Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What is This, 1981?

We have massive protests in Iran, the staff of a Western embassy was held hostage, Michael Jackson is dominating the airwaves, a superpower is bogged down in Afghanistan, and now a coup in Honduras? It's enough to make me want to break out my neon fanny pack. Or, you know, be born.
When I was growing up my lefty parents gave me a book called something like "The Twenty-Third War" about a child in an unnamed Central American country forced to fight in one of a series of never-ending revolutionary wars in his country. I spent a few years in Central America growing up, but am not currently much of an expert on the region, but to me the signs are actually remarkably good.
First, coups, revolutions, and even coup attempts have been remarkably few since the end of the Cold War.
Second, no one more moderate (and less paranoid) than Hugo Chavez seems to think the United States instigated or supported the coup. This is a remarkable and welcome change from the 1980s, and even from the past eight years when the Bush Administration cheered on a coup attempt against Chavez in 2002.
Third, in many ways the coup was actually an attempt to restore constitutional order. The Honduran constitution limits presidents to one term precisely to limit leaders from obtaining the Calvin and Hobbes-esque title "dictator for life." The military installed a civilian, not a military, leader as president. If a right-wing president attempted to pass a "referendum" supporting his right to change the constitution and run for president again the leftist blogs would be up in arms (irony intended).
Fourth, a peaceful solution is likely. Most predictions I have read say that Zelaya will likely be reinstated for the remainder of his term, until next year, and not be allowed to run again. That is perhaps the best of all solutions, and one the Obama Administration and its allies should push for.
Neither Zelaya nor the military went about this in the best possible way. Zelaya should not have tried to change the constitution to his own benefit, and his opposition should not have opposed him with force. But think of how far we've come, and how much worse this situation would have been in 1981.

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