Friday, September 07, 2007

A South Of The Border Success Story

This takes you to a recent story on the expansion of the Panama Canal, attended by Jimmy Carter and Panamanian president Martin Torrijos. Today also marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the so-called Panama Canal Treaty which took place in the Carter administration.

Yes, I’ve heard the argument too; we built it when other countries tried and couldn’t pull it off, including France, and yes, that is an accomplishment for which we should be proud. However, since the canal isn’t located in this country, we were perceived as occupiers (and it isn’t like we haven’t intervened in Central and South America enough as it is over time). Besides, during the off-again, on-again negotiations over transferring ownership of the canal, we had every opportunity to secure trade advantages for ourselves (which, again, is fair because we built it), so it’s not as if Carter gave it away for nothing. However, I’m sure Carter's alleged "failure" here will live on forever as a freeper talking point.

Besides, Wikipedia notes the following here…

There were fears that efficiency and maintenance would suffer following the U.S. withdrawal; however, this does not appear to be the case, and the canal's efficiency appears to be improving under Panamanian control.
If you don’t trust Wikipedia here, then I would suggest that you check the March 2004 issue of The Smithsonian that makes this observation and is cited in the article.

Negotiating the treaty is something for which Carter will not receive due credit, I’m afraid. It showed a willingness to respect the sovereignty of another nation and not force our will upon it for economic gain, but instead “share the wealth” (though the revelation that Panama's dictator Omar Torrijos was ready to blow it up if an accord was not signed is disturbing, I'll admit).

The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should have learned the lesson Carter emparted long ago, particularly involving a country with a name two letters short of that where the canal is located.

Update 9/10: I went back to check "The Unfinished Presidency" by Douglas Brinkley about Jimmy Carter for more information, and I found this quote from Carter (pg. 281)...

"Ten years ago (1977), Omar Torrijos and I worked to build a new partnership between Panama and the United States based on mutual respect and new Canal Treaties," Carter said at the press conference right after he got off the plane (arriving in Panama on May 5th, 1987 to monitor the election that ended up removing Manuel Noriega). "Torrijos (killed in a 1981 helicopter crash) told me that the fulfillment of Panama's aspirations for national sovereignty was a first step toward better relations between our two countries (referring to the canal treaties). The second step, he said, would be the fulfillment of Panama's aspirations for democracy. I have come with the hope of seeing Torrijos' second promise fulfilled."
Ultimately, the election did serve that purpose. See, Democrats generally believe that democracy can be mentored through human aid (food, medicine, etc.) and encouraging democratic reforms. Republicans generally believe that this can be accomplished by demolishing countries and rebuilding after the rubble has been cleared, and history teaches us who is right and who is wrong.


PoliShifter said...

I am generally surprised and glad that the U.S. let Panama have the canal back. I didn't think it would last. The U.S. has a pretty bad history of not honoring treaties especially when it comes to Native Americans and treaties with third world countries.

doomsy said...

Fortunately for us, Dubya wasn't president at the time, or else he would have just blown the country to bits and annex the canal outright...thanks.