November 23, 2004


Bush's Colombian Connection
(LA Times, November 23, 2004)

The symbolism of President Bush's four-hour stopover in Cartagena, Colombia, far exceeds its meager time frame. It is part of his first trip abroad after winning reelection. Bush signaled his solidarity with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is making progress in a U.S.-backed military struggle against narco-guerrillas and traffickers. Another message was beamed to Congress, which must approve continued funding for Plan Colombia, a multibillion-dollar initiative launched by President Clinton in 2000.

As the president, standing side by side with Uribe, said Monday: "If I didn't think [Uribe] had an effective strategy and the willingness to fight the [guerrilla organization] FARC, I wouldn't be standing here in this great nation saying … I'm going to work with Congress to continue the support. In other words, I believe in results."

The struggle to restore stability to Colombia is unfinished, but Plan Colombia has so far been a remarkable success. Illegal coca and poppy production has dropped more than 30% since the eradication program began about three years ago. Record amounts of cocaine headed for U.S. ports have been confiscated, and newly vigorous Colombian courts have approved the extradition of the head of the notorious Cali cartel to the U.S.

An all-out Colombian military offensive, aided by hundreds of U.S. military trainers and planners, has pushed the FARC narco-guerrillas into remote rural areas. (A recent doubling of the U.S. troops to 800 was cause for anxiety about mission creep, which would be eased by new assurances that they will not be used in direct combat.)

Democrats who opposed aid to Colombia were fond of saying it would be another Vietnam (as in the reference to "mission creep" here). Now that all the "next Vietnams" turn out to be so easily won can we start saying that proposed military interventions will be the "next Afghanistan"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 23, 2004 9:28 AM
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