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Why Not Seal Team 6?

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One need not think that Julian Assange is a heroic (or even particularly admirable) figure to agree that this Washington Post editorial (cited by Henry Farrell) is deeply perfidious:

There is one potential check on Mr. Correa’s ambitions. The U.S. “empire” he professes to despise happens to grant Ecuador (which uses the dollar as its currency) special trade preferences that allow it to export many goods duty-free. A full third of Ecuadoran foreign sales ($10 billion in 2011) go to the United States, supporting some 400,000 jobs in a country of 14 million people. Those preferences come up for renewal by Congress early next year. If Mr. Correa seeks to appoint himself America’s chief Latin American enemy and Julian Assange’s protector between now and then, it’s not hard to imagine the outcome. 

So on the one hand, the Washington Post believes that the notion that the US has an ‘empire’ is self-evidently ridiculous. On the other hand, it suggests that if Ecuador is impertinent enough to host an individual whom the US doesn’t like (but would have a hard time pressing charges against), it should and will express its displeasure by crippling Ecuador’s economy and threatening the livelihood of 400,000 of its citizens. These few sentences are rather useful, despite themselves, in talking to the nature of the American imperium, the doublethink that maintains it, and the usefulness of providing/withholding market access as a means of imperial coercion.

I can’t see how arresting Julian Assange is worth the bones of a single, inflation adjusted Pomeranian grenadier, much less the exacerbation of poverty and misery in a more or less friendly South American country. And while Luis Posada Carriles continues to walk free in Miami, the legitimacy of U.S. dictates to Latin American governments on who they ought and ought not protect should be sharply limited.

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