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Caracas, Tuesday April 12 , 2005  
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Chavez and Bush


Relationships involve complex levels of perception. For each person in a relationship, there are various lenses including his view of himself, his view of the other, his view of the other's view of him, his view of the other's view of his view of the other, and so on. It is instructive to imagine the relationship of presidents Chavez and Bush in this light.

Chavez views himself as a powerful spirit blessed by God who can change the world. He sees Bush as an evil warmonger and savage capitalist out to protect the rich and privileged. He believes Bush views him as a threat to the leadership of the world. He believes that Bush knows he knows Bush sees him as a vital threat, and that Bush thinks about him a lot.

Bush views himself as a powerful spirit blessed by God who can change the world. He sees Chavez as a name rising on his long list of emergencies that he has to deal with. He has heard how Chavez thinks about him but thinks it's nonsense. He is vaguely aware that Chavez is carrying on both sides of the so-called relationship with him, which doesn't actually exist, but Bush is too busy to think about what that may mean, so he forgets about it.

As Chavez sees it, he needs Bush as an enemy, and as an equal, in order to convince his many doubters that he is the alternative for world leadership. He prepares for war, flirts with danger, and jets around the world making oil and arms deals, in order to be noticed. He shuts down his country's democracy, free markets and human rights, in order to be noticed. And while some U.S. officials tell Chavez 'we want to be friends' he can hardly contain himself from saying, 'I don't want to be your friend, I want to be the enemy of Bush, please tell him to call'.

As Bush sees it, Chavez blips up on his radar screens more often these days - oil, terror, arms, drugs, democracy, human rights. After the hundred domestic items he thinks about every day, and after Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Russia and Europe, Bush may think a moment about Chavez. But that's it.

The non-relationship of Chavez and Bush is a dangerous thing, and could lead to war. Marx said that wars are fought not to get something, but to get something back. And what Chavez wants back is a little respect that he is a contender for world leadership. Chavez may be willing to start a war just to get a call back from George W. Bush.

Michael Rowan's column is published every Tuesday.

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