During the past few months I’ve given a few talks about the Obama Administration’s policy of engagement with Cuba, the Iran deal of the Western Hemisphere. It lacks vision. It is based on a lie. It is the complete opposite of President Reagan’s peace through strength and, at times, it’s in complete disharmony with the law. For advancing this point of view, I was recently called a “fascist”. A European, probably a leftist, was disturbed by the mere suggestion that President Obama could not do as he pleases with respect to Cuba, or any other foreign policy matter. In other words, the truth bothered the fellow traveler.
President Obama’s foreign policy toward Cuba lacks vision because the endgame is untenable. You can’t negotiate with an autocratic police state such as Cuba. Our President, the self-proclaimed community organizer, is siding with the thugs. He has turned his back on Cuban civil society, the future leaders of Cuba. These are the people that we should be supporting.
The policy that engagement through trade will lead to reform is a lie, at least in the case of Cuba. Cuba has been trading with the rest of the world, since 1959, and since 1959 it has been robbing people blind, defaulting on debt and confiscating private property. Cuba is not China. Never will be. Cuba will never have the strategic importance that China did for the United States during the Cold War.
Cuba’s economic potential, even if free, will not rank her as an important market for the overall U.S. economy. In fact, in the near term, Cuba will be an economic drag. Do they really expect to support an island of 10 million people on just sugar and nickel exports and tourism? Of course not. We have an opportunity to do in Cuba what we could never have done in China – because of, among other things, the sheer size of the latter – influence the outcome of the transition. This administration has made the Cuba issue a lot more difficult, but not impossible.
Finally, and this is a cold hard fact, you can’t negotiate from a position of weakness. These rogue regimes only understand one thing: a firm hand. The Communist Party of Cuba knows they have an ally in Obama and the legions of Washington, DC special interests that support easing sanctions. Cuba is making the most of it. For example, as U.S. and Cuban negotiators sat down this week to discuss compensating Americans for properties Cuba stole from U.S. businesses and families in the 1960; in return, Raul Castro ordered the confiscation of 20 properties that surround his not so humble abode. It was a signal to the Americans that it is going to be a long and tough negotiation.
U.S.-Cuba Policy Myth: Tough sanctions have been the mainstay of U.S. policy since the Cold War. They failed. Reality: The primary legal basis for Cuba sanctions is the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917 (TWEA). While properly deployed and enforced TWEA can be a very tough sanctions platform, Cuba sanctions have been modified — and in some cases significantly weakened — not once, but three times since the mid-1990s.
The human rights abuses in Cuba are also reaching crisis levels. Community organizers are being rounded up, detained, and imprisoned, daily. The beatings of civil society and religious leaders remains unabated. The more we engage with the Cubans, the worse the crackdown. The Communist Party, a few months after Pope Francis’s visit, is even waging a war against Christian groups. These are all tests of the Obama administration’s resolve and they are failing each one. Cuba is well on its way to a Putin-like existence, but without the sophistication.
Congress can still contain some of the damage of the administration’s Latin America adventurism. Several of the President’s regulatory changes are out of harmony with the statutory authority granted in the Cuba Democracy Act of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996. It is time for Congress to reign in Obama’s Cuba misfires. Obama embraced Chavez. Look how well that turned out for him. This weekend the Venezuelan opposition has, essentially, tossed the socialists from power. The U.S. Congress was on the right side of history on Venezuela, they could do the same with Cuba.
I guess if these points of view qualify someone as a fascist, so be it. Of course, the person who made that observation is wrong. Probably angry too. Usually, not always, but most of the time when someone on the left seeks a fascist, they just need to look in the mirror.