Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Curmudgeon, having noted Lula’s visit to the Middle East, wondered what he was doing. The answer has come out of the Brazilian Foreign Office: he intends to succeed where the US has failed, i.e. make peace happen.
What Hubris! The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has failed? Well, yes he has. Obama has convinced no one that he has any gumption at all, because the needed gumption has to do with US politics. Just as the Republican Party “needs” the support of anti-Castrist South Floridians, the Democratic Party cannot break its dependence upon Jewish support. Bibi Netanyahu proved this by his diplomatic slap in the face to Joe Biden, confirmed by Hillary’s abject groveling afterward.
Enter, stage left: “the Man!” Lula sat down with the Mideast leaders and dealt with them as equals, not as people to be criticized or coddled, but as someone whose own national interest lies in a peaceful settlement in the region. Brazil has significant Jewish and Arab populations, growing commercial ties with all countries (including Iran) involved in the puzzle. It has no nuclear weapons, nor vast armies occupying space near these countries. Not bad for starters.
Will he succeed? The Honduras intervention, Lula’s first real sortie into international diplomacy, did not end well. After a start where he successfully managed to push Chavez, the Organization of American States (OAS) and a Nobel Peace Prize winner out of the limelight, he eventually made way for the Big Dog. Brazil’s ongoing campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council is yet another endeavor that will not end well, largely because of opposition from the Big Dog and its puppy.
Undaunted, Lula presses for diplomacy with Iran rather than ostracism, reaffirms Brazil’s lead role in Haiti, imposes trade sanctions on the US and curries favor with Sarkozy. None of these efforts, it must be admitted, has produced any positive results, except having emphasized Brazil’s non-aligned status.
Can he succeed? His background was being a labor negotiator, facing up to foreign behemoths such as GM and VW. In politics, his first success resulted from his ability to herd squabbling groups of cats within PT to lead them out of the CUT wilderness. His second success has been to herd an unlikely coalition of mutually antagonistic parties in Brazil into preserving serious economic policies and increasing social welfare programs. Not bad for starters.
What will be his reward, even if just for trying? One now mentioned, albeit in stage whispers, is becoming UN Secretary General. Being non-aligned is essential and he’s developed the credentials for that; however, Secretary Generals are chosen from non-aligned countries that have no international economic clout, which is not Brazil’s case today. FHC lobbied for the job and would doubtless have been good at it, but failed principally for that reason.
The most likely reward is…being elected President of Brazil in 2014! Campaigning during the World Cup and being President during the 2016 Olympics, both of which his diplomacy made happen! He needs a placeholder President for the next four years, and Dilma (never elected to any public office and hoisted from obscurity by Lula, hence grateful) fills the bill magnificently.