Moving Cuba Out of America’s “Domestic Policy Box”


Seven U.S. Congressmen are in Havana and met with Cuban President Raul Castro among other leading Cuban politicians.
What I found most interesting in the Associated Press report on their trip was a comment made by Representative Mel Watt about something he had read of Fidel Castro’s.
From the AP article:

Lawmakers in both houses of the U.S. Congress have proposed a measure that would prohibit the president from barring Americans from traveling to Cuba except in extreme cases, effectively lifting a travel ban that is a key component of the embargo.
[Barbara] Lee has said that many of the representatives, who arrived in Cuba on Friday and are scheduled to leave Tuesday, support the travel legislation.
Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina said Monday that Fidel Castro’s column made it “clear that both countries can exist without either dialogue or adversity to each other.”
“But wouldn’t it be so wonderful,” he added, “if we struck a dialogue and found the things that were mutually advantageous and mutually of interest to our two countries and stopped the historical divisions that have separated us (though we are) so close geographically?”

This reminds me of General Brent Scowcroft’s comment to me some time ago in a short interview he gave me at the time I was helping to organize a book on US foreign policy by Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Washington Post national security columnist David Ignatius.
Scowcroft said:

My answer on Cuba is Cuba is not a foreign policy question.
Cuba is a domestic issue.
In foreign policy, the embargo makes no sense.
It doesn’t do anything.
It’s quite clear we can not starve Cuba to death.
We learned that when the Soviet stopped subsidizing Cuba and they didn’t collapse.
It’s a domestic issue.

I think it’s time to realize that we need to move Cuba out of the domestic political box back into the geostrategic context where it belongs.
— Steve Clemons


15 comments on “Moving Cuba Out of America’s “Domestic Policy Box”

  1. David says:

    But then shallow online assholes are…. I go in the other direction in most of my comments, but there are times when I find myself thanking POA for saying some things that seem to me to need saying. Doesn’t persuade anyone, of course, but then there are moments when persuasion seems unlikely and a moment of unvarnished expression of the fact-based obvious seems called for.
    Just sayin’


  2. Taylor Marsh says:

    Well, POA, thanks for dropping by again last night. I don’t think the insults help, but that seems to be your way. Still, I appreciate you dropping by.


  3. David says:

    Watched the CBC delegation to Cuba’s press conference on CSpan last night. God love the Congressional Black Caucus, and god love CSpan. And special praise for the members of the CBC who have been championing an enlightened Cuba policy since the 70s.


  4. guer0chino says:

    Let’s lift the veneer of some pseudo-intellectual International Relations-speak here and put some real cards on the table. What needs to go first is the patently absurd claim that there is some monolithic National interest with regard to Cuba, or policy towards Cuba. The most vociferous claimants for change in Cuba are those businessmen who, perhaps like the author of this blog, stand to make a lot of money off of opening up Cuba.
    In asking us to think about Cuba in a “geostrategic context,” we’re really being asked to ignore who wins and who loses in an opening of economic relations. It asks us to de-historicize the relationship between US and Cuba, and in the process of all this abstraction, we are being asked to ignore that the a bunch of rich assholes want to make boatloads of money off of an opening. When you get into the business of sophistry, you always end up as a flak for the rich.


  5. arthurdecco says:

    “After all, the Obama/Biden administration runs a country that — tortured.” posted by rich
    The only alteration I would have to make so that I could agree completely with your posts up-thread rich, would be to change the word “tortured” to “tortures”. As in: present tense.
    You’re firing on all cylinders these days, rich.


  6. ... says:

    americans obsession with guns is killing them… wonder when they will get to the next level?? sure isn’t pretty looking at the level the usa is on at present with regard to its infatuation with guns…


  7. questions says:

    Read through the link and my response on the main issue is that Obama is aware of the very different meanings of guns for rural and urban spaces and would like to encourage the crafting of legislation that respects that difference. At some point I came across an interview with, maybe Sunstein, in which Obama is characterized as asking numerous questions about the history of 2nd Amendment scholarship and deciding on the basis of the answers that it looks like the Constitution does guarantee an individual right to bear arms as opposed to a militia’s right only. But an individual right to bear arms is still a pretty vague phrase when you get down to it. One has numerous rights that are not to be abridged but that still end up having manner place and time restrictions. Keeping guns away from kids makes sense. Keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons makes sense. Requiring safety locks makes sense and so on.
    The problem, as I see it, is that the NRA view is largely concerned with gun dealers (sell anything without restrictions and let the buyer take all responsibility), with anxiety about the government’s taking (right wing militia movements), and with those fearful of being victims (as if, without huge amounts of training most of us would have the presence of mind to access and use properly a gun without inflicting collateral damage).
    There’s a lot of fantasy anxiety on the part of both sides (all the dead children and spouses who are misidentified as burglars and all the gun-inflicted suicides as against the right to kill as “needed”.) I am urban and so I side with getting rid of guns. You hunt, so you want guns. Obama is doing his best to craft a middling ground where you can hunt and I don’t feel like I’m going to be shot at my local ATM. It’s not a bad idea to try to get both sides into reasonable legislation. Guns are complex, and so the policy is likely to be complex as well. If there’s some particular hunters’ only semi-automatic weapon, let your Congress rep. know that there needs to be some exception for certain kinds of guns. Urban people like I do not entirely understand the love of guns, hunting, killing, blood…. And I don’t expect hunters to understand why I’d never eat meat. There’s probably room in the country for both of us, and I think that Obama is trying to keep that space.


  8. rich says:

    [really need to double-proofread my comments..]
    Joe Biden sez the embargo stays.
    VP Biden rules out lifting Cuba embargo
    Special to The Miami Herald
    VINA DEL MAR, Chile — In his first official visit to Latin America, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden . . . ruled out lifting the embargo on Cuba.
    [Biden] was asked if the Obama administration would back Latin American countries in a push for greater power within the world’s multilateral institutions; if it would support reform of the U.N. charter; and if it would lift the decades-old Cuban embargo.
    ”Yes, yes and no,” Biden responded.
    Here’s the irony: Biden is all for Freedom — but presumes to refuse that Freedom to Cuba and to Cubans — at his whim and for base political considerations.
    Biden’s desire to decide for Cubans, via the embargo, with whom they may trade and whether they have economic liberty at all, is just as anti-democratic as any transgression American politicians regularly denounce.
    Article continues:
    “On Cuba, Biden said there was ‘a need for a transition in our policy, but we all share one thing in common: We think the Cuban people should determine their own fate and that they should be able to live in freedom and with some prospect of economic prosperity.’ ”
    Then dump the embargo.
    Otherwise, talk is cheap. VP Joe Biden is in no position to criticize or punish Cuba, particularly for human rights abuses or political repression.
    After all, the Obama/Biden administration runs a country that — tortured.
    As long as Obama/Biden hide the evidence of American torture, they need to stfu. They’re eager to evade coming to terms with past & are seeking to retain Bush’s policies on Executive power as their own current policy.
    If they keep talking like this, Obama and Biden are just run-of-the-mill hypocrites.
    All the reasonable-sounding, even-handed talk in the world is just meaningless unless Obama/Biden offer something substantive to their partners in dialogue. It’s just cheap talk.
    I didn’t expect this to be a meaningless administration. But we’re headed for a far worse, for a set of codified but indefensible Executive Powers rooted in a banality that was indicted and discredited in Philadelphia and in Nuremberg.


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I took a few days and devoted my online time to posting at Taylor Marsh’s site. I can honestly say I’ve never ran acrost such a bunch of shallow online assholes in ten years of posting at political sites. There is literally no one home in her comment section.
    Try this thread as an example…


  10. rich says:

    Cuba policy has been molded for domestic consumption, to manage internal political considerations.
    But nothing Prznