Andrew asks on Honduras:

Can you remember a story where pundits have varied so widely on the basic facts?

Yes, I can. The war in Georgia, the pre-war debate on Iraq’s weapons programs and supposed ties to Al Qaeda, and the “genocide” in Kosovo come to mind as the most outstanding examples of two different sides seeming to inhabit entirely different universes. We went to war against Yugoslavia and Iraq because the side that was largely inhabiting a fantasy world won the public relations battle. Fortunately, the experience of Iraq, the complexity of the situation in Georgia and the dangers of intervening directly prevented fools from rushing in once more. In Honduras, the stakes for the U.S. are lower, which may help account for why there is less fundamental disagreement about what has happened there. The differences are more a matter of emphasis and interpretation than fact, but to some extent there are still pretty wildly differing accounts of recent events.

One of the reasons why I was so skeptical and wary of the pro-Mousavi enthusiasm that automatically sprang up everywhere after June 12 was that it reminded me of the same kind of enthusiastic misunderstanding about foreign affairs that led so many people to be so spectacularly wrong about what was happening and what should be done about it in those other cases. I am still wary of attributing too much significance to the protests, but in the early days of the protests the general Western presumption in favor of a “coup” explanation of what happened in Iran seems to be identical to the early, automatic international acceptance of pro-Zelaya arguments. At this point, the coup label is much more appropriate for Iran than it will ever be for Honduras, and even in Iran it doesn’t fully convey what happened.

What worried me about the automatic solidarity with Mousavi and his supporters was that it was simply taken for granted that the side we in the West found more attractive could only have lost through fraud and illegality, and therefore must have won and been cheated. Even now, we do not know and will probably never know what the real vote count was, because it seems clear there was never any intention of actually counting it, but the illegality of the government’s response has been plain for all to see for some time. Likewise, the automatic presumption in the Honduras case was that it was basically wrong to depose a democratically-elected president regardless of the circumstances (even if looking at those circumstances would make his deposition seem entirely justified). Perhaps in time the illegality of Zelaya’s actions will be as universally recognized and his deposition will be seen as the appropriate response after all.

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