The Wall Street Journal has a piece today on the United States’ waning influence in Latin America. There’s nothing much new in it but there was one particularly interesting quote from Moisés Naím, the editor of Foreign Affairs magazine.

Talking of Lula’s meeting with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and of Brazil’s role in Honduras, Naím said: “The world was hoping that it would become a responsible global player and stakeholder, but instead Brazil is behaving like an immature developing country with a chip on its shoulder.”

Brazil might have a chip on its shoulder (see my previous post about how Brazilians are thin-skinned). But it cannot be blamed for developing its own foreign policy. What’s more, if the US was smart, it’d be working behind the scenes with Brazil to help engage the Irans and Venezuelas of the world.

As one academic told me last week, “Brazil is perhaps the least disliked nation in the world.” Because of football, samba, and images of sun-kissed beaches and beautiful women, everyone loves Brazil. Brazil can use that influence.

The question that Naím should be asking is, What is Lula saying to the likes of Ahmadinejad and Chavez behind closed doors? And what is Obama telling Lula when they talk on the phone?

As the US gets weaker, it is having more and more trouble making smaller countries fall into line. As Brazil gets stronger, the US should be more diligent in courting it as a credible and helpful ally.