Monday, June 29, 2009

What's the difference? (Other than the fact that one of these guys looks remarkably like Saddam Hussein.)

Yesterday, the democratically elected president of Honduras was overthrown in a coup d'etat.

Today, Barack Obama, as quoted in this story from Reuters, stated that "we believe the coup was not legal and President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there."  Though not poetic, this was certainly the right thing to say, though the issue itself is a bit more nuanced than black-and-white.

On June 12, 2009, Iran held a sham election where the incumbent president (it certainly seems) and his puppet-masters ignored the votes of their citizens and kept a democratically elected president from office.

But Obama said nothing about the Iranian elections until June 15 when he stated that "we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran."  (Link to Wall Street Journal article here.)

What's the difference?

I have some ideas . . .  

It could be that the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.  Maybe America has a stronger interest in Central America than in the Middle East.  

It could be that Obama believes that the United States is still strong enough to take on Honduras but fears Iran.  

Or, it could be that Obama has more affinity for leftists in Honduras than reformers in Iran.  Smart money says that is certainly playing a role.

What do the readers think?

(In the interest of full disclosure, Obama has used tougher rhetoric since June 15.  But his statements have been directed at the Iranian government's response to the mass protests in the streets rather than at the cause of those protests.)


Dameon said...

It's an interesting comparison.

In the Honduras case, it appears, at first blush at least to me, that this was a legal overthrow, with the judicial and legislative branches orchestrating the coup because the President was overstepping his constitutional authority.

In the Iran case, it appears likely that the election results are a shame, but there's no way to prove that.

The U.S. doesn't have the capacity at the moment to take on either of these situations. I'd prefer to stay out of both of them.

St. Louis Conservative said...

In Honduras, as I understand it, the president was attempting to conduct and illegal referendum in an effort to allow him to escape term limits. But his democratically elected term had not ended. The best move for the military would have been to prevent the referendum, not depose the president. However, that may have been more difficult - I don't know. So, certainly, it is a gray area.

Also, I agree that we don't have the capacity to intervene directly in Iran or Honduras. But there are certainly diplomatic tools that can be used in both situations to support freedom and democracy in both places.