The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

It's a twofer: Bolivia and Bob Novak!

That's where the value ends: Robert Novak, leakee to the stars, has opined on US policy towards Bolivia (January 6).

What he says is either the same old stuff (and none the less true for that) - that US narcotics control policy in Latin America is going nowhere; or connect-the-dots Jaysonisms - talking about the
rising influence of a new clique of leftist, anti-American leaders. Evo Morales, Bolivia's rising radical, and Fidel Castro, Cuba's communist dictator, both were in Caracas December 21 and 22 to meet with Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez.

And Jimmy Carter's blessing on coca-growers' leader Evo Morales.

He quotes - ta da! -
Dissenting officials in the U.S. government [who] believe Bolivia is becoming what the Pentagon calls an "ungoverned area." They fear that Colombia's narcoterrorists will switch their growing and processing operations to Bolivia, making irrelevant U.S. counter-drug policy in Colombia.

His grip of the situation is exemplified by his final graf:
In Caracas, President Chavez revealed he "had dreams of swimming on a Bolivian beach." In Havana, Castro promptly voiced support. These developments were duly noted by a few, but mostly ignored in Washington.

There, at least, a sign of some common sense in US policy (utterly absent on the drug control issue).

The fallacy of the armchair analyst is to suppose that the guys you've heard of are the key guys in the situation. (The opposite assumption would be equally fallacious, as, from this armchair, I gladly concede.) What one really needs is evidence (which anonymous leaks are not), and an acid-bath of scepticism to test it in. On US Latin America policy, the latter's ready, the former in distinctly short supply (no less short for Novak's intervention) [1].

My guess is that the policy is on a care and maintenance basis until November; and that, of the states, Bolivia comes pretty low down the list, on the grounds that
  • it is below the US news media's radar;

  • the narcotics problem is insoluble anyway; and

  • otherwise, it's of minimal geopolitical significance to the US.

Even if there is a revolution (and those aren't exactly one size fits all), the US (as in the 1952 revolution) won't be able to do anything, so no point in raising expectations by appearing to take an interest. No game of dominoes.

(At some point, USG will have to address the narcotics policy seriously. But I suspect we'll have to wait at least for another President Clinton for that. President Chelsea Clinton, that is...)

  1. The Five O'Clock Follies-style bromides on the progress on the War on Drugs - Novak quotes an example - are scarcely more valuable as evidence at their face value than the Mussolini-like posturing of Brer Chávez.

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