February 9, 2009


Latin America's socialist Ahmadinejad: a review of The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War against America By Douglas Schoen and Michael Rowan (Steven Martinovich, February 9, 2009, Enter Stage Right)

Though seen by many Americans as the prototypical banana republic buffoon, Schoen and Rowan argue in the eye-opening The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War against America that Chavez is far more dangerous than he seems and his primary target is what he calls the "American Empire." Fueled by earnings from Venezuela's oil industry and maintaining power with populist, socialist rhetoric and his military, much of Chavez's energy is expended in destabilizing democracies and supporting America's enemies.

Armed with huge oil reserves, Chavez is essentially fighting an asymmetric war against the United States. Schoen and Rowan chronicle how Chavez has built close ties with Cuba, he's well-known as a protégé and admirer of Fidel Castro, and Iran and even hosted training camps for Hamas and Hezbollah members. Not content with merely supporting foreign terrorists, the Venezuelan president has also actively aided the Columbian narcoterrorists known as FARC to the extent of supplying them with arms and money and giving safe harbor when necessary. Chavez, in the apparent belief that everything south of the United States is his playground, financially supports anti-American and communist/socialist candidates all over Latin America, with some nearly capturing traditional American allies like Costa Rica.

Perhaps just worrisome are Chavez's efforts inside the United States. Schoen and Rowan report that he's managed to build an extensive network of supporters among both the famous and unknown. Well known actors including Danny Glover and Sean Penn have visited Venezuela and demonstrated support for his failed policies while politicians on both sides of the aisle – Joseph P. Kennedy II and Mitt Romney among them – have worked for Venezuelan interests. Chavez even offers low cost "tourist" trips to Venezuela for Americans so they can discover for themselves the worker's paradise that he's built.

I'm not quite finished with this one yet, but again second Friend Martinovich. The great value of the book is that it brings the whole story of the Chavez threat together for, as far as I'm aware, the first time. The authors not only detail exactly how Hugo rigged previous "elections" and what a hash he's made of Venezuela internally, they show that his seemingly cartoonish anti-Americanism is actually part of a lifelong ideology and master political plan. All that Bolivarism he's endlessly spouting off about may be deranged, but it ultimately adds up to a sufficiently coherent system of ideas that he can organize his regime and its allies around it. While Marxist leftovers in Latin America, Russia and China make for obvious partners, when we find it odd that such a Leftwing secular regime can ally with Islamicists, with Iran, with drug dealers, with the militant wings of Hamas and Hezbollah, etc., we need to understand that they are united by a reactionary anti-Americanism. His exploitation of this common impulse demonstrates a surprising level of method to his madness.

As we read, two things become especially frustrating. The first is that, like Hitler or Lenin, so many opportunities to stop him were wasted. Particularly galling is the way he was allowed to develop his movement from his jail cell after the failed coup in 1992 and then was pardoned in 1994, even though the Venezuelan Constitution would have barred a convicted felon from running for the presidency. When democracies, especially unstable ones, fail to take those who oppose the very structure of the regime seriously they have an unfortunate tendency to fatally undermine themselves. He should have been killed, even if extrajudicially.

Just as maddening is the account of the weapons he uses against us and the way in which American politicians, on both sides of the aisle, prevent our taking on these threats with our full economic, political, and military force. Most importantly, he uses Venezuela's oil supplies. Yet our political classes refuse to tax oil in a way that would diminish its effectiveness as a weapon. Likewise, he seeks to subvert our Colombian by working with FARC and other narco-terrorists, yet Democrats refuse to help our ally. He works with Iran, Russia, Cuba, etc., but we take little or no action. And he plays on the avarice of those on the Right, businessmen like Mitt Romney, and the gullibility or actual evil of those on the Left, like Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, Chris Dodd, John Conyers, etc., who are all willing to defend him either because it pays well or because they suffer from such Bush Derangement that any enemy of the US during the Bush years was their friend or because they genuinely share his anti-American Bolivarian vision. Given how many of these nitwits supported the Sandinistas and Castro, it can't all just be hatred of the dreaded Bushitler, there has to be some unreconstructed Marxism at work.

It's an important book that every American ought to read. More than that, it ought to guide some considerable portion of our foreign policy as our focus shifts from the Middle East. An excellent early gesture would be to--as the authors suggest--approve the Colombian Free Trade Agreement.

The elections results of this past November though have put an awful lot of folks who are pro-Chavez in power. It would require a serious effort on the part of President Obama to shove his party out of bed with the dictator and get them to recognize "the threat closer to home." One holds out little hope that he'll do so.


    -AUTHOR SITE: Douglas Schoen

    -AUTHOR PAGE: Michael Rowan (Simon & Shuster)

    -GOOGLE BOOK: the Threat Closer to Home

    -BOOK SITE: The Threat Closer to Home (Simon & Shuster)

    -ESSAY: Chavez: The Story of a Bully Boy (Michael Rowan, 2/02/09, History News Network)

In the mind of Chavez, everything bad about him was caused by someone else. After his presidency, when his psychiatrist published that Chavez was a narcissist with paranoid anti-social tendencies, he made writing about his mental life a federal crime. For Chavez, he is the only one who's allowed to be a rebel.

