Starting today I will be off on a road trip for a couple weeks. I may occasionally check in when I’m in Albuquerque next week, but most likely I won’t be writing again here until mid-July. I would like to add one thing about Honduras before I leave. After he was thwarted from landing in Tegucigalpa, Zelaya called on Obama to impose economic sanctions on Honduras. “Otherwise, it’s the death of democracy in the Americas,” he said. We have become far too comfortable identifying the cause of democracy in other countries with the cause of particular politicians. In Honduras, it is Zelaya, while in Georgia it has been Saakashvili. We have already seen how this identification has enabled reckless, dangerous behavior by Saakashvili and so poorly served Georgia. If we fall for this trick again, it will be the majority of Hondurans and not the oligarchs contesting over their future who will suffer the most for it.
Last year we saw how most Westerners automatically gave the benefit of the doubt to Saakashvili and his supporters during the war with Russia in August. As it turns out and as most people who followed the war from the beginning understood, the blame was mostly Saakashvili’s, but this did not stop constant, outraged cries about “Russian aggression.” It is true that the Russians went further than they needed or should have gone, and so aided their foreign critics in painting them as the villains of the story, but the root of the problem was Saakashvili and the West’s tacit or open encouragement of his recklessness. As Saakashvili did, it was Zelaya who escalated the crisis and precipitated the conflict that has been unfolding over the last week. The institutions of Honduran government responded to this escalation in a way not very different from the Russian response to Georgian escalation: they retaliated and struck back, and mistakenly have gone further than they should have. Just as Saakashvili inspired visceral loathing in the Kremlin, Zelaya seems to inspire the same visceral hatred in the Honduran elite, and as understandable as that feeling might be in both cases it has led to excesses in responding to a situation made worse by the reckless demagogue. In both cases, the demagogue is ultimately responsible, but those who are trying to hold him accountable have to hold themselves to a higher standard, and in this case that means not resorting to violence in response to the provocations of Zelaya’s supporters. If it is going to survive, Honduras’ government cannot afford any more bad press.