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Lugar-Cuba Report: Full of Non-Sequitirs, Weak on Reasoned Argument

Lobbyists, public interests groups, and political leaders in Washington, DC are jockeying to have a say in what happens next with regards to what to do with the state sponsor of terrorism just ninety miles from U.S. shores.  

One side advocates leaving things as they are, while the other argues that it is time for more engagement with the regime. Yet, as is usually the case with U.S.-Cuba chatter in this town, the most crucial element, what is in the U.S. national interest, has become a footnote.  

Words have meaning.  Laws and regulations have meaning.   And what to do next about Cuba should be grounded in an understanding of the rich legal and regulatory framework that clearly lays out U.S. policy toward Cuba by advancing the national interest.  It telegraphs quite clearly to the regime in Havana what it needs to do if it wants what Cuba, and its supporters claim, the regime leaders desires:  the prestige that comes from recognition and normalized relations with the U.S.

A clear example of the brackish approach to Cuba is a recent report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Ranking Minority Member, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).    Rich with non-sequitirs, it could take many a posting to dissect what it is that the author is attempting to convey.   Yet all one really needs to do is read the title to understand the goal of the report, and bias of the author, “Changing Cuba Policy–In the U.S. National Interest.”

There is no doubt that Mr. Carl Meacham’srecent trip to Havana could have been of some value, albeit dubious, to policymakers on Capitol Hill.  But this report is nothing more than a trip summary, and not an anlysis of some very serious questions surrounding U.S. relations with a state sponsor of terrorism.  Just read the title, the U.S. national interest is to change Cuba policy. 

There is no serious review of the clear issues set forth in the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act.  Whether detractors of current U.S. policy care to admit it or not, Cuba has been designated state sponsor of terrorism since March 1, 1982.  It earned that slot and on the list it should remain.   It ignores U.S. law, statute, that states the U.S. cannot recognize a transition government in Cuba that includes either Fidel Castro or Raul Castro. 

Its proposals on what to do next are just as dated as the Carter-era arguments against current policy.  It makes many assumptions about the willingness of the current regime and its willingness to work with an Obama Administration.  The Cuban Communist Party does not come to the table with clean hands.  Its primary goal is survival and it will do anything to ensure that its leaders, known human rights abusers and sworn enemies of the U.S., remain in power, no matter what.

It is not as if the Republicans did much better with regards to advancing Cuba policy during the past eight years; however, to their credit, many good efforts were made within the framework of the Commission process to lay foundations based on law, regulations, and policy, to articulate the current and future challenges, as well as possible solutions.  In the end, it was in the execution that it was lacking.

Why does this all matter?   In the final analysis how a peaceful transition, and a return to democracy in Cuba is attained, is more important than the short-term coddling of regime officials in the hopes that things may improve.   Allowing Cuban intelligence officials, law breakers, human rights abusers, and other scofflaws to hide in the Cuban bureaucracy and business sector will lead to long-term instability on the island and, potentially, regional instability. 

Terror states such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and, one hopes soon to be added to the list, Venezuela, are pariah nation-states working outside accepted international norms and standards.   Theses and other countries work against the U.S. and our allies; support our enemies.  With regards to Cuba, any serious review of policy and the national interest should begin with that premise, and then focus on existing law and regional political challenges.  Engagement for engagements’ sake is no policy, but that is what this report, in essence, advocates.

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