Revolutions, In & Out of the Hemisphere:

Congratulations to Canada, which has done what was unthinkable even two years ago -- broken the hold of the Liberal party on the government. More at Captain's Quarters, which deserves a share of credit for breaking the strength of the previously-ruling party by exposing its corruption.

I wish them well, and indeed, they are among the most optimistic people in the world right now. The others are the Iraqis and the Afghans:

Canadians are bullish not just about their own finances (64%), but also about the economic prospects of their country (63%).
They are joined in their optimism by the people of two countries devastated by war and civil conflict, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, 70% say their own circumstances are improving, and 57% believe that the country overall is on the way up.

In Iraq, 65% believe their personal life is getting better, and 56% are upbeat about the country's economy.
The Canadian "revolution" is like the Afghan and Iraqi ones in only one way: it promises freer markets and more open, honest government. That is a most important similarity.

There is less reason for optimism in our Southern hemisphere, where the recent revolutions have promised less-free markets, and a renewed Marxist influence. Here is a piece from former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge G. Castaneda that is extremely critical of the American response:
At the inauguration tomorrow of Evo Morales as Bolivia's new president, the United States -- which has a significant military and aid presence in that country -- will be represented by a deputy assistant secretary of state. This is just further evidence -- if any was needed -- that U.S. relations with Latin America are in utter disrepair....

Today practically every nation seems to have some point of friction. Brazil is at odds with Washington on trade policy, especially anti-dumping and agricultural subsidies; on its wish to occupy a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council; and on Iraq. Argentina rails at President Bush's support for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), criticizes U.S. economic policy recommendations, and may advise Venezuela's Hugo Chavez on nuclear energy. The newly elected Morales wants to remove the penalties for coca-leaf cultivation -- and expand it. President Vicente Fox in Mexico has been left high and dry by George Bush: Instead of an immigration agreement that would have addressed the most important issue on the bilateral agenda and an increasingly intractable U.S. domestic problem, Fox now has to deal with a hateful proposal to build a wall on the border, criminalize unauthorized emigration to the United States and punish any association with it. Bush didn't push for an agreement when he could have; now he supports a bill that is offensive to everyone in the region.

And then, of course, there is Venezuela. Chavez is not only leading the fight against the FTAA (which was going nowhere anyway) and making life increasingly miserable for foreign -- above all, American -- companies in Venezuela. He is also supporting various left-wing groups or leaders in neighboring nations and has established a strategic alliance with Havana. Most important, he is attempting, with some success, to split the hemisphere in two: for or against Chavez, for or against the United States. Whenever this happens, everyone loses.

Castaneda, though harsh here in his criticism, should be best remembered by Americans for being Mexico's Foreign Minister on 9/11. Alone in his government, he took such an openly pro-American stance that it caused a tremendous backlash among the Mexican people. That backlash disrupted the early efforts of the Fox government -- the first government not from the ruling "Institutional Revolutionary Party" since the revolution -- but it was worth it to Castaneda, who thought it was the right thing to say and do. Though he is a Mexican first (as he ought to be), we should remember Castaneda as our friend.

I don't know how much good a commission of the sort he suggests would do, but it couldn't hurt. One thing we ought to know by now: it is free markets and open government that work. Those are two of the things we've been fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with real success. We need to do what we can to encourage them in the Southern hemisphere as well.

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