Monday, June 1, 2015

How unprincipled engagement with the Castro regime places the United States at risk

Predicting the next foreign policy failure in Cuba from past mistakes
On May 29, 2015 the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it with North Korea, removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror while ignoring the continuing terrorist nature of the Castro dictatorship. The regime in Cuba has a long history of sponsoring terrorism and training terrorists that the Obama administration has sought to minimize and ignore in its drive to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship. 

Despite evidence that the Castro regime is linked to drug trafficking and engaged in the smuggling of weapons to an outlaw regime (North Korea in July 15, 2013) and to terrorist guerrillas ( Colombia February 28, 2015). In a previous post I provided a list of ten reasons why Cuba should have remained on the list.

This is the latest example of the White House failing to communicate accurately the threats and dangers that exist in the world to the citizens of the United States and it has been a profound disservice to the Republic. Unfortunately this pattern has been an ongoing one since at least the Clinton presidency.

During a recent public discussion on U.S.-Cuba policy at Florida International University, Frank Mora on February 5, 2015 when confronted by the criticism that the Obama administration in formulating Cuba policy only met with those who agreed with him responded that the White House wasn't going to meet with critics to formulate policy. 

This approach of only meeting with those who agree with you sounded familiar, and it was.  Jim Wallis of Sojourners had described President George W. Bush in a similar manner: "He doesn't want to hear from anyone who doubts him.'' 

However the similarity did not end there. Ron Suskind in a October 17, 2004 article in The New York Times Magazine quoted a Bush Administration official:
''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
The disaster in Iraq was predictable and indeed voices on the right outlined what was going to happen and were declared "unpatriotic" for their troubles. 

The above statement, sadly is not limited to the Bush Administration, but is a mark of hubris. Ignoring realities on the ground in the belief that a new policy can change existing realities without taking into account the facts is a recipe for failure.

When critics of President Obama's policy pointed out that the swapping of Alan Gross for Cuban spies that had taken part in state terrorism would encourage other countries to repeat the practice of holding U.S. citizens hostages it was all too predictable. 

The plight of The Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian, who is currently being held hostage by the Iranian regime and placed now on a show trial is following the pattern laid out in Cuba by the Castro regime's handling of Alan Gross: "Jason Rezaian Trial in Iran May Be More About Leverage Than Justice."

Taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism will provide the dictatorship with more resources and greater international legitimacy to advance its agenda which is undermining democracies, as has been the case in Venezuela, and engaging with all sorts of nefarious regimes and transnational actors. 
At the same time victims of the Castro regime will no longer be able to seek redress for damages in U.S. courts targeting frozen funds of the Cuban government, effectively closing off an avenue for justice.  Recalling Martin Luther King Jr.'s maxim that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that a true peace is impossible without justice, the fallacy of this approach becomes clear.

Ignoring or pretending a threat does not exist because it is perceived as unimportant is a mistake. 
As was seen in the case of North Korea, this did not improve relations but made the regime more aggressive and dangerous.  

When Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda declared war on August 23, 1996 "Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Mosques; Expel the Heretics from the Arabian Peninsula" the President of the United States did not make a big deal out of it. Nor was much public attention paid when Al Qaeda "on February 23, 1998, stated that Muslims should kill Americans -- including civilians -- anywhere in the world where they can be found." 

Although the information was available on a State Department Fact Sheet the Clinton administration in its public statements referred to Al Qaeda being a terrorist threat overseas ignoring the above declarations of war when communicating with the American public. This is part of the reason that Americans were caught by surprise on September 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers and Pentagon were attacked.

The belief that the United States is a great power and need not concern itself with small players like Cuba or North Korea is a recipe for disaster. It was that arrogance that cost Americans 2,997 lives on September 11, 2001 and many more afterwards over the next 14 years of war and continued terrorism. Let us pray that the decision to engage this toxic regime and remove it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism does not end in tears. 

First version of this essay was published in the Panam Post on May 29, 2015.

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