Editorials: Nito’s foreign policy, and Joe’s

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo and US Southern Command commander General Laura J. Richardson. Some of the controversy about this meeting is driven by stereotypes derived from history, but surely there are mutual concerns as well as US concerns being imposed on Panama. No transcript of their conversation is published nor expected to be. Photo by the Presidencia.

Nito and his delegations in the USA and elsewhere

Nito Cortizo really isn’t the sort of man to speak uncomfortable truths to powerful people in public setttings.

He’s not the sort of guy to be seen embracing the US-imposed pretender Juan Guaidó as a peer. Nor is he one to recall to the press that Venezuela is a sister Bolivarian republic, a natural ally that is stuck under both wretched leadership and intense US pressure, nor recall in public what Venezuela did when it was Panama being strangled and about to be invaded.

The Panamanian president held his tongue about the exclusions of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba that led other Latin American and Caribbean countries to downgrade their delegations to the Summit of the America or to skip the gathering altogether. He attended and allowed Joe Biden to save that little bit of face. Meanwhile, however, a delegation of Panamanian legislators went to Havana and met with their Cuban counterparts, a statement that Panama is taking orders from neither Republican exiles in Miami nor a Democrat in the White House with respect to Panama’s sovereign relationship with Cuba. And in the run-up to the gathering in Los Angeles, was Joe playing up to neocon advisors and their Cold War II with respect to China hopes with talk of Sino-American rivalry in the Americas? Nito was talking about an upcoming Panama-China free trade deal.

Nito went to the USA hoping for loosening of the trade agreement with the United States to favor a bit of Panamanian agricultural protection. He’s been for that all along. Did he get any of that. We’ll find out soon enough, but the whole summit raised widespread suspicion of transactional politics, of something like an old Portobelo trade fair moved in time, place and subject matter. Reinforcing that appearance would serve neither Mr. Cortizo nor Mr. Biden.

We got a sketchy hemispheric agreement on migration — a problem created in great part by US policies in our region and a political time bomb up north due to racism in US society. Nito didn’t go pointing any fingers about that. The US War on Drugs, which has for been imposed on the Americas to nobody’s benefit other than those who make military gear and who build or run prisons, was not much discussed. At least Joe had the sense not to declare victory.

In the side shows to the summit, National Police chief Dornheim spoke with US and international colleagues about this remnant of a once US-allied paramilitary death squad, now both the international Clan del Golfo drug cartel and the AGC death squads within Colombia. These vicious thugs have allied with creepy Panamanian street gangs AND movers and shakers in the Panamanian political caste, plus have infiltrated our courts, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices. So, how to deal with this grave threat to Panamanian national security without this country becoming a protectorate of the United States? It’s a tricky game, but there is a confluence of interests. They’re not going to show their cards to the enemy, but let’s hope that the United States and Panama have made some solid and mutually beneficial action plans.

Cortizo’s foreign policy is cautious to the point of banal, at a time when things like neoliberal economics are discredited and the situation of the Western Alliance is in flux. It’s a great time for Panama to be as non-aligned as Omar Torrijos professed to be, but the possibilities are limited — as they were back then. Best for Panama to look to its neighbors, behind the scenes rolling its eyes at some of them, and strike up some more solid friendships with some of the emerging forces. Without reference to the United States, Panama has mutual interests with other countries in our region and ought to explore these via bilateral talks.

Joe Biden was all smiles at the Summit of the Americas, which was mostly a dud. White House photo.

When will the US electorate allow a
decent and realistic foreign policy?

So many of the leading “thinkers” in US society, certainly in the Republican Party, never learned another language or culture or the tenets of anyone else’s religion, but way back when, in their formative years, it seems that they read things like “Looking Out for Number One” and “Winning Through Intimidation.” Cruelty is cool and bullying is all the rage, for which assault rifles become important tools for these people. They couldn’t find Bolivia or Belarus on the map, but they think that the United States ought to dictate what those countries do.

So Joe Biden started out his presidency as a peacemaker amidst chaos, ending US participation in an Afghan War that could never end neatly and civilly so that everyone lives happily ever after. He did what had to be done, it was a mess not of his making, and the sad thing was that too many of the antiwar Democrats — most of whom did not support him in the primaries — hesitated to state a “Take the political hit, and we will take it with you, Joe” attitude. The solidarity movements and stop the wars folks who did not support Joe Biden as the flak came his way for pulling out of Afghanistan ought to be terribly embarrassed.

Did Donald Trump’s big hero, Vladimir Putin, see weakness in Biden’s poll numbers and decide to make his move in a bad situation that the Obama – Biden administration did so much to create via sponsorship of a 2014 coup in Kyiv? Seems that this is exactly what Putin did, with all the audacity of calling Ukraine’s elected Jewish president a Nazi and boasts about restoring Russia’s past imperial glory.

So not by choice, and taking measured if decisive steps, Biden became something of a war president, along with various allies in and outside of NATO arming Ukrainians’ fervent desire to have their own sovereign country.

Putin ought to be embarrassed because one can’t long stay leader of Russia in light of his armies’ poor performance and his country’s alienation from the rest of the world. Those US politicians who joined with Putin in piling on the Ukrainians — and those American “anti-imperialists” who found reasons to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine — ought to be embarrassed, but most of all ought to be defeated by the US electorate. Most US voters actually don’t see bullying as God’s plan for how people and nations ought to relate to one another. Moreover, most would see a person’s combination of End Times religion and politics plus an arsenal of military-style weapons to be a clear and present threat to public safety.

As Joe Biden tiptoes between the surrender of a European country to a bullying neighbor and going overboard into mushroom cloud times we witness great skill and pragmatism. Watch Proud Boys sneer and listen to Jimmy Dore whine and that alone kind of tells you that on this Joe is doing the right things.

What really needs to happen, however, is a realistic understanding and declaration of the present state of the world and a wise look into a desired future for the United States in it. This is not the Woodrow Wilson era when Democratic policy toward the Americas was gunboat diplomacy. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Josef Stalin and Winston Churchill all died long ago. Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy are likewise among the departed.

Long before the USA became an imperial power, it was US policy to avoid as much as possible any one power coming to dominate either the Eurasian land mass or world maritime routes, so as to be in a position to shut down American navigation and foreign trade. Really, this policy came out of the American Revolution against the constraints that London imposed through its Navigation Acts.

It’s still a wise cornerstone of US foreign policy, and need not be taken to such extremes as to go to war with China. In fact, once this Ukraine fiasco and Putin’s strutting imperialism have run their courses, it would be a good basis for the United States of America and the Russian Federation to forge some more friendly new relationships.

The prerequisite, however, is to come clean with the American people. The age of exaggerated imperial power is over. The world can’t be run from a situation room under the White House. Can the voters take that? Would they stand for it? Or is it like an ancient Greek tragedy, in which a great nation has been driven mad as it is about to be destroyed?


All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more — and no less — heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century; and the labor organizers, Freedom Riders, Stonewall demonstrators, and environmentalists of the 20th century.

Tammy Baldwin

Bear in mind…

     You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.

Thích Nhất Hạnh     

     Do not whine… Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.

Joan Didion     

     Make glorious, amazing mistakes.

Neil Gaiman     



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