At a minimum, Latin American history leaves a trail of ignominious legacy for her inhabitants. From the societal aberrations commenced by penisulares and criollos to the later injustices perpetrated by military strongmen, it is an existence defined by egregious abuses. This cycle has been intermittently interrupted when the perpetrators seizing power take a step too far; such was the case for Manuel Noriega. It is also unfortunately a quality we see growing in Venezuelaâ€™s Chavez.
It has been reported that as expected, Manuel Noriega will be released from a U.S Federal Prison on September 9th 2007. For those who do not recall Mr. Noriegaâ€™s history, the former Dictator of Panama was convicted of drug smuggling, conspiracy and racketeering in 1992 receiving a sentence of 30 years. That term has been reduced due to â€œgood behaviorâ€ a quality noticeably elusive in his life outside prison walls. This event has also not gone unnoticed by Noriegaâ€™s home country that will be waiting to try him on several of the more gruesome murders from his reign.
Originally a friend of our country (some say intelligence asset), Noriega helped the CIA keep track of Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega and their Marxist expansionist goals in Latin American. His best known efforts included using the PDF to retain brutal control over Panama and famously aiding our effort to arm the Contraâ€™s in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, as he moved more towards becoming a nemesis of the United States it was strongly suspected Noriega was actually keeping Castro and Ortega informed on us and our regional actions. He was also having planes that brought arms to the Contraâ€™s reloaded on the way back with drugs. However, this was just the beginning. In the background was a rising campaign of murder, coup deâ€™etat, drug smuggling and stolen elections that even Jimmy Carter called â€œfraudulentâ€. In the process of moving further away from being a U.S. ally, Noriega increasingly painted his actions as a â€œpopulistâ€ movement designed to restore social equity to the people of Panama and blamed the United States for his countries ills. Does any of this sound familiar?
The coupe de gras for Noriega commence when he ordered the PDF to harass Americanâ€™s stationed in Panama. His forces killed an American Marine, and then attempted to kill another while in the process sexually abusing his wife. He finally declared â€œWarâ€ on the United States, an action he later denied. The response was an overwhelming military effort name Operation Just Cause with combat actions lasting approximately five days. Anyone who witnessed the event can probably still recall U.S. forces cornering Noriega in the Vatican Nunciatore, from which he eventually and fittingly surrendered (after days of rock music and Panamanian human rights protests). It was the end of an era and a new beginning for Panama.
There were certainly many mistakes made in our dealings with Noriega. However, when we tried to correct them by moving against him it sounded very much like some of the argumentation involving Saddam Hussein. It was â€œour faultâ€, he was â€œour creationâ€ and we turned a â€œblind eyeâ€ to detestable actions because they suited our interests. I suppose the implication is the United States should have just left the region alone and all would have been fine without our intervention. Nonsense, both in the case of Panama, Iraq and I believe inevitably Venezuela, the latter being our most recent regionally relevant threat. As Chavez moves closer to the Iranians, Syrians and other enemies of our country, he further destabilizes the region and creates a threat closer to our border than Iraq. He has shown a willingness to import vast amounts of military weaponry beyond Venezuelaâ€™s needs. If allowed to flourish, Chavez will be a threat of unprecedented proportions.
The aforementioned is a situation our country faces today. However, with each passing moment we are weakened by proliferation of an illusion created by Democrats which uses Iraq as justification. This is a dangerous tactic that plays on our Republicâ€™s fears and distaste for war. It willfully ignores the threat posed by a growing ideology continually and historically proven destructive for parochial political gain.
Accordingly I question the future will of this nation to move against someone like Hugo Chavez as he becomes bolder with increasingly aggressive actions. Will our government hesitate on tempering, mitigating actions that will make us safer because of this weak position? Will we suffer the consequences of inaction, because action has been positioned by Democrats as a policy of the political opposition? I believe the answer to both questions to be yes. In this attempt to meet political goals, they have weakened the structure of our government and inculcated the will of our people with a meme that inaction and failure is a strategy for safety. That is a terribly misguided, specious approach since unfortunately we have already found those tactics to be a failure.
As a nation we have forgotten the consequences of past policy failures and permit this to continue unencumbered by rational, intellectual at our own peril. It is a reality that will only change if we are cognizant of the threat and lend support to thoughtful, educated approaches devoid of personal ambition; a quality only currently held by a minority.