Editorials: Panama’s neutrality defense; and VP picks

These are hellburners in one of the naval battles of the Reformation. Fire ships — originally burning vessels directed at an enemy ship to set it afire — go back to the ancient Greeks as far as we know, and probably before that to the dawn of naval warfare. With the importation of explosives from China starting in about the 10th century AD, the fireship was revolutionized into a floating bomb to kill and destroy with a blast, shrapnel and flaming debris. Perhaps the best known of these was a huge fire ship used in the siege of Antwerp. In modern times we had the suicide launch that al Qaeda used against the USS Cole. Panama Canal defenders surely must think about biological, chemical, nuclear or electronic varieties of fire ships. If Panama goes making enemies in the world, we have a uniquely vulnerable principal industry.

Panama is not well defended when it
takes sides in regional or world conflicts

So how does the relatively tiny Panama defend itself in world of great power rivalries and asymmetrical warfare by which great powers are frequently defeated?

We have the 1977 Permanent Neutrality Treaty that on its face allows the United States and other signatory parties to militarily intervene in order to keep the canal open. The way Washington has twisted it, the word “neutrality” means nothing, and the stricture against intervention in Panama’s internal affairs is likewise disregarded. It’s about Panama being a US protectorate of sorts.

The original sense of it, however, is that Panama stays neutral. It means that the canal is open for everyone without regard to global political alignments, so that nobody has a reason to attack it.

The Martinelli administration took a dangerous detour with its security alliance with Israel. That included photos of Israeli trainers flaunting anti-Arab stereotypes in the training of Panamanian presidential guards, and the use of Israeli surveillance technology against Panamanians and Americans. In a spectacularly stupid and ultimately unsuccessful legal action, Martinelli himself as much as admitted that a known or believed Israeli connection could attract attackers to the canal.

So, should Panama be seen to align itself with Israel against the Palestinians? Or with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in thier Sunni jihad against Yemen and the Shiite branch of Islam generally?

Or, if Latin America is to be split into left and right blocs as US neoconservatives would like, should Panama line up against Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Uruguay, Suriname and Venezuela?

Panama should avoid such alignments because they might give some country or organization a motive to attack the Panama Canal, or at least lower inhibitions against such a thing.



At a glance, rating the VP picks

In a seven-way presidential race at a time of great public disillusionment and battered democratic institutions, perhaps vice presidential nominees will matter more than they usually do. Perhaps on the campaign trail some of the apparently dismal ones will rise and shine, and some of the apparently brilliant ones will fade and fall. But to the editor, this is how the VP picks – apart from all the other factors in making a choice – look at the outset, in this order. A vice president needs to be ready to step up to the presidency in an instant if fate calls and it’s that, not some identity that might grab some segment of the vote, that matters.

Ricardo Lombana – Guillermo Márquez Amado: SERIOUS
José Isabel Blandón – Nilda Quijano: SERIOUS
Saúl Méndez – Maribel Gordón: SERIOUS
Ana Matilde Gómez – Jorge Arango: THE USUAL
Marco Ameglio – Mario Boyd Galindo: THE USUAL
Rómulo Roux – Luis Casís: NOT SERIOUS
Nito Cortizo – José Gabriel Carrizo: NOT SERIOUS



Bear in mind…

All phone calls are obscene.
Karen Elizabeth Gordon
Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.

Ann Landers

For peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from the force of character.
Baruch Spinoza
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