Sunday, July 19, 2015

The high price of diplomatic relations with the Castro regime

"We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota." - Gerardo Hernandez, Cuban spy sentenced to life in prison for murder conspiracy freed by Obama as part of his deal with Raul Castro. (Capitol Hill Cubans)

Castro and Obama (April 2015) Sirley Ávila machete attacked (May 2015)
The Obama administration has had to bend over backwards in order to arrive at the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations because since 1977 the Carter administration established de facto diplomatic relations with the opening of interests sections in both countries. Joint military exercises began to be carried out in 1994 during the Clinton administration. Therefore in reality what remained to be done was more symbolism than substance, and easier for the Castro regime to drag its feet knowing that the pressure for a breakthrough weighed more heavily on President Obama and his legacy. They were not disappointed:
Never has so much been sacrificed with regards to Cuba policy to obtain so little in return purposefully. The Obama Doctrine, first addressed by Charles A. Kupchan in 2001, and fully fleshed out in his 2010 book,  How Enemies Become Friends The Sources of Stable Peace was summarized by José Azel in the critical May 6, 2015 article The Resurrection of Neville Chamberlain into four steps:
It must begin, according to Kupchan, by making concessions to our enemies in an act of “unilateral accommodation.” These concessions must be “unusual and costly” to signal benign intent. [...] The second phase entails the practice of “reciprocal restraint” where the adversary nations walk away from rivalry, peace breaks out, and geopolitical competition gives way to cooperation.[...] “Social integration” and “the generation of new narratives and identities” are the third and fourth phases of Kupchan’s sequence towards stable peace.
Kupchan in a April 2011 article in Friedrich Ebert Stiftung attempts to refute the charge that this policy is a version of neo-appeasement arguing:

It follows that talking to the enemy is not appeasement  – as is often claimed by engagement’s critics – but, under the right circumstances, good diplomacy. To be sure,  the effort to pursue diplomatic accommodation with an  adversary may not work. The target state may refuse to  reciprocate the initiator’s signals of benign intent, ensuring that confrontation continues.
The trouble with Kupchan's argument is that what he is advocating goes well beyond "talking to the enemy" into what he describes as "unilateral accommodation" setting the stage for "reciprocal restraint." Now when one government is making "unilateral accommodations" and the other side is declaring victory and maintaining an aggressive posture in the real world, while talking the talk of accommodation in diplomatic exchanges, it does share a disturbing similarity to appeasement policies of the 1930s that did not lead to peace but was a precursor to a major war that claimed tens of millions of lives. Underestimating the capability for mischief of what appears to be a weakened totalitarian dictatorship is a script that has played out before with horrible consequences.

This approach not only ignores the underlying conflict between the United States and Cuba but also the conflict between the Cuban dictatorship and the Cuban people. This mentality is also found deeply engrained in other parts of the Obama administration. For example, when 25,000 Cubans made it known that they wanted democratic reforms in 2002 - 2003 through a citizen initiative that challenged the dictatorship, then presidential candidate now Secretary of State, John Kerry said it was "counterproductive."

History rebukes getting into bed with dictatorships, but that is precisely what the White House is doing in Cuba, and unlike the Varela Project,  it promises to be counterproductive to both the interests of the United States and the Cuban people. When this approach is proven a disaster hopefully those formulating policy in the next administration will look to a nonviolent approach that works.

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