Brazil might not be perfect, but their recent elections provide a chance at political recalibration in Latin America. Washington shouldn’t miss such an opportunity.
Peter Beinart recently wrote a bizarre article in The Atlantic, which blamed the rise of right-wing populists across the world as a reaction to feminism and women’s rights. The central thesis of the essay is so patently absurd, it barely needs any refutation. It is the type of social science garbage you can find in any sociology or gender studies paper.
For example, Beinart cites Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M University with an insane claim bereft of any evidence stating that the history of humanity is men agreeing to be ruled by other men in return for all men ruling over women. This is, of course, politically, biologically, and historically absurd, as no such global understanding existed at any point of history. Humanity rarely evolved in a similar fashion all over the globe — otherwise there wouldn’t be Valerie Hudson teaching at a university, and Texas would have looked like Islamic State-controlled Raqqa, in Syria.
Beinart takes his argument to its logical extreme, cherry-picking quotes and tying it up with populist movements across the world, hinting that all populism is inherently misogynist. Beinart never seeks to explain why Germany’s right-wing AFD is currently ruled by Alice Weidel––a lesbian former Goldman Sachs banker––who has a Sinhalese partner and has rallied her country against mass Islamic immigration, or that the significant majority of supporters of Swedish, Danish, and Finnish right-wing parties are female, increasingly afraid of rising sexual assaults and street crimes. I could carry on, but for a terrific takedown, please read my colleague here.
The Paranoid Punditry’s Misunderstanding of Bolsonaro
The current liberal punditry is visibly paranoid dealing with the rise of the new administration in Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro. That seems weird, given the Washington Post’s relentless support for a deceased former Muslim Brotherhood member, and (arguably) a Qatari asset, or the Obama-era media worship of Iran.
Beinart’s overall claim is that Bolsonaro is a sexist dinosaur, and his supporters shout that they would feed dog food to feminists. You can see where the hint is. After all, in Beinart’s mind there has been ongoing resistance against another hardline sexist and his foul-mouthed supporters, from the rebel-held bastions of New York and California. One search in Google would give you hundreds of articles in near similar wordings, talking about how Bolsonaro is racist, sexist, xenophobe, far-right hardline evangelical, and overall a monster who is one signature away from opening concentration camps for LGBT and transgender people.
Of course that is not true, and Beinart backtracks quickly in the same article. “Despite his history of anti-black comments, preelection polls showed Bolsonaro winning among black and mixed-race Brazilians.” In short, Beinart and his ilk failed to understand the reason of Bolsonaro’s popularity in Brazil, just as they miscalculated why Trump won despite his linguistic challenge, or why Brexit happened, or why conservatives are sweeping across Europe, the Philippines, and India. For liberal media personalities in a bubble getting their political analysis from liberal academics in a bubble, there’s always a simpleton answer to complicated realities.
Bolsonaro’s Election Is an Opportunity
The reality is that Brazil offers the U.S. government a new opportunity to right some historic wrongs, providing us with geopolitical opportunities that will probably not come again in generations. Bolsonaro is, to say the least, a crass individual who speaks in ways that would be a taboo in civilized circles in any English-speaking country.
But in the greater scheme of things, Bolsonaro’s Brazil is no worse than Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or China, and the West has strategic or economic ties with all of those countries. Bolsonaro’s rise wasn’t prompted by xenophobia or sexism, as Beinart’s all-explaining narrative suggests, but a simple reaction to incomparable socialist corruption and crime.
The former two socialist leaders of Brazil were jailed and impeached, respectively. In one year, there were more than 61,000 homicides. Consider the numbers for a moment. The entire capacity of a mid-level football stadium wiped off every year by drug gangs. Added to that is the regular neo-Marxist claptrap that is slowly changing Brazilian society from within. For example, Brazil’s foreign minister recently wrote for the conservative audience in the Anglosphere,
At the same time, a left-wing agenda quickly took over Brazilian society. The promotion of gender ideology; the artificial stoking of race tensions; the displacement of parents by the government as the provider of ‘values’ to children; the infiltration of the media … the dislocation of the ‘center’ of public debate very far to the left; the misdirection of the arts through the allocation of public cultural financing; and so on—these were the results of the new government’s policies.
Dominance was thus established over the political institutions, over the economy, and over the culture: a thoroughly totalitarian enterprise. It seemed indestructible. The system only admitted debate about how best to implement itself. There was some debate on privatization, but it never went anywhere near the core of the corruption mechanism.
Opening Up Markets and Cracking Down on Gangs
Bolsonaro’s new Brazilian government is, therefore, a new opportunity for DC. Within days, Brazil offered to open its gigantic markets to American companies. But it is in foreign policy where we might really be able to forge a solid future.
Brazil has kicked out Cuban doctors, formed a conservative coalition with Israel, vowed to curb drug gangs (which are wreaking havoc in Central America and fueling the mass migration up north), promised to recognize Israel’s capital in Jerusalem, and, most importantly, are willing to offer us an American military base in Brazil.
The last point is contentious, and the American military simply doesn’t need a base in Latin America. The entire continent is well within American reach, and a new American base might stoke regional left-wing protests and memories of the ‘60s military governments. But it is the offer that counts.
Brazil is the biggest power in the region, with a solid industrial base; a huge market for American industries, companies, and products; a strong, well-armed, and powerful military; and an open intention to take the lead in forming a conservative, free market coalition in the region, alongside Colombia and United States, to form a counterbalance to rogue authoritarian states like Venezuela and Cuba.
Brazil’s military, under American guidance, could also pacify the drug gangs in the region, as well as be a useful ally during the inevitable implosion of Venezuela, just as China and Russia are planning to form bases in the region. As for Beinart and his ilk, and their laughable understanding of geopolitics, or their lament that Bolsonaro has finally swore to get rid of socialism, they are best ignored. Their record in understanding the direction of the world since 2016 speaks for itself.
Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK, and a writer for The Federalist. His research is in great power-politics and neorealism. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.