Obama's reality check

Clearly President Obama could use some better advice on Latin America. It was a mistake to initiate verbal hostilities with Venezuela at the beginning of his presidency; a mistake to continue the Bush administration's policies toward Bolivia; a mistake to think that he can ignore the call of President Lula da Silva of Brazil and other presidents for an end to the embargo on Cuba. Nothing would be easier than for this administration to break with the past and establish normal relations with the entire hemisphere, which was excited about his election and expected no less. But Obama's advisors show little interest in doing this.

Of course, the Obama administration's conservatism on foreign policy in general – including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East – reflects a political calculation that his handling of domestic economic issues will make or break his presidency, and that the safest route on foreign policy is therefore to deviate only minimally from the status quo. But when the status quo is so glaringly divorced from reality, change might be a better option.

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