As a teenager he began planning a military coup and for twenty years he lived a double life of daily deception and betrayal, pretending to be a loyal soldier during the day and conspiring with communists, rebels and terrorists to take power by force at night. But as he got power, he turned against virtually everyone who helped him get there, including his longtime mistress.

In 1992, he launched a coup attempt where all his co-conspirators succeeded militarily, while Chavez failed absurdly at his task in Caracas when his cell phone battery went dead. When he surrendered, he made himself famous by going on TV, selfishly abandoning his co-conspirators who had militarily succeeded.

In jail for his coup, he divorced his wife and successfully secured aid from Fidel Castro and Colombia's narco-terrorist guerillas. Upon release from jail, he lived in the home of his aging communist political mentor, took his second wife for the 1998 presidential campaign, but soon after his election, abandoned both, calling them traitors.

Unprepared to manage a small shop no less one of the richest petro-states in the world, Chavez ignored governance in favor of the everyday pursuit of absolute power, which has continued for ten years now. He rewrote the Constitution, centralized legislative and judicial powers in his hands, put ignorant loyalists in charge of the national oil company, demolished the private sector and independent institutions, created a personal army outfitted with $4 billion of Russian arms, and silenced dissent with threats, prosecution, confiscation or payoffs.

A brain-dead opposition in Venezuela always assumed that Chavez would disappear in days or weeks because he was not one of them: white, educated, suave and moneyed. Ten years later, some in the opposition still believe Chavez can't last a day more, even as they take his money and orders just like the occupied Europeans did under Hitler's rule in World War II.

A megalomaniacal believer in his own charms, which are considerable if crude, Chavez has become the first all-TV-all-the-time ruler in the world, spending forty hours per week (imagine it: three times as much as Wolf Blitzer) for a decade exhorting Venezuelans to do as he says. And what Chavez was saying as he pocketed a trillion dollars from oil sales since 1999 is: the ultimate enemy is the “evil empire” of the United States and its “devil” George W. Bush.

While Chavez's opportunistic anti-Americanism is an expression of his childish rage against authority, the U.S. was particularly vulnerable to his attack because its relationship with Latin America is an historic atrocity.

    -ESSAY: Terror At Hugo Chavez's Hand: The threat of collusion amongst Venezuela, Iran and Hezbollah. (Michael Rowan and Douglas E. Schoen , 01.21.09, Forbes)

    -ESSAY: Does Hugo Chavez have us over a barrel?: Venezuelans may give their president the power to restrict oil production – and cause a global recession. (Michael Rowan and Douglas Schoen, November 13, 2007, LA Times)

    -ESSAY: Every Time, Chávez Bushwhacked Bush (Michael Rowan)

    -ESSAY: The Terrorist in the $10 Gallon Hat (Michael Rowan and Doug Schoen, July 4, 2008, Huffington Post)

    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: with Douglas Schoen The Threat Closer to Home (Fox Business, 1/18/09)

    -INTERVIEW: with Douglas Schoen (Newsmax)

    -INTERVIEW: Venezuela: In Need of Regime Change (Kathryn Jean Lopez, 1/16/09, National Review)

    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: with Douglas Schoen (Thom Hartmann, 1/15/09)


-REVIEW: Latin America's socialist Ahmadinejad: a review of The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War against America By Douglas Schoen and Michael Rowan (Steven Martinovich, February 9, 2009, Enter Stage Right)

    -REVIEW: of Threat Closer to Home (MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, Wall Street Journal)

    -REVIEW: of Threat Closer to Home (Ed Lasky, American Thinker)

    -REVIEW: of Threat Closer to Home (Marc, Spinning Clio)

    -REVIEW: of Threat Closer to Home (Gustavo Coronel, Petroleum World)

    -REVIEW: of Threat Closer to Home (WJ Rayment, Conservative Monitor)

    -REVIEW: of Threat Closer to Home (

    -ARTICLE: Venezuela coup linked to Bush team: Specialists in the 'dirty wars' of the Eighties encouraged the plotters who tried to topple President Chavez (Ed Vulliamy, 4/21/02, guardian.co.uk)

    -Venezuela (CIA World Fact Book)

    -COUNTRY BRIEFINGS: Venezuela (The Economist)

    -ESSAY: Oblivious to the coming storm:
In his first decade Hugo Chávez has presided over social programmes, inflation, crime and rising intolerance. Venezuelans will pay the price in years to come (The Economist, 2/05/09)

    -ESSAY: Ten mostly wasted years:
Even if he wins his latest referendum Hugo Chávez is diminished. He may soon be desperate (The Economist, 2/05/09)

    -ESSAY: Chávez Is Weakened But Still Dangerous: Rocked by plunging oil prices and waning influence abroad, the Venezuelan president is attempting another power grab. (Jaime Daremblum, January 22, 2009 , The American)

    -ESSAY: Where has Chávez taken Venezuela?: After 10 years as president, Hugo Chávez has polarized Venezuela, but inspired its poor. (Sara Miller Llana, 2/02/09, The Christian Science Monitor)

    -ESSAY: A vote for dictatorship? (Norman Pino, February 8, 2009, Washington Times)

    -ESSAY: Closer to Home (Mona Charen, 8/01/03, Townhall)

    -ESSAY: The Yanqui Assassination of Hugo Chavez (Anthony Gancarski, 3/18/05, FrontPageMagazine.com)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2009 10:16 AM
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