Ryan Ford ’09 has “A Prescription for Cooperation in the Americas“. One easy way to tell that this column began life as a paper for a Williams Political Science class (perhaps PSCI 202 with Professor Darel Paul) is that it uses the phrase “U.S. hegemony in the region” in the first sentence. Ford writes:

[President] Chavez has clearly demonstrated that the nations of Latin America are no longer willing to accept a subordinate role in the decision-making processes of the hemisphere, and he has fervently declared his dislike of “U.S. imperialism.” They have accepted democracy internally as promulgated by the United States, and they likewise want to be treated to democratic interactions between nations on the transnational level. If President Bush ever wants to see his Free Trade Area for Americas accepted and realized, he will have to learn to listen to and accept the input of Latin American states.

The essay is passable, but as with Kenny Yim’s, it lacks any sort of clear thesis. What point is Ford trying to make? One problem with not having a thesis is that it makes it much more difficult for the reader to contextualize the seemingly random assertions that Ford sprinkles throughout the piece. For example, why is it that Bush (or any American President) “will have to learn to listen to and accept the input” of folks like Chavez? Are they going to make nasty faces at him of he doesn’t? The whole beauty of being a hegemon is that, for the most part, you don’t really “have to” do anything. If you did, then your hegemony would be of a poor and pathetic kind.

Free trade is a perfect example. Although the US would like to include all the countries in the Americas, no one is going to worry too much if a thug like Chavez doesn’t want to play. For the most part, the US can just present each of the countries in the region with the same sort of choice that it gave to Mexico and then to Chile and then to countries like El Salvador. They can either trade more with us and grow rich or stay isolated and poor. Sure, they have a choice, but it is always within the frameword of the “neo-liberal rhetoric and program” that Ford seems to decry. (Again, it is hard from the essay to know if he is for or against more trade.)

The best summary of Ford’s view comes at the end:

[I]n order to gain acceptance for agreements like the FTAA, Bush must carefully design it in a way that incorporates Latin American feelings and keeps the interests of all nations in the hemisphere at heart. Not acting like a regional hegemony but supporting increased democratic consultation and consensus building is the best way for the United States to preserve the “democratic peace” of the Western hemisphere and continue to realize its interests, both political and economic, in Latin America.

The only problem with the first claim is that it just isn’t true. Although any trade negotiation involves some give-and-take, there is no doubt that the US does very little giving. In particular, increased free trade is all about shoving the Washington Consensus and Globalization down the throat of every poor country in the region.

Again, I don’t want to be too critical of Ford. Goodness knows that I could use a thesis statement every now and again. But too few writers, even Eph writers, take the time to make clear to their readers the point that they are trying to make and how all the supplied arguments support that point.

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