Lenin once diagnosed his opponents as suffering from an infantile disorder. Who could blame President Uribe of Colombia if he came to the same conclusion about the other presidents of the South American republics?
The disorder is characterized by revolutionary romanticism, the view that anyone who takes up arms against an established government in the name of social justice must be motivated by a deep love of humanity. To believe this, it is necessary to understand neither history nor human nature. To pretend to believe it requires considerable cynicism and moral turpitude.
Colombian forces recently attacked an encampment of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) a mile on the other side of the Ecuadorian border, and in the process killed the second in command, the notorious Raul Reyes. Technically, the Colombian forces had violated Ecuadorian territory, and Colombia issued a pro forma apology in an attempt to smooth ruffled feathers. The apology, initially, was not accepted.
The strength of the condemnation of the Colombian military action by the governments of several South American countries must have surprised and alarmed the Colombian president, suggesting a high level of sympathy for the FARC, similar in form and nature to that for al-Qaeda among certain Muslim populations. Of course, most, though not all, of this sympathy is passive rather than active, but passivity is the soil in which activity ultimately grows.
The Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, a more dignified left-wing figure than his equivalent on the other side of Colombia, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, displayed his underlying sympathies by his reaction to the Colombian raid. For him, the incursion of the forces of the government of Colombia was an infringement of national sovereignty in a way in which the FARC encampment was not.
Raul Reyes and his men were not claiming asylum in Ecuador (if they had been, there might have been some substance to Correa’s complaint). On the contrary, they were using Ecuadorian territory as a military base from which to conduct operations in Colombia. Ecuador’s unwillingness or inability to expel the FARC from its territory, and its protest when Colombia did so in its place, therefore amounts to active support for the FARC. Far from Colombia having committed an aggression against Ecuador, the latter had committed an aggression against Colombia, sufficient even to constitute a casus belli — not that it would have been wise of Colombia to use it as such. Perhaps realizing the weakness of his moral, intellectual, legal, economic, and military position, Correa has since, very sensibly, decided to make up with Uribe. He is no Chavez.
The general condemnation of Colombia demonstrates the continuing emotional attachment to guerrilla activity of left-wing and populist politicians throughout South America (with Nicaragua thrown in for bad measure), despite all the disasters that such activity has brought about. One might have thought that Argentina, for example, had had enough of guerrilla activity and its consequences for the time being: but its present rulers are Peronists whose guerrilla movement in the 1970s provoked the horrible repression of the military junta, an obvious fact that is often lost sight of in accounts of that repression, which is described as if it had emerged from a clear blue sky. By tacitly supporting the guerrilla movement of another land, therefore, Peronists are absolving themselves of part of their own history. For if the FARC are noble and legitimate, then the Peronists’ own guerrilla activity was noble and legitimate, rather than criminal and stupid.