Remember when the Bush administration failed to support the Venezuelan military coup against Hugo Chavez? The US was so caught up in the Jimmy Carter-inspired obsession with "process" over substance that it stood by and let the coup fail.
How different modern Latin American history would be if the US had backed the brave Venezuelan officers and civilians who dared challenge the man who would abuse the democratic system to become an aggressive dictator.
Across Latin America, the Chavez model of political subversion of existing democratic and legal structures is taking root, with extremists taking power through Venezuelan petrodollar-funded covert operations to topple pro-western governments and create a Bolivarian "near abroad."
The US has done nothing to try to stem the trend. Nothing. Democrat or Republican - American leaders have handed the playing field over to Chavez and his Cuban and Iranian allies. It's been a pathetic show.
How refreshing it was to see that humble Honduras is the only country in the region not to lose its political cojones and that, to keep its Chavez-backed president from violating the constitution, its other institutions acted.
And act they did. With the apparent support of the Supreme Court and the Congress, the Honduran Army removed lawbreaking President Manuel Zelaya from power yesterday, rousing him from bed in his pajamas, spiriting him aboard a military aircraft, and dumping him unceremoniously in Costa Rica. The Congress accepted a letter purporting to be Zelaya's resignation and the Supreme Court backed the move.
Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Barack Obama all objected. To her credit, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a bit of wiggle room, didn't quite condemn the operation or embrace Zelaya, and certainly didn't agree with Chavez and Castro.
I've known the Honduran military since working with them in support of the Nicaraguan contra resistance fighters 25 years ago, and they're a good, patriotic, hardy lot.
But they're not politically sophisticated internationally, and the same is true of the Honduran political elite. They don't know how to play the media game. And this could prove the un-doing of the cause of the Good Guys against the Bad Guys of Chavez who have subverted democracy.
It's all about process. As Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush proved in Venezuela, it's not really democracy that the US wants. It's legalistic process that matters. Just like the bureaucrat who doesn't care if you've really complied with a regulation, all that matters is the piece of paper that certifies that you did comply. Whether or not you really did. So Chavez can build his dictatorship simply by working through the democratic system and subverting it, and his model has been replicated again and again in the Americas. All to the cheer of do-gooders and demokracy-uber-alles fanatics alike.
And when the Good Guys step in to stop the nonsense, they are condemned because they are working outside The Process. It's not about principle.
So here's how our Honduran friends can fix things right away, or if Zelaya somehow returns to power, how they can get it right next time.
Zelaya is a nut and illegal political agent of a foreign power who has alienated practically everyone in Honduras. He can hardly get TV time. His own party unanimously abandoned him, voting to agree to his resignation and the alleged "coup." The rest of the democratically elected congress called on the military to take action against him, too. So did the Supreme Court.
What the army did incorrectly was not work The Process well enough. It didn't get enough lawyers involved. It didn't hire the K Street legal whorehouses with the mercenary expertise and paid talking heads that everybody else hires to do their propaganda work for them in Washington. This includes the embassies and ambassadors of the Organization of American States (OAS), which the US has surrendered to the Latin Left.
These political mercs are overwhelmingly liberal, with excellent ties to the media elites and the present US administration. Like a good hooker, their hourly rates are expensive, but they are usually worth the investment.
They can be paid to help temper opposition to your coup from within the State Department, the Administration, and the softie think tanks that prefer creeping dictatorship through democratic means than freedom restored at gunpoint.
Have a good spokesman from your own country who speaks American English and can get on all the TV shows. And don't forget Spanish-language TV. It's not enough to have a command of the language; the person must be engaging, attractive, quick-witted and informed, with a good presence before the cameras. Honduras needs its own Arturito Cruz for this purpose (i.e., attractive and glib, if not principled, though principles would be nice) - before the coup is staged. The representative must be able to work with the legal whorehouses of K Street who can book him or her at think tanks, with lawmakers, administration officials and the media.
It's all about spin, not democracy. If it was about democracy, the people who complain so bitterly about the coup would have been militantly opposed to an anti-democratic regime like Chavez's for funding political subversion across the hemisphere. But it isn't. It's about political power. That's why Jimmy Carter and the State Department supported Chavez over Venezuelan democracy, and why it's so important to use political tools as weapons. One of the weapons is spin. Sad but true. Use it well. Buena suerte, hermanos catrachos!