SPECIAL FOR EL UNIVERSAL
When he was only a teenager, the boxer Mike Tyson had a brutal,
furious method for dispatching his world-class, experienced
opponents. They all knew it was coming before they stepped
into the ring: he would attack furiously at first bell and
continue until the opponent was on the canvass. This usually
happened in the first round. Sometimes it happened in the
first ten seconds of the fight. But as Tyson got older he
got lazier, and his punch lost its sting, the fights got longer,
and he became just another journeyman fighter, and a loser.
This is what may be happening to president Chavez at the moment
in the fight with Colombia.
In election contests since 1998, Chavez has gone 9 and 0
against the opposition, who in no case were in fighting shape.
Everyone knew the Chavez fight strategy, but couldn't stop
him from doing it: he turned every election into a referendum
on him as David fighting Goliath, or him as Robin Hood versus
the opposition as the Sheriff of Sherwood forest. But
now Colombia steps into the ring with the Granda affair. This
is a different kind of fight, and a very prepared fighter,
What Colombia did in the Granda affair is fair game in terrorism.
Giving rewards for capturing infamous criminals is standard
fare worldwide, and no surprise. That Venezuelan military
would take the bait and deliver the goods is regrettable,
from a military discipline perspective, but that's the way
it goes. As for sovereignty, politicians care about it a lot,
but the public would rather have terrorists behind bars and
a little more security in daily life. So for president Chavez
to pull out all the stops on this fight is a strategic mistake.
He is not prepared for this fight and he can get knocked out.
International conflicts are not won with bluster unless the
opposition chickens out. In this case, we have a country with
an inexperienced and unprepared military - that also doesn't
have those Russian arms and warplanes yet - theoretically
going up against a military hardened with experience fighting
the guerillas and backed by the world military empire to the
north. When there is no way to talk your way out of those
a bad set of facts, there's no reason to talk yourself into
the ring. This is the wrong fight at the wrong time for Chavez,
but like Mike Tyson when he was in a decline and living in
the past, he doesn't know it.
Michael Rowan's column is published every Tuesday.