Commenting on the dismissals of Lutenient Colonel Alexander Vindman and Lutenient Colonel Yevgeny Vindman, National security adviser Robert O’Brien said “We’re not a country where a bunch of lieutenant colonels can get together and decide what the policy is of the United States… We are not a banana republic.”
The phrase ‘banana republic’ was coined by author William Sydney Porter whose pen name was O. Henry.
In the 1890s, Porter fled to Honduras to escape embezzlement charges.
In 1904 O. Henry wrote Cabbages and Kings. The fictional “banana republic” in this book was based on Honduras.
“Banana republic” is a derogatory term for a politically unstable country that is dependant on the exportation of a single resource. O. Henry created this term in reference to countries that were under the thumb of the United Fruit Company.
A small group political elites hold all of the power in a “banana republic.” These elite enrich themselves at the expense of the country’s population. This kleptocracy results in a stratified socioeconomic structure that has an unequal distribution of wealth.
Banana republics often operate in the interests of larger states. O. Henry referred to the export of bananas. Today exports of value may be something else i.e information or the promise of aid.
The dysfunction of a banana republic includes attacks on a free press, using the inner workings of government to punish or lock up opponents and whistleblowers, nepotism, disenfranchisement of voters who might oppose the regime and dismantling any system of checks and balances.
National security adviser O’Brien is correct in stating that the Vindmans could not turn the United States into a banana republic.
That leads us to another phrase: “A fish rots from the head”.