October 8, 2009 | Forbes.com

Win Over Washington One Nuke At A Time

To: The Interim Government of Honduras, Attention Interim President Roberto Micheletti

From: The Hope and Change Global Consulting Service, Washington, D.C.

Re: Policy Options

Dear Interim President Micheletti,

We appreciate your predicament as a pariah of the international community, and suggest that you focus on achieving acceptance in Washington, on the presumption that if President Barack Obama engages, good things will follow. Our team has evaluated a range of options for countries seeking “mutual interest and mutual respect” from the Obama administration. In the framework of this strategic resource, we offer the following executive summary of choices for Honduras.

First, we took a look at what you actually did. Earlier this year, you and your cohorts turned to your own judicial institutions and invoked your country's constitution to protect your democracy from Hugo Chavez-style ruin by your Chavez-acolyte president, Manuel Zelaya. On June 28, you had Zelaya legally deposed. Then you made plans to proceed with presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled for Nov. 29.

What were you thinking? This approach has left your interim government unrecognized by the U.S., with American aid withheld and President Obama denouncing your actions as “not legal.” You can't even get visas to come argue your case in the U.S. Last month, the United Nations gave the Honduran speaking slot at the opening of the General Assembly to Zelaya's former foreign minister (who the U.S. still lists as the current foreign minister, even if you don't). Right now, your cachet at the White House ranks somewhere below that of the Dalai Lama and the International Olympic Committee.

If it's simply democracy you're after, we regret to inform you that you're out of step with the times, and we see no way to help. If, however, it is brute power you want, there are a number of promising options. We list a few here:

1) The Mad Mullah Method: Let us imagine, for a moment, that the interim government of Honduras, with some lightning footwork, had somehow arranged to test-fire long-range missiles, threatened to wipe a nearby country off the map, brazenly violated U.N. sanctions and been caught building a secret uranium enrichment plant hidden on a military base. Let us further suppose you'd made it standard practice to rig elections; to jail, torture and murder dissidents in large numbers; and that you'd poured resources into funding, training and equipping a number of terrorist groups with global reach and extensive experience in financial fraud, bombings, kidnappings and terrorist recruitment.

What would the U.S. administration do?

We know the answer, because Iran has done all of the above–with robust results. President Obama has declined to try to tinker with Iran's domestic politics and frowns on any military option. Just last week the U.S. sat down with Iran for talks in Geneva. And despite growing pressure in Congress, the White House keeps deferring stronger sanctions as long as there's room to extend a hand without sticking it right into a mushroom cloud.

Note that under this setup, vote-rigging at home was no bar to the Iranian president getting a visa to come to the U.N. General Assembly opening in New York. He not only came; he got a full security escort to ensure he arrived unruffled to speak in the starting lineup of visiting heads of state.

2) The Joltin' Juche Option: Let us now suppose that the interim government of Honduras had been caught counterfeiting U.S. currency, had run two illicit nuclear tests, fired off long-range missiles, shopped nuclear instructions to Syria, and been caught recently violating U.S. and U.N. sanctions by stuffing a ship with weapons bound for Iran. Let us further posit that you had imposed a system of repression on your people so total as to beggar the majority to the point of stunted starvation, and that you made a habit of dispatching any critics, along with their families, to a system of isolated prison camps where it is common to die of overwork, exposure or outright execution. Plus, American journalists caught trespassing on your turf had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in the aforementioned prison camps.

What would the U.S. do?

We have the answer to that one, too, because that's exactly what Kim Jong Il's been doing in North Korea. Sure, there would be sanctions–but your foreign minister would still get a visa to address the U.N. in New York, and you'd get to staff a mission there. The U.S. would buy into a pattern of endless rounds of high-level dialogue, alternating enticements, concessions and wrist slaps. As for any American journalists you might get a chance to jail, former U.S. President Bill Clinton would jet in to bring them home, pausing overnight in the capital to dine and pose for photos with the head of the regime (which is more than any former U.S. president has done yet for your interim government).

3) The Chavez Choice: Declare yourselves the guardians of a new popular revolution, read your Noam Chomsky, buddy up with Syria and Iran, revise the constitution to keep yourself in power as long as you like, beat up and shut down your critics en masse, and recruit American Ivy League graduates and Hollywood filmmakers to come chronicle your quest to free your people of neo-imperialist domination.

While this would basically replicate the Chavista path that Zelaya was following when you kicked him out, we urge you to note that–domestic ructions aside–it was working out pretty well for Zelaya. He continues to enjoy the approval of the U.N., the Organization of America States and of course the U.S., where the State Department continues to list him, not you, as president of Honduras.

Conclusions: Frankly, you're way behind the curve. You just don't have that messianic, radical zing that leaves U.S. policy czars aching to fist-bump you on camera. But we're confident that with a few swift moves you can begin to correct the situation.

Top priority: We recommend that you embark at speed on an illicit nuclear program, or at least give every possible sign of doing so. Place a phone call to Pakistan's nuclear comprador, A.Q. Khan, congratulating him on his release earlier this year from house arrest and inviting him to come sample Honduran night life. If you can't get through, then please, at the very least, indulge in a bit of bio-weapons research. Send a team to haggle over missiles from North Korea, and enlist a known Chinese front company to pay Pyongyang to send you a sanctions-busting weapons cargo, transshipped via Burma, to bolster the image. Set up a couple of training camps for terrorists, and invite one or two of the brand name groups to come sun themselves in view of U.S. spy satellites.

Denounce the United States as corrupt and passé. Deliver long harangues about Guantanamo Bay and the failure of capitalism (and maybe send President Obama a back-channel message that you'd like to help him out by offering citizenship, beach access and free health care to all remaining occupants of Gitmo). Beef up Tegucigalpa as an offshore banking haven, and host an intercontinental conference or two at which you can pose shoulder-to-shoulder with colorful dictators and related thugs interested in a pied-à-terre –or should we call that a pied-à-terrorist?–in America's backyard.

Announce that as a new-age guardian of indigenous culture, you are triggering a Honduran Revolution which might just require your personal services as president-for-life. Tack up some Che Guevara posters in your office. Better yet, start building large statues of yourself all over Tegucigalpa. Appeal to the U.N. Human Rights Council to support your struggle against neo-colonialism, xenophobia and climate change. Invite U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to pack his scuba gear and come inspect the sea level along your coast; accompany that invitation with demands for billions in climate reparations from the U.S., the European Union and Japan. While you're at it, demand more billions in colonial reparations from Spain for the incursions kicked off by Christopher Columbus in the 16th century.

Postpone that November election, and keep postponing it, preferably in rolling six-month increments. If Washington makes a fuss, demand that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton present you with your own reset button. If she fails to comply, denounce it as a racist North-North conspiracy, given that Russia got one and you didn't.

If you feel you must hold an election, rig it and consider inviting Jimmy Carter to approve the results. (Although we do caution that with all that time he's clocked shaking hands in places like Caracas, Damascus and Gaza, he might see right through your act, and realize you're not nearly anti-American enough for his taste.)

In sum, given your late start and tedious obsession with constitutional democracy, we can't promise that our advice will instantly have the U.S. administration eating out of your hand. But there's a good chance that before long, President Obama will be shaking it.

Claudia Rosett, a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for Forbes.

Read in Forbes.com


International Organizations Iran