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Peace at what price?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 10:43
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In an editorial yesterday the editorial board of the New York Sun wrote,

Congratulations are in order for the people of Colombia, who, in a democratic referendum, have rejected the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces known as FARC. The vote is a rejection of a compromise with a nihilistic Marxist movement whose entry into peace talks was one of the most cynical maneuvers in the history of the Americas. Yet the resulting compact was hailed by nearly every liberal paper and politician in the world (including Hillary Clinton), only to be brought up short by a people who turned out to be smarter than the elites who rule them.

What makes this moment so newsworthy is not only the situation in Colombia itself (it would be better, after all, to fight the war for another 50 years if that is the price of freedom). What’s of wider importance is the echo of events across the globe in which people are starting to assert themselves. This happened most famously in Britain, where despite a string of polls predicting defeat and the opposition of the liberal press and broadcasters, Britons voted unambiguously to leave the European Union and stand for their own sovereign independence.

Nearly all the polls in Colombia were predicting the peace pact with FARC would pass. Nearly all the press – except for la pasionara of anti-communism, Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal – fell for it. Ms. O’Grady, a shoe-leather reporter whose head is of legendary hardness, grasped that the government had poured billions of pesos into a propaganda campaign in advance of the referendum. It urged Colombians to say yes to a peace that they knew was wrong. The president said that a no vote would mean the country was going to war.

It turns out that the courageous Colombians were prepared to risk war over a false peace. President Santos had vowed that in any deal there would be no impunity for war crimes and that FARC would be required to make reparations. Yet neither of those promises were kept in the deal presented to voters. The enemy was allowed five years of negotiations while holding child soldiers and girls kept as sex slaves. The idea of lustration, like the war crimes trials we held at Nuremberg, appears to have been laid aside as if none of the crimes mattered, as if all were morally equivalent.

We would like to think that the vote in Colombia will be digested in our own election. Ms. O’Grady, in a column at late September, called the referendum “a trap for Colombians.” But it also snared President Obama, indeed it served as a kind of capstone to what Ms. O’Grady called his Latin American “trifecta.” She included the agreement with the Castros’ communist regime Mr. Obama reached in 2014, since which, she noted, repression has spiked and “Havana has become bolder in its joint activities with dangerous states like North Korea.” Plus the catastrophe in Venezuela, whose late tyrant, Hugo Chavez, Mr. Obama courted.

One would have thought that if Mrs. Clinton were a sage state secretary, she would have seen through the farce with FARC. In August, ahead of the referendum, she not only endorsed the deal but started telling the Colombians what they “must” do, namely turn the agreement into a just and lasting peace. She said she was proud of American diplomats for their supportive role “at every step along the way.” It reminds us of her endorsement of the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran, which turned out to be opposed by majorities in both houses of Congress.

Colombia has, in addition to all else, given an opportunity for Donald Trump to draw a contrast between the Democratic nominee and himself. Our own election is, after all, at least in part about being savvy in international relations and a test of the American ability to stand apart. “If ‘no’ wins, we won’t have peace, but at least we won’t give the country away to the guerrillas,” is how a 32-year-old Colombian music teacher named Roosevelt Pulgarin, who voted against the deal, put it to the New York Times. “We need better negotiations.” What a sentiment for the nominee of the Republican Party whose most famous president said that one can’t fool all of the people all of the time.


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