Has the Obama administration ever met an anti-American ruler it won’t give comfort to? The question arises again from reports that the State Department has extended the hand of good fellowship to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro. Why? Because with Hugo Chavez soon to depart this world, State sees “an opening” through which it can “engage” hostile Venezuela.
Whenever one hears President Obama or the State Department speak of “openings” and “engagement” it’s time to worry. This case is no exception.
Maduro, you see, isn’t some figure-head vice president. To the contrary, he’s the architect of some of the Chavez regime’s worst anti-American policies. As foreign minister, a position he still holds, Maduro led the campaign to forge closer relations with Iran. He also helped align Venezuela with Syria. And he has made reckless and unfounded allegations of CIA activity in Venezuela.
Moreover, it is far from inevitable that Maduro will be in charge for long after Chavez dies. A power struggle is looming. So perhaps, for once, the Obama administration should tilt away from, not towards, the most anti-American option.
That’s the view of Roger Noriega who oversaw our Latin American policy in a less sophisticated time when anti-Americanism was not viewed as a threshold test of legitimacy. Noriega worries that Obama’s diplomatic initiatives will assist Maduro in the impendnig power struggle.
[Maduro] is an heir to a guy who’s been unrelentingly hostile to the United States and really doing his bidding. Did [the Obama administration] see that this is a very convoluted, complicated succession, a power struggle within Chavism, and they’re meeting with one of the protagonists in this power struggle?
You’ll never guess the argument in favor of dealing with Maduro. The argument is that Maduro is, at root, a “pragmatist.” This is the word the “smart power” folks have attached to Morsi in Egypt, to Assad in Syria, and to various anti-American zealots in Iran.
What does “pragmatist” mean in this context? The functional definition is: those with whom the Obama administration wishes to “engage.” The substantive definition is: an anti-American who is willing to play the likes of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Nancy Pelosi for suckers as long as no action is required to do so.