Saturday, December 06, 2008

Continental Drift

Continental Drift is a reality and it's happening before our very eyes. Europe, Asia, Africa and now even Central and South America are steadily drifting away as they shrug off the political and economic domination of the United States that has held sway for the past six decades.

With varying degrees of bitterness (Venezuela would be a 10, France a 2) nations around the world are looking to chart new, independent paths more closely reflective of their individual and regional interests.

The United States, which just six years ago proclaimed itself World Hegemon pursuant to the Bush Doctrine, is now in decline and adjusting to the ascendancy of new powers such as China, India and Brazil. Some of this was inevitable but the process has been greatly accelerated by anger and distrust sparked by the fallout from American cowboy capitalism. The Wall Street meltdown really couldn't have come at a worse time.

Now, according to McClatchey Newspapers, the arrival of the Obama presidency may usher in the end of the Monroe Doctrine:

In just three short paragraphs buried deep into his State of the Union speech on Dec. 2, 1823, President James Monroe proclaimed one of the most enduring tenets of U.S. foreign policy.

He warned Europe that Washington would not tolerate any interventions from outside powers in the affairs of Latin America's newly independent states. But it turned out to be far from a selfless declaration of solidarity.

The U.S. government has invoked the doctrine as a justification for imposing its will on its neighbors to the south.

Foreign intervention in Latin America remained acceptable for the United States, as long as it was the one doing the intervening. And it did so dozens of times - at great cost to democracy and human life.

Monroe's speech planted the seed of the notion that Latin America is the "backyard" of the United States - a label resented throughout the region.

Obama would do well to depart from this bipartisan consensus and truly chart a new course for change, one that respects the independence of Latin American countries and one that is in keeping with the values that he espouses.

In any event, Latin America is leaving Washington behind.

On the economic front, China has emerged as a major trading partner. Latin American trade with the Asian giant has grown explosively, from $13 billion in 2000 to $100 billion last year.

Trade with the emerging economies of India and Russia is also growing steadily; trade with each is expected to reach a record $15 billion. And the European Union is Latin America's largest source of foreign investment.

For similar reasons, some countries in the region have reoriented their arms purchases. Venezuela has purchased more than $4 billion in jets, helicopters and rifles from Russia. Several other governments in the region - the world's third-largest arms market - followed suit.

Brazil, a rising power on the global stage, is planning a massive overhaul of its military worth billions of dollars in the coming years. Instead of relying on the Pentagon and U.S. defense contractors, Brazil is turning to Russia and France to refurbish its military.

Can Washington give up the masquerade of playing nasty, vengeful Uncle Sam to Latin America? Maybe it has no other choice.

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