If you are wondering when was the last time the U.S. acted in its national interest with regards to Cuba, rather than in the interests of others, you would have to review the Reagan Administration. During the past few years the Bush Administration has most pursued a policy that focuses more on the interests of the Cuban people, human rights, European interests, etc., rather than what makes most sense from the U.S. perspective.
When Winston Churchill sank French Navy vessels at Mers-el-Kébir in French Algeria, he was not looking to win a popularity contest. Churchill’s action kept the French naval ships from falling into Nazi hands and he succeeded. History is rich with such accounts where leaders do things politically unpopular by other nations, but for the overall good. President George Bush took a similar risk when he ordered the liberation of Iraq. As with Churchill and others, in the end, President Bush acted in the national interest when he ordered our troops to Iraq. Many people on the left, and some on the right, may have a tough time grasping the significance of what we are doing in the Middle East, but important it remains.
Acting in the national interest with regards to Cuba does not require an invasion of the island or any violence whatsoever. Cuba is a failed, weak, and politically backward state. It poses no direct threat to the U.S. either. Yet, it has been a state sponsor of terrorism since 1982 that has claimed the lives of many American citizens and U.S. nationals. It harbors U.S. cop killers and assists regional terrorist groups that undermine U.S. interests in Colombia, southern Mexico, Venezuela, the tri-border area of South America and elsewhere. Cuba aggressively spies on the U.S. and sells our military and commercial secrets with the likes of other terror states such as Iran and North Korea.
Rather than directly and robustly act to specifically address the aforementioned issues, matters that directly impact our national interest, including our foreign policy throughout the Americas, the Bush Administration has placed an inordinate amount of attention on things that are best addressed by the Cuban people themselves. Take human rights for example. There is no doubt that Cuba is a human rights abuser, but U.S. foreign policy cannot be based solely on improving human rights in Cuba. Human rights are a symptom, not the disease. We have ignored or not targeted enough the primary problem that, not so ironically, happens to be a bigger issue for the U.S. and also a primary contributor to the human rights problem: the Cuban Communist Party and its current leadership.
Rumors of Fidel Castro’s death remain unsubstantiated. The ailing Cuban dictator, who led Cuba for close to fifty years, was recently shown by state media meeting with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as well as Uruguayan President Tabare Vasquez. Like Osama bin Laden’s occasional audio messages referencing recent events to prove he is still alive, Castro and the Communist Party are doing the same. Well, why not give them something really worth talking about on these propaganda videos such as a federal grand jury indictment for the murder of the American citizens killed by Cuba’s Air Force in 1996 during a Brothers to the Rescue humanitarian mission?
Fidel Castro will never see the inside of a U.S. jail cell as did former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. Nor will he likely ever reside in a jail in his country, as the Chilean people tried to do to Augusto Pinochet. But a federal grand jury indictment will send a clear signal to the Cuban people, other dictators in Latin America, and terrorist groups in the region that the U.S. means business and that the Castro era has come to and end. The time to account is now. Fidel Castro’s grand jury indictment will also do more than anything we may have done during the past eight years to bolster the opposition in Cuba or address human rights abuses.
A grand jury indictment must be accompanied by other measures. As clearly stated in the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act, President Bush must state that a transition government in Cuba cannot include Raul Castro. U.S. law also calls for cooperation by U.S. allies and friends in the region and around the world; if we must, we will condition our foreign assistance to reflect cooperation, or lack thereof, with our Cuba policy. These and other direct and concrete acts will not be popular with Spain, the European Union, or even Canada, but their financial investments and other designs, such as oil exploration, in Cuba should be of no concern to the U.S. taxpayer. Quite the opposite.
The Republican Party has ceremoniously tip-toed around resolving the Cuba question for far too long. It is a foreign policy cancer spreading its poison throughout the region. The Caribbean is an economic basket case because of it, while other countries such as Colombia must deal with it daily as it combats the FARC. The responsible thing to do to resolves these and other matters is to set a clear marker that U.S. relations with Cuba are possible, but not until Cuba abides by our clear terms and conditions, most of which have been on the books since 1997. Indicting Fidel Castro, coupled with follow-on measures, will be a politically cathartic event that may upset our friends, but it is the right thing to do. If they are our friends, as the French eventually did with England after Churchill’s 1940 move against the French fleet, they will come around.