One might be tempted to dismiss Hugo Chavez’ latest saber rattling as meaningless, another crazy statement from a lunatic bent on destroying the wealth of his nation in order to play Mini-Me to the Castro Brothers.  However, the move of troops to the Colombian border and the threats Chavez made this weekend of war do not reflect lunacy, but a bid to grab power and influence in Latin America at the expense of a weakened US.  He wants the US out of Colombia, and Chavez apparently believes he has an American President he can bully towards that goal:

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez yesterday ordered the country’s military to prepare for a possible armed conflict with Colombia, saying soldiers should be ready if the United States attempts to provoke a war between the South American neighbours.

Mr Chávez said Venezuela could end up going to war with Colombia as tensions between them rise, and he warned that if a conflict broke out “it could extend throughout the whole continent”.

“The best way to avoid war is preparing for it,” Mr Chávez told military officers during his weekly television and radio programme. Venezuela’s socialist leader has also cited a recent deal between Bogota and Washington giving US troops greater access to military bases as a threat to regional stability.

The Government of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez rejected what it called “threats of war from Venezuela’s government”, saying that it would protest at Mr Chávez’s comments to the Organization of American States and the UN Security Council.

It took America’s enemies a couple of years to take Jimmy Carter’s measure during the Cold War.  It has taken less than that for our enemies to take Barack Obama’s measure.  The US has had a military alliance with Colombia for years while Chavez has been in power, under both Democratic and Republican Presidents.  However, Chavez never made it a pretext for war until now, although he issued a similar threat last year without moving troops to the border.

Chavez hopes to bluff Obama out of Colombia and Latin America as a whole.  He has backed Colombian rebels for years now, especially the Communist insurgency FARC, which made the mistake of keeping the evidence, discovered in a Colombian raid.  He wants to dictate terms to Colombia in the short term and depose its elected government in favor of a socialist regime in the long term.  Chavez wants to make Venezuela into what Fidel Castro hoped Cuba would be: a world power intent on humbling the US in our hemisphere.  In order to do that, Chavez needs to chase the US out of Latin America altogether and leave a vacuum for Chavez to fill.

Until now, Chavez hasn’t found an American President he could bully into withdrawal.  The strange response to the Honduran crisis apparently has Chavez believing that Obama is particularly malleable, although it could also be that Chavez has taken the lesson from Obama’s handling of Iran.  It certainly shows that siding with leftists like Chavez, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and the Castro brothers in Cuba in support of runaway leftist Manuel Zelaya didn’t endear the US to these martinets.  Instead, just like Carter’s feckless foreign policy, it has emboldened those who oppose the US and the agenda of freedom.

Chavez is certainly a nut, but there is a method to this madness, and Colombia should be very, very worried.

Update: I routinely misspell Colombia, and did it all over this post. Many thanks to those who alerted me to it.