Pressure on Honduras May Lead to Zelaya's Return

An October 17 article by James A. Baker III, former U.S. Secretary of State (1989 - 1992) published in the Washington Post argued that the Honduran interpretation of the Honduran Constitution should prevail, that the November elections should be monitored, that assistance should be provided in ensuring that they are fair and in accordance with Honduran law, and that if they meet those conditions they should be recognized internationally. This position may be gaining some traction in Washington; how much is unclear. If the elections are fair and in accordance with Honduran law but are nevertheless not recognized, the crisis will continue indefinitely, as seems obvious.

It also seems obvious that if Zelaya remains in Honduras, and his supporters continue to be encouraged by outsiders who despise the Honduran Constitution and Honduran law, they are likely to become a sad farce. Pro-Zelaya demonstrators, already amply encouraged, can easily produce such a result despite the best and most honorable intentions of the Honduran Government.

The method by which constitutional interpretations and revisions are made is, and should be, an internal matter. Whether President Obama, President Chávez, or President Arias of Costa Rica like the Honduran Constitution or think it "the worst in the world" and in need of revision to suit their fancies, should be unimportant.

Unfortunately, they have the power to enforce their will -- even though opposition to Zelaya is overwhelming in Honduras. According to an article in the Miami Herald, Zelaya's backers "have yet to mobilize in the kind of numbers required to force change."

Honduras is also becoming a left-right issue in the United States.

The crisis has become a challenge for the administration of President Barack Obama, who has faced vocal criticism from some Republicans in Congress for supporting Zelaya, a leader distrusted by conservatives because of his friendship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

The sole predicate for the Obama administration position on the unconstitutionality and illegality of the "coup" in Honduras appears to be set forth in a study by Harold Koh, chief legal counsel to the State Department. The administration has consistently refused to make a copy of Mr. Koh's study available for analysis by others on the pretext that it is a "privileged communication." After more than three months, it doesn't seem too much to expect that the Obama administration might have come up with some public, and arguably cogent explanation for its position on Honduras. It has not tried or, if it has tried, has been unable to articulate one.

Here is an April 18, 2009 article from Newsweek urging the confirmation of Mr. Koh as chief legal counsel to the State Department. In closing, it opines:

[C]onservatives have a point that Koh and the other "transnationalists" are using their legal theories to advance a political agenda. The international legal norms they wish to inject into American law by and large reflect the values of Social Democratic Europe and liberal American academics. Koh is not suggesting, for instance, that American judges adapt Islamic law that discriminates against women. Koh's writings -- especially when exaggerated -- will add to charges from the right that Obama is a closet socialist. The president may have to answer whether he agrees with Koh's more provocative views.

Perhaps release of Mr. Koh's study declaiming the unconstitutionality and illegality of Zelaya's ouster would throw some light on the administration's position, not only as to Honduras but as to other issues as well. Israel is another place where it is becoming clear that far from a "man of steel," President Obama is a man of rubber. Without access to the Koh memo, one can only speculate about what "international legal norms," as distinguished from the Constitution and laws of Honduras and other countries, may have illuminated his -- and the Obama administration's -- thinking.

Such insights are not permitted for mere congresscritters or members of the public. Who knows what light they might throw on other Obama appointees? Or on the Obama administration itself? Aside from voting for President Obama, the people of the United States have provided no justification for being "mushroomed" -- kept in the dark and fed a steady diet of manure.