Trying to figure out who won the Iraq war is a challenging parlour game. Nearly every faction, group and nation has lost. The only evident victors are Iran, the Kurds and a handful of giant American corporations.
It is slowly becoming clear, however, that there is another winner: Latin America. With the United States so totally consumed by the Iraq conflict, it has no time, energy or political capital to crack down on challenges south of the Rio Grande. Sensing their historic chance, many Latin nations have embarked on experiments that the US would in past eras have instantly stepped in to crush.
The independence that many Latin American countries have shown in the last five years borders on outright defiance of US power. Yet to a degree unprecedented in modern history, Washington is allowing them to do as they please.
Well, not quite as they please.