Obama’s Latin American Speech

Since I’m here, thought I’d give it a summary. Speech can be read here.

George W.’s policy towards Latin America (such as it was) has been very poor.  Brazil is a major regional force to be dealt with and the shift towards left but outside the Andes not leftist governments (left-liberal, left-liberalization) need not threaten the US….e.g. Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.  But of course that has been only interpreted through the lens of Venezuela and Cuba.

So what does Barack have for us?

He echoes what has been dubbed the Obama Dignity Doctrine elsewhere particularly the last two:

What all of us strive for is freedom as FDR described it. Political freedom. Religious freedom. But also freedom from want, and freedom from fear. At our best, the United States has been a force for these four freedoms in the Americas. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that at times we’ve failed to engage the people of the region with the respect owed to a partner.

He then (dumbly imo) sees the return of Ortega to power here in Nica as of the same ilk as with Ecuador.  He does however deftly tie the rise of anti-Americanism in the region (such as it is overhyped though it may be) to the Iraq War and the failure of diplomacy of the Bush-McCain era.

This is vague but very intriguing:

It’s time for a new alliance of the Americas. After eight years of the failed policies of the past, we need new leadership for the future. After decades pressing for top-down reform, we need an agenda that advances democracy, security, and opportunity from the bottom up.

Very interestingly that is not a critique of Bush but also of Clinton who pushed for so many trade deals in the region (like CAFTA which Obama voted against).  This links with his own political grassroots emphasis in his own election.  Very interesting to see how he could link what is the grassroots organizer side of himself from local politics to international.  Again see Obama Doctrine.

But emphasizing not only democracy (a la neconservatives) but also security and freedom from want he is starting to harken back to a realist George HW Bush strain as well as the possibility (I hope) that he has been learning from and reading Bounded Power and the possibility of a republican (small r) foreign policy shooting the gap between liberal internationalism, liberal humanitarian interventionism, and radical neoconservatism and a return to imperial projects (of the right).

The emphasis in Bounded Power is on promoting security, freedom from fear which Obama mentions.

And towards Cuba:

My policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: Libertad. And the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba’s political prisoners, the rights of free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly; and it must lead to elections that are free and fair.

Now let me be clear. John McCain’s been going around the country talking about how much I want to meet with Raul Castro, as if I’m looking for a social gathering. That’s never what I’ve said, and John McCain knows it. After eight years of the disastrous policies of George Bush, it is time to pursue direct diplomacy, with friend and foe alike, without preconditions. There will be careful preparation. We will set a clear agenda. And as President, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the United States, and to advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people.

This is far stronger than McCain’s insane Bush-like embrace of the failed embargo.   But even this position of Obama’s is not as strong as earlier discussions he had of possibly lifting the embargo.  Obama’s policy is in that sense still far too hardline but given the insanity of US politics around that little podunk island.  Open the place up to trade and tourism and that shell of a communist government would fall faster than you can see ‘mas rapido por favor’.

But at least he is sticking with the other element of the Obama Doctrine—preparations no preconditions and serious diplomacy across the region.

From this he is invoking Reagan–better than McCain interestingly enough–and a New Day for America kinda strength in the twilight of a lost war much like Vietnam.

And this is both politically shrewd (electorally) and humane and actually the correct policy limited though it is and refracted through this overly libertad-ish lens:

It’s time for more than tough talk that never yields results. It’s time for a new strategy. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. That’s why I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island. It’s time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.

And on trade the same position he held on NAFTA; CAFTA, and the like:

Trade must be part of this solution. But I strongly reject the Bush-McCain view that any trade deal is a good deal. We cannot accept trade that enriches those at the top of the ladder while cutting out the rungs at the bottom. It’s time to understand that the goal of our trade policy must be trade that works for all people in all countries. Like Central America’s bishops, I opposed CAFTA because the needs of workers were not adequately addressed. I supported the Peru Free Trade Agreement because there were binding labor and environmental provisions. That’s the kind of trade we need – trade that lifts up workers, not just a corporate bottom line.

There’s a great deal more in the speech. Showing yet again this dude is very wonkish and would likely have a similar cabinet and government around him.  Less ideological, more pragmatic within the bounds of their given philosophy of governance.  Very interesting though not would I would like on all fronts.  But again the alternative is insanity for this world.  The world and the US can not afford 4 or 8 more years of lost time, further losing wars and corruption, and lost opportunities.

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