Despite the amusing coincidence that the color scheme of Eunomia already happened to be pretty close to the colors of the Honduran flag, I am going to do my best not to become an enthusiast. Nonetheless, the more I watch the global condemnation of Honduras’ new government and the expressions of support for that government from Hondurans rallying in the streets, the more I find the international response and Washington’s participation in it absolutely appalling. We should be clear about a few things: we are not all Hondurans (nor would such empty declarations of solidarity do anything for Hondurans anyway), but for that very reason their internal affairs ought to be none of our concern. As I have noted before, state sovereignty is something that very few people take seriously on a regular basis. After all, as we have been told, there are supposedly no longer any internal affairs, but if there is anything that truly is a purely domestic concern it would have to be a constitutional crisis and the enforcement of the country’s own laws against officers of its government.
The swiftness with which several major European states have withdrawn their ambassadors and the speed with which neighboring states have cut off trade relations would make you think that the Honduran government was embarked on a policy of genocide or the brutal suppression of political dissidents. Despite years of internal chaos, misrule and violence, Zimbabwe’s neighbors have never managed such decisive action. Burma’s relations with the surrounding region remain remarkably intact in the wake of the violent crackdown two years ago. Sudan has plenty of friends and allies regardless of what it does. Fortunately the world has moved with dispatch to answer the menace of an internal, largely peaceful political conflict in Honduras. Virtual unanimity in opposing the new Honduran government is easy to obtain in these circumstances, because the outrage comes at such a cheap price. Unlike a risky and probably counterproductive policy of isolating the Iranian government with sanctions and active support for the protesters, there are no serious consequences for almost all of the states now punishing Honduras’ government for its “crime.” Honduras cannot retaliate against any of the actions now being taken against it. Even when one grants that Honduras’ political and military leaders went about things in the wrong way, it is difficult to see the international response as anything more than the most obnoxious grandstanding and moral preening.
Frankly, it makes a mockery of much of the sympathy foreign governments have been showing the protesters in Iran, who are effectively in the same position vis-a-vis Khamenei and Ahmadinejad as Zelaya’s opponents are in relation to Zelaya. Both groups are seeking remedies to illegal actions taken by the heads of their respective governments, but the difference is that Honduran anti-Zelaya forces have succeeded. It is rather as if the IRGC heeded Mousavi’s call to return to the pure principles of the Islamic revolution and arrested Ahmadinejad, then Mousavi took his place, and then the entire world declared Mousavi’s ascension illegitimate and unacceptable.
There are reasonable arguments why refusing to isolate other, incomparably nastier regimes may be the better course of action, but it also doesn’t hurt that major regional and international players have vested interests in not isolating them. Honduras has nothing to use as leverage, and so has no clout, which means that it can be kicked around with impunity. This conflict is one that the deposed president escalated until all the nation’s institutions decided that he had to go. In response, many international institutions and governments have decided that it is not only acceptable but imperative to punish Honduras and to deprive an already poor country of both trade and aid. If it is normally morally questionable to pursue policies that are likely to harm the most vulnerable and weakest members of a population, in this case it seems simply inexcusable, because the wrong that has been done is almost purely a procedural one. Few seem willing to dispute that Zelaya had broken the law and deserved to be removed from office. To its credit, the administration has so far refused to go as far as others have, but it has nonetheless provided cover and support to those beating up on Honduras.
Update: On that last point, I may have given the administration too much credit. The State Department has already suspended much of our aid to Honduras, which will then be cut off indefinitely once they formally declare that a coup has taken place.