you trust the intentions of the United States or those of 19th-century European powers and the 20th-century Soviet Union. If it is none of the above, then that too tells you something.)
In any case, raising the issue of the Monroe Doctrine today is just plain silly, as the number of Latin Americans who still care about it could fill the OAS’s ornate Hall of the Americas — and apparently did. Pandering to this minority cohort in the region is pointless, as distrust of the United States is as embedded in their DNA as is their fear of participating in the 21st-century international economic order.
U.S. policy should instead be focused on making common cause with those millions more Latin Americans who could not care less about wallowing in historical grievances. They are instead eager to embrace the challenges and opportunities of the new global economic order. Yet all Kerry could offer them was little more than bromides about the importance of education and "continu[ing] to open up trade and investment in our children’s futures."
Kerry did recognize the progress made on the trade front, including the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements (both George W. Bush’s initiatives) and Latin American participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but other than citing a recent initiative to provide $98 million in private financing for regional small and medium-size businesses, he offered no administration plan to continue expanding the prosperity generated by trade and energy integration.
It is evident that senior U.S. officials don’t consider a region of much importance when they hand the policy keys to second-tier officials to test-drive ideological pet projects. Accordingly, Kerry spent nearly half his speech reciting the "grave threat" of "climate change" and why it must be a priority in hemispheric relations.
Yet extolling the wonders of wind power and biomass to major oil producers like Mexico and Brazil comes off as a bit jarring. These countries and others in the region are understandably more concerned about how cheap, affordable energy can continue to foster their own development and progress. They are not about to divert from that path based on an unproven theory that will necessarily constrain their economic prospects.
It seems that the United States’ southern neighbors would be more interested in learning how the dramatic revolution in the U.S. energy sector — the unlocking of huge new oil and gas reserves through new technologies — can meet their own energy needs by transforming the international energy market.
I have written repeatedly on Shadow Government that Barack Obama’s administration has missed a great opportunity to enhance hemispheric economic ties that will necessarily allow other problems to be addressed more efficiently. The administration has chosen instead to focus more of its effort on trying to convince countries that do not share the U.S. vision for the hemisphere that the United States is really not that bad after all. It ought to be focused on making sure that those that do share the U.S. vision and are making the right choices succeed in delivering the benefits of democracy and open markets to their citizens.
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