Our Man in La Paz?

I learned a couple interesting things from this Latin American Herald piece on U.S.-Bolivian relations. The first is that Philip Goldberg, the former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia who was kicked out for allegedly spying, was since nominated by President Barack Obama as assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research. Independent of the merits of the charges against Goldberg, that’s kind of funny, no?

The other thing I learned is that the negotiations toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Bolivia are progressing well enough for Bolivian Evo Morales to adopt a relatively conciliatory tone. That’s good news, as far as I’m concerned, because there’s no excuse for us to be beaten out in South America by Russia, Iran and China. I’ve read a lot of hawkish assessments of those countries’ presence in Latin America, but the truth is, we should beat them hands down, troubled historical legacy and all.

All told, I’m impressed with the Obama administration’s Western Hemisphere diplomacy so far. Re-establishing relations with Venezuela was a good move. Although I had my reservations about the handling of the Honduras crisis (more in theory than in practice), that’s a time-bounded problem, given the expiration date represented by the upcoming elections. And sometimes it’s best to be on board with the consensus than to be theoretically correct, especially when there’s not much at stake one way or the other. Cuba will be a more gradual shift, but eventually the embargo will be overtaken by history, from one side or the other.

On a related note, for all the surface appearances of not much going on in the way of foreign policy accomplishments, I’ve got a hunch that Obama might be quietly lining up some slow-moving pieces for a pretty good 2010. In a lot of ways he’s being judged by the very difficulty of resolving the big-ticket items (Afghanistan, Iran, Israel-Palestine). But I get the feeling, as illustrated by this article, that there’s a slow but steady current moving beneath the “still waters.”

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