On Obama’s Cuba Gamble

Obviously, the big news from Wednesday was the swap of American Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba for 5 years, along with a bunch of spies and criminals. Along with that comes a somewhat normalizing relations with the dictatorial “Communist” government of the Castros. Is this a good idea or bad idea? Jazz Shaw makes an interesting point

Much of what I’ve picked up on this over recent years has come not only from discussions with my colleagues here, but from Fausta Wertz of Fausta’s Blog, and she’s been writing up a storm on the subject today. Criticism of the Cuban government is wide ranging and entirely justified, as she has described to me many times. The Castro family is beyond awful… evil being a far better word. The power structure they have established mimics many of the worst dictatorships in modern history. Their communist party keeps their people in ignorant oppression, depriving them not only of necessary freedoms, but of information and even basic human needs in terms of food, shelter and medical care. They jail, torture and kill those who so much as speak out against them, and many citizens simply disappear, never to be seen again. What good living there is to be had in Cuba is reserved for the party members who keep the Castro family in power.

But one of several arguments which supporters of the President’s actions have pointed out repeatedly today cannot be ignored. I could take the above paragraph and substitute the word China for Cuba and it would remain precisely as true. The major differences between the two are that China is vastly more powerful, more dangerous and more influential. Their human rights record is, if anything, worse than Cuba’s. They can threaten the entire globe with a single move, where the Castros are generally limited to smaller evils and mischief in South America. And yet somehow we have established relations with China. This doesn’t excuse either country for their evil, but only serves to point out some of the harsh realities of foreign policy in the modern era.

On one side, what can “charting a new course” hurt? Obama is correct that the current policy has done nothing to increase liberty, freedom, democracy, economic prosperity, etc. Virtually no other nations have any sort of embargos and restrictions on Cuba. Canadians stream to Cuba for vacations in droves. Other nations have trade with Cuba. Here are the things Obama intends to do

  • Re-establish diplomatic relations
  • More effectively empower the Cuban people by adjusting regulations
  • Facilitate an expansion of travel to Cuba (but, this does not include straight vacations to Cuba)
  • Authorize expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba
  • Authorize American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba
  • Initiate new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely

On the flip side, what, exactly, is America getting out of this? As Fuasta notes “I was wondering, is Cuba easing Cuba’s embargo on American products and American travel? Will they not continue to shelter FARC & other known terrorists? Nothing on that in O’s speech. ” What are the Cuban people getting out of this? Because Obama has demanded nothing from Cuba. And therein lies the problem with this policy of Obama’s. In fact, it can hurt

But if we are to lift trade, travel, and diplomatic pressures, it should never be done in what appears to be a quid pro quo response to the release of American hostages. The signal sent to the irresponsible nations of the world is that, so long as there is a political constituency that supports rapprochement, America may give in to your demands if you only try to ransom American citizens.

Charles Krauthammer wonders if there is a dictator that Obama won’t appease. Well, North Korea is the only, in honesty. He’s done a good job with the North Korean’s, mostly blowing of their demands when NK gets frisky. Elliot Abrams calls this a gift to the Castro’s. The editors of the National Review are likewise unimpressed. Many Republicans, and some Democrats, are livid. Marco Rubio is apoplectic

Calling President Obama “willfully ignorant” and “the worst negotiator” the U.S. has had in decades, Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday slammed the administration’s agreement with Cuba to open normal diplomatic relations for the first time in more than 50 years,vowing that the incoming Republican majority in the Senate will try to undo the deal with whatever tools they have at their disposal.

On the action itself, Mr. Rubio said normalizing relations with Cuba will only allow Cuban President Raul Castro to shore up his power base and continue oppressing his own people, adding that the president’s belief that the move will help the Cuban people is naive.

“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie — the lie and illusion that more commerce, more access to money and goods will translate to political for the Cuban people,” Mr. Rubio, Florida Republican and a potential 2016 presidential candidate, told reporters. “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.”

But, don’t think it is only Republicans. Here’s the Editorial Board of the Washington Post

IN RECENT months, the outlook for the Castro regime in Cuba was growing steadily darker. The modest reforms it adopted in recent years to improve abysmal economic conditions had stalled, due to the regime’s refusal to allow Cubans greater freedoms. Worse, the accelerating economic collapse of Venezuela meant that the huge subsidies that have kept the Castros afloat for the past decade were in peril. A growing number of Cubans were demanding basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly.

On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regime everything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide Havana with a fresh source of desperately needed hard currency and eliminate U.S. leverage for political reforms.

Personally, I do not have a problem expanding our dealings with Cuba, normalizing them a bit. We have dealings with Russia, China, and other nations which are “enemies”, have poor human rights records, etc. Might something good come of it? It’s possible. But, to do this in such a one sided way is a mistake. To provide all the things without any quid pro quo is a mistake. To provide those things while doing a people swap is a big mistake.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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