Christopher Ruddy's perspective: I totally disagree with President Obama regarding his overture to Cuba and believe it will prove a giant mistake. Still, I don't believe the GOP should stop the President's initial steps to "normalize" relations, such as setting up embassies in both countries.
As we review this deal, let's admit that the administration's agreement with the Castro regime was a bad deal. It was predicated on them holding American Alan Gross as a hostage and using him in a quid pro quo to get the release of real Cuban spies, including Ana Montes, who had penetrated to the highest levels of U.S. government at the Defense Intelligence Agency and was jailed for committing espionage for the Cuban government.
To suggest this deal was somehow a goodwill gesture by the Cuban communists is a lie. Had they freed Alan Gross with no preconditions that we free prisoners, then yes, I would have said that was a goodwill gesture and perhaps the start of something significant.
There is so much emotion clouding history that it's really hard to see through the smog.
Perhaps we can start with the fact the Castro regime is one of the worst human rights offenders in the world and ranks with North Korea in draconian repression. For more than five decades, Castro has enslaved Cuba's population and left its people in squalor.
It is so bad that each year, thousands of Cubans have risked their lives in treacherous shark-infested waters, using rubber dinghies and make shift boats out of things like tires sewn together to flee this repression and come to the United States.
Somehow the world, and even many earnest liberals, have turned a blind eye to this. Why I don't know, but it strikes me as hypocritical and wrong.
Secondly, there is the question of whether America's trade embargo has somehow caused Cuba’s problems or just inflicted more pain.
Marco Rubio made an excellent point, one rarely heard in the media: America is in reality the only country in the world that has a true trade embargo against Cuba. Every other country in the world can and does trade with Cuba. What has been the result?
Not much, because it is very difficult to deal with the Cuban communists on several levels.
For one, you can never conduct a proper business transaction in Cuba because there is no legal enforcement. I remember in the 1990s when Castro put up for sale oceanfront property and condominiums that were quickly snapped up by Europeans. He promised them ownership but within a few years reneged on the promise and took back the property. Not a very good way to begin a trading partnership!
What the lifting of the U.S. embargo would allow Cuba to access American credit, putting more money into a corrupt and dangerous regime.
The Obama deal came at a very desperate time for the Castro brothers. Venezuela has been funding communist Cuba with massive amounts of oil as well as cash. But in the past six months oil prices have collapsed and Venezuela is in deep financial trouble. Clearly the Castro brothers were at the end of their rope.
With those funds cut off, who could they turn to? Well, Obama seemed to be an answer to their prayers.
Currently, some $3.5 billion goes to Cuba from Cuban exiles who live in the United States and elsewhere, but under Obama's new policies that cash could easily double or triple, especially with an increase in new tourism to the island.
All of this is being done as a gesture of goodwill on our part. I'm reminded of what novelist Morris West wrote when he described the "error of all liberals," their belief that "goodwill attracts goodwill."
I am sure that Obama is well-intentioned here. But it's not a smart decision nor a clever one.
We continually see Obama doing deals that contravene known statecraft: In negotiations, don't give something for nothing in return.
One example: On the Iran front, Obama unfroze anywhere from $20 to $40 billion in Iranian assets in exchange for maybe six weeks of delay in their nuclear program. So far I have not seen that goodwill returned from Iran, which continues its bellicose rhetoric.
Getting back to Cuba, we have seen that goodwill does not yield goodwill.
You may recall what happened in the Elian Gonzalez affair. At the time a point made by Clinton administration and others was that if we returned young Elian to Cuba, this could be a turning point for our relationship with Castro.
The results of that were very clear. Castro actually engaged in a very strong crackdown on dissidents in the years following the Elian matter.
After all these year isn't it quite clear that Fidel Castro is nothing more than a gangster, a man without an ideology, a man who simply wants power for the sake of power and his own personal benefit. Doesn't the last 50 years prove this beyond any doubt?
Obama cannot lift the trade embargo against Cuba. Only an act of Congress can do that, and I doubt there is general support for such a move at this time.
So Obama's first steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba by allowing some increase in tourism by Americans and opening up diplomatic relations will go forward.
But the U.S. should make no more gestures of goodwill unless and until Castro and his regime prove that they are really interested in reforms and seriously interested in improving human rights in Cuba.
Until then we need to remind ourselves that offering goodwill to tyrants does not necessarily yield good results.
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