It apparently isn’t enough that the Obama Administration is going out of its way to try to reset relations with some of our longstanding enemies, but the State Department is muddying the picture.
It is what the French call deformation professionelle, the tendency to judge problems solely on the basis of your professional skills. If you are a lawyer, you want to litigate them away, a physician, you want to prescribe medicines to wipe them out, a surgeon to cut them away, and if a diplomat, to bargain them away – whatever the sacrifice and cost to reach a “successful negotiation”.
It’s not enough that Washington has made a deal with a bankrupt Cuban regime, actually throwing them a line of support when their last Sugar Daddy, Chavez of Venezuela and his heirs, can no longer afford to give them oil. At the very moment, the agreements were being initiated, Raul Castro, ageing dictator once-removed, was throwing new political prisoners in jail.
There’s a good deal of ballyhoo about how Cuba has now opened up to foreign [that is U.S. if the embargo is lifted] investment, and will turn into another China. What’s forgotten is that our allies, including the Canadians, have had open sesame to the Cuban economy and its supposed markets for decades but unable to do much because of the restraints of the Castros’ incredibly incompetent Soviet economic policies. Now, of course, in sheer desperation, some small business ownership is being permitted. And soon there will be a few more luxury hotels and boutiques only available to foreigners and Cubans with dollars remitted from their kith and kin in the U.S.
If all that weren’t enough, now the cookie-pushers at State have decided to mask the continuing human rights cruelties of the regime with whom they have chosen to sup. In this year’s annual report by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – or J/TIP [read slavery in non-diplomatese], Cuba was removed from the “Tier 3” blacklist. There was the claim, even though the Department’s own trafficking experts laid out evidence to the contrary, that it had made notable improvements in its sorry record of kidnappings and imprisonment without cause.
The State Department’s own Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau completely refuted these claims that Havana is making any progress toward decency. Nor is there any attempt to show the incredible lengths to which the regime goes to indenture its citizens. The Castros’ highly touted extension of medical services – again of questionable quality – to other Latin and African nations is not as presented a voluntary activity by its medical community but a carefully disguised penal servitude for its medical students and graduates in which the Cuban regime rakes in most of their earnings. Meanwhile, an epidemic of dengue fever has broken out in the city of Trinidad on the south coast of the Island, a UNESCO Heritage site and tourist mecca, apparently as a result of a virtual breakdown in sewage facilities.
The careful exposure of the very complexity of the Cuban tyranny, developed over a half century, which has impoverished the nation and driven much of its elite abroad, is all the more necessary if the President’s grandiose initiative to improve relations is to have meaning. Instead, it is impossible to find a single concession that the Castros have made in return for the offer of respectability that the Obama Administration has given them with the diplomatic interchange.
Unfortunately it is one more instance of the inability – or is it unwillingness – of the Obama Administration to defend American interests and those of subjugated peoples such as the Cubans – in its foreign relations. No one asks for the Johnny-one-note of on human rights of Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, but there is some limit to what the U.S. should tolerate when it extends the prize of diplomatic relations to a foreign regime.
A new Administration in 2016, whatever its party and personal affiliations, will have a huge diplomatic mess to clean up.