Sunday, December 21, 2014

The New Cuba Policy: How did we get here? Pt. 1

"How did Obama convince Big Business, human rights groups, lawmakers Cubans themselves to go along him?" - Question posed by Pam over twitter on December 19, 2014 

What ails America? A bad case of ethical relativism.
This blog entry seeks to begin to answer the question above which is based on some assertions raised in a Politico article titled "Obama’s heavy lift on Cuba." The short answer to Pam's question is "no, he didn't convince them," and the previously mentioned article is a misrepresentation of what is taking place. Below is a longer explanation of how we have reached the present moment, and it does not begin with President Obama.

First, let it be clear as a principled practitioner of nonviolence, a violent war is not an option to be entertained. However, as Mohandas Gandhi once explained, "Complete civil disobedience is a state of peaceful rebellion, a refusal to obey every single state-made law." Therefore the teachings of Sun Tzu in The Art of War can also, to a certain degree, be applied in nonviolent conflicts and in political campaigns. Recognizing this, two key principles that Sun Tzu lays out are 1) the importance of knowing yourself  and your adversary in a struggle  2) Having thought out how you are going to win in a struggle before you start it. This is a multifactorial analysis that will be divided into three parts: 1) Where is the United States today? 2) A brief history of totalitarian networks and how they interact with the corporate world 3) Castro, Kissinger, Carter, Clinton, Obama and the Long Game

An analysis of where the United States is today
To understand oneself one needs to take a hard look at not only American democracy but democracy in the West in general in 2014.  It is in the midst of a profound crisis that the late Pope and now saint John Paul II identified in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor and repeated in a visit to the Italian parliament on November 14, 2002 stating:
"I warned of the "risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level make the acknowledgement of truth impossible" (No. 101). In fact, as I noted in another Encyclical Letter, Centesimus Annus, if there exists no ultimate truth to guide and direct political life "ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (No. 46)."
For example the Organization of American States (OAS) has a democratic charter that should bar a Stalinist dictatorship such as Cuba from participating, but in 2009 the relativism and democracy were joined together in a way Pope John Paul II, perhaps had not envisioned, Cuba was welcomed to come back into the OAS and either the Charter was violated or the definition of democracy was manipulated in the service of a political agenda.  Nevertheless, the Castro regime refused to join the OAS. The Summit of the Americas original democratic ideals are being violated in order to include Raul Castro, a communist totalitarian dictator as a co-equal participant at the hemispheric gathering who has confirmed that he will be attending.  Canada that has a much better record than the United States on human rights has dropped its principled opposition to Cuba participating at the 2015 Summit of the Americas on December 17, 2014.

Václav Havel at  a 2002 lecture in Miami at Florida International University explained that within an environment of coercion such as a totalitarian communist regime words and language are turned upside down and rendered meaningless:
The easy thing to do is to accept this language, to believe in it or, at least, to adapt to it. It is very difficult to maintain one’s own point of view, though common sense may tell you a hundred times over that you are right, as long as that means either revolting against the language of the powers-that-be, or simply refusing to use it. A system of persecutions, of bans, of informers, of compulsory elections, of spying on one’s neighbors, of censorship and, ultimately, of concentration camps is hidden behind a veil of beautiful words that have utterly no shame in calling enslavement a “higher form of freedom,” of calling independent thinking a way of “supporting imperialism,” or labeling the entrepreneurial spirit a way of “impoverishing one’s fellow humans” and calling human rights a “bourgeois fiction.”
 In terms of language hasn't the United States already arrived there with political correctness that is nothing more than cultural Marxism?

Disturbing antidemocratic trends in the United States
The unilateral actions taken in lifting sections of the Cuba embargo are in line with trends that predate the Obama Administration. The centralization of power into the hands of the President granted by Congress over the years has reached a level never imagined by the drafters of the Constitution. Furthermore, the degree to which hundreds of millions of United States citizens have their phone calls, e-mails, and travel monitored, recorded and archived for the review of government officials reads like something out of Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 not The Federalist Papers. Individual rights and liberties have been eroded not only by the President but accompanied by actions of both the Congress and the courts. Finally the president has been granted the power by congress to indefinitely detain, and if necessary extrajudicially execute anyone he thinks is a potential threat to the United States, including citizens. Within the White House the Obama Administration unilaterally generates kill lists. Torture is being defended as a legitimate practice despite Ronald Reagan having signed the Convention Against Torture making it illegal in the United States.

Declines in freedom and rights alongside rising debt
The United States is not number one: in press freedom (46th), private property rights (17th), and its overall human rights rank is (19th) prosperity (10th) and its national economy has been eclipsed by China making it second place. The United States is more than 18 trillion dollars in debt and climbing. An interesting comparison is that in terms of public debt the United States places as 35th most indebted country in the world with Zimbabwe in first place but Sweden is down at 85th with a more responsible fiscal policy.  The situation of the United States is so dire that on Amazon there is a book on how to come to terms with the end of America by Aaron Clarey titled "Enjoy the Decline: Accepting and Living with the Death of the United States."

Fruits of engagement with totalitarians
Incidentally, over the past twenty years China has expanded its influence throughout the Western Hemisphere. The ironic part is that the expansion first began in the United States, with its policy of engaging Communist China. It had no moral authority to call on Latin American countries to do any different.  According to The Economist the steady decline in human rights internationally over the past eight years is linked to an ascendant communist China.  The United States normalized relations and engaged in trade with both China and Vietnam making both countries richer but the political rights of their citizens in both countries have been in decline over the past decade. Equally disturbing are that the torture practices mentioned above were copied from the Chinese communists. Engagement has not only failed to lift human rights standards in China and Vietnam but helped to degrade them in the United States.

The example of Burma
In Burma where a multilateral sanctions policy succeeded in pressuring the military regime to free Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010 and allow her to run for parliament in 2012 the sanctions have been lifted and real reforms have now stalled.  Suu Kyi had warned at the time of her election in May 2012 that it would be premature to lift sanctions, but by September 2012 she was advocating lifting them. In May 2013, President Obama said the U.S. goal in keeping some sanctions, while gradually eliminating others, is "to ensure that the democratic transition becomes irreversible." The United States went ahead and lifted additional sanctions in 2013 following a first round of loosening them in 2011. The European Union permanently lifted its sanctions on the Burmese military junta also in 2013.  The Obama Administration had chalked Burma up as a success but is now scrambling with a deteriorating human rights situation there. This is eerily similar to ongoing action in Cuba but with the difference that military junta released political prisoners and recognized the political opposition's electoral victories prior to Obama lifting most sanctions.

This is the first of three reflections (The New Cuba Policy: How did we get here?) in a multifactorial analysis of what is taking place on Cuba policy today. The second part provided an overview of totalitarian networks and why democracies have difficulty defending themselves from them. The third part refutes the claim that Obama has made the biggest changes in a half century on Cuba policy looking at the steps taken by Carter and Clinton.

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