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Although recent events have focused the presidential primary debates on the economy, it's important to remember that national security is important too. It's a dangerous world out there and there are some foreign national leaders who will represent a serious challenge for our next president.
Close to home we have Venezuela's president Hugo Chvez. Chvez harbored anti-American feelings for years before being elected that country's president. That's the impression I got from reading "Hugo Chvez," an updated English version of the original "Hugo Chvez Sin Uniforme" (Hugo Chvez Without Uniform), written by Venezuelan journalists Cristina Marcano and Alberto Barrera Tyszka. The original was published in 2004 and the English version brings the story up to date as of late 2006. This hostility predates the failed 2002 coup against him which he, with some justification, blamed the Bush administration for aiding. An antipathy toward the United States showed up almost as soon as he took office.
Chvez has big ideas. He wants to fulfill Sim?ol?r's goal of uniting all of South America under one ruler. He, of course, would be that ruler.
He's had some setbacks. Chvez's effort to amend the Venezuelan constitution to eliminate presidential term limits, he's currently limited to two consecutive terms, failed last December. Things haven't been going well for some of his efforts to extend his influence throughout the continent. Evo Morales, the Chvez think-alike president of Bolivia, has encountered stiff opposition in his efforts to consolidate his power.
Nevertheless, Chvez needs to be taken seriously. When his referendum failed, he conceded defeat by saying "For now, we couldn't." He seems to have chosen his words to deliberately echo the phrase he used after his failed military coup, on Feb. 2, 1992, to overthrow Venezuela's government. Like the Terminator, Chvez was promising that he would be back.
As an officer in Venezuela's army, Lt. Col. Chvez would have probably been a good battlefield commander. His past behavior indicates that he's not the sort to launch an all-out assault against impossible odds. Chvez understands, and practices, the concept of making a strategic retreat.
When his 1992 coup started coming apart, Chvez surrendered to authorities rather than fight to the death. He survived and was able to find another route into Venezuela's presidential palace. When he, in turn, was faced with a coup in 2002, he surrendered rather than fighting a civil war, playing for time until the whole thing fell apart in a few days.
He is doing the same thing in the wake of his electoral defeat last year. Chvez's ability to avoid catastrophic defeats is what makes him dangerous.
It's interesting to note that Chvez has an opinion about who he would like to see become our next president.
I just finished reading a book called "Hugo!" written by a journalist named Bart Jones, published last summer. From the tone of the book, Jones appears to be a denizen of America's extreme left. He's also a big Chvez fan. As part of his work to gather information for the book, he conducted a few extensive face-to-face interviews with Chvez at the end of April in 2007. At the end of his last interview, according to the book, Chvez said that he would like to see Barak Obama elected president. Chvez said that Obama would be a U. S. president he could talk to.
The book didn't elaborate on what Chvez meant when he said he would be able to talk to Obama. Maybe he thinks he sees a kindred left-wing spirit in Obama. Maybe he simply thinks Obama would have a naive foreign policy that he could exploit. Whatever Chvez meant, I'm sure this is one endorsement you won't find on Obama's Web site.
One thing is certain. We need to look beyond domestic economic concerns when we chose our next president. There are foreign leaders who will gladly take advantage of a clumsy American foreign policy.