Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Progressives & Libertarians: Eye to Eye

Although their philosophical foundations are dramatically different, there are a surprising number of issues that progressives and libertarians see eye to eye on. Whereas the majority of Democrats and Republicans have implicitely supported America's increased military presence across the globe, most progressives and libertarians are aghast at America's transition into an empire. The founding fathers wisely admonished the United States to not get embroiled in the military and political conflicts of other nations, sentiments that both of the said groups share. While not everyone is as isolationst as Dr. Ron Paul, that Iraq and Afghanistan have became black holes swallowing up countless lives and billions of dollars with few benefits. Yet, we continue our expansionist policies, as seen by America's increasing military presence in Pakistan, Yemen and even Colombia. I am hoping that progressives and libertarians can join together to oppose this expansion, because very few Republican and Democrats are willing to do so.

Increased U.S. Military Presence in Colombia Could Pose Problems With Neighbors


Published: July 22, 2009

CARACAS, Venezuela — A plan to increase the American military presence on at least three military bases in Colombia, Washington’s top ally in Latin America, is accentuating Colombia’s already tense relations with some of its neighbors.

Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua, which are members of a leftist political alliance that is led by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and backed by his nation’s oil revenues, have all criticized the plan, saying it would broaden the military reach of the United States in the Andes and the Caribbean at a time when they are still wary of American influence in the region.

Despite a slight improvement in Venezuela’s relations with the United States in recent months, Mr. Chávez has been especially vocal in lashing out at the plan. Speaking on state television here on Monday night, he put Venezuela’s diplomatic ties with Colombia under review, calling the plan a platform for “new aggression against us.”

Colombia’s foreign minister, Jaime Bermúdez, on Tuesday defended the negotiations, which are expected to produce an agreement in August, asking neighboring countries not to interfere in Colombia’s affairs. “We never expressed our opinion in what our neighbors do,” he said, pointing to Mr. Chávez’s attempts to strengthen ties with non-Western nations. “Not even when the Russian presence became known in Venezuelan waters, or with relations with China,” he added.

The United States has been negotiating the increase of military operations in Colombia in recent weeks, faced with Ecuador’s decision to end a decade-long agreement allowing E-3 AWACs and P-3 Orion surveillance planes to operate from the Manta Air Base on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast.

While American antidrug surveillance flights would sharply increase in Colombia, the world’s top producer of cocaine, the agreement would not allow American personnel to take part in combat operations in the country, which is mired in a four-decade war against guerrillas. A limit of 800 American military personnel and 600 American military contractors would also remain in place, officials involved in the talks said.

Still, depending on how the accord is put in place, American troop levels in Colombia could climb sharply. The United States currently has about 250 military personnel in the country, deployed largely in an advisory capacity to Colombia’s armed forces, William Brownfield, the United States ambassador to Colombia, said last week.

Colombia, which has already received more than $5 billion in military and antidrug aid from the United States this decade, has found itself isolated diplomatically as Mr. Chávez presses ahead with his efforts to expand Venezuela’s oil diplomacy while eroding American influence in the hemisphere.

Other countries chafe at Colombia for different reasons. Colombia’s diplomatic relations with Ecuador have soured since Colombian forces carried out a raid on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebel camp on Ecuadoran territory last year. A festering boundary dispute with Nicaragua has also made for tensions between Colombia and Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, an ally of Mr. Chávez.

But with Venezuela itself, Colombia remains locked in a complex game of interdependence.

Its sales of manufactured and agricultural goods to Venezuela remain resilient despite Mr.Chávez’s occasional outbursts directed at his ideological opposite, Colombia’s president, Álvaro Uribe. And faced with disarray in its oil industry, Venezuela relies on imports of Colombian natural gas, narrowing the possibility of a severe deterioration in ties between the two countries despite their sharply different views of cooperation with the United States.

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