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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Book of Matthew: Losing the world

Published: September 19, 2008
Section: Opinions

Last week, Hugo Chavez took a step toward severing diplomatic ties with the US by expelling the US ambassador from Venezuela and recalling his own ambassador. Chavez believes that the US government is secretly plotting to overthrow him, and he is not alone. Bolivia, Argentina, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Paraguay all support him and his decision.

At first, this action really doesn’t seem like much, after all Hugo Chavez has been an outspoken critic of the US for years. But, I am writing about it for two reasons. First, the story has received very little coverage by a mainstream media that is obsessed with covering every moment of this election season, and not much else. Second, it is an excellent example of the failure of the “Bush Doctrine”.

The Bush Doctrine is not easy for many people (including Sarah Palin) to define. It is a collection of foreign policy positions and principles that the Bush Administration has been accumulating since the attacks on September 11th, policies that were used to justify the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In the minds of its supporters, the doctrine has helped make the United States and the world safer through the establishment of two new democratic nations.

Unfortunately for these supporters, the reasons why they are in favor of the Bush Doctrine are the very same reasons why it is a failure. Its policies of preventative war and unilateral action allow, and in fact almost require the US to attack any nation that it feels may be a threat in the near future.

This sends a message to our allies and enemies alike. To our allies, we say, “We don’t need you, so get behind us or get out of our way.” To our enemies, we say, “See Afghanistan? See Iraq? Good. Now play nice or you’ll be next.” In both cases, we are spreading fear.

So whether it has reason to or not, Venezuela is reacting to our foreign policy, and it has powerful friends to back it up. Russia and China are both Venezuelan allies, and Russia and Venezuela plan to hold military exercises in the Caribbean next year.

What can we do?

We can call Chavez an evil socialist, and we will feel better about ourselves.

We can call the Chinese evil communists, and we will feel better about ourselves.

We can completely ignore the facts surrounding the Russian invasion of Georgia, pretend that none of it was Georgia’s fault, call Russia an evil imperialist and thereby begin the new Cold War that we thought Russia had begun. And we will feel better about ourselves.

Too bad feel-good name-calling is about all our nation is capable of right now. With our military bogged down in two wars and our allies unwilling to take us seriously, we are caught in a bit of a pickle. Our foreign policy cannot protect us from enemies who are reacting to the very same foreign policy.

When Hugo Chavez was asked when a Venezuelan ambassador would return to the United States, he replied, “When there’s a new government in the United States.” Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps a new government is exactly what we need. One that understands and can carry out the fine art of diplomacy, as opposed to the Bush Administration, which has spent the last eight years attempting to copy Teddy Roosevelts’ “Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Stick” foreign policy. Minus the soft speaking. And the big stick.

Who knows? Maybe under a new administration, we won’t have to go to war with half the world.