Thursday, May 27, 2010


Last year I wrote that Brazil's attempt to insert itself more actively in regional affairs didn't work out so well. I've changed some of my thinking on how the Honduras crisis played out, but it has been very interesting to see Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ride his global popularity to engage Brazil in the world most pressing issues (ie anything that happens between Cairo and Kabul).

Several commentators are now, um, commenting on Brazil/Lula and last week's Brazil-Turkey sponsored agreement for Iran to ship some uranium out of the country, as well as the US' subsequent "whatever-we-really-don't-care" response.

The most interesting piece was by James Traub in Foreign Policy. Summing up the challenge that a new kid on the block represents, Traub hits the nail on the head regarding the new dilemma facing the State Department:

"Their joint bid to break the impasse on Iran represents something more encouraging, more worrisome, and much more significant than any of Hugo Chávez's antics."

Following on this theme, UNC-Charlotte Lat-Am prof Greg Weeks gives Tom Friedman a good smack-down for even bothering to chime in with his tired "Venezuela=evil; Colombia=good" framework.

But Friedman does bring interesting insight with the observation that by focusing exclusively on Iranian nuclear ambitions the US might be playing right into the Iranian hardliners' hands. (Perhaps he excels only when not discussing Latin America?)

In the Miami Herald, Andres Oppenheimer calls Brazil out for being getting involved with Iran but not in its own backyard. (Maybe they see that as a messier and less rewarding process?)

Brazil is pushing its neighbors to support his "Tehran Declaration," so it will be interesting to see if anyone asks for anything in return (not that it matters much - none of the countries being pressed can directly influence the sanctions resolution going to the Security Council).

Traub also raises the question as to how the US should respond to a friend that kinda screws it over. (I called it the "Frenemies" phenomenon). His answer seems to be that you when life gives you lemons, think seriously about the lemonade option:

For Obama, the really important question is whether he should reconcile himself to an unavoidable clash of interests with rising powers, or try to win them over by offering a deeper and more substantive kind of engagement -- for example, by pushing for a greater democratization of the institutions from which those states now feel excluded. It may be that the only chance to get Brazil to act more like a global citizen is to treat it like one.

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Online Sources: Foreign Policy, Miami Herald, Two Weeks Notice, New York Times, MercoPress, Politico, Time

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