Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Anticipation of the Fifth Summit of the Americas

The Fifth Summit of the Americas is coming up, and in anticipation of this, Latin American scholar Greg Grandin has an absolutely outstanding article up on how FDR could be a model for Obama in his Latin American foriegn policy, as well as the obstacles Obama is facing and the interest groups that may undermine real change. There are some absolutely fascinating bits in there in terms of little-known policy decisions (like how the anti-imperialist stance of Ernest Gruening, who would eventually be one of only two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964, came to play a major role in American diplomacy under Roosevelt and beyond), as well as depressing current news, including the role of American private interest groups (like the NRA) in Latin America and the efforts to use failed models like Plan Colombia (whose "success," as the article points out, is dependent upon the use of death squads) in Afghanistan, and even the impact immigration may have on the Summit of the America's.

Obama's behavior, statements, and agreements at the Summit will be of major importance to understanding America's direction - it's his first major (planned) diplomatic mission in terms of policy-making (this weekend's pirate-incident notwithstanding), and will really give us a sense of how much of a change Obama will bring in terms of international relations and foreign policy. What's more, it's his first and only chance to make a "first impression" with many leaders from Latin America, and he has a lot to overcome from the Bush administration, so the Summit is of tantamount importance not just to Latin America, but to Obama's administration and American foreign policy over at least the next four years and beyond.

I hope to have more up on the Summit of the Americas as time allows, but for now, go read Grandin's article - it's just wonderful stuff, and highly informative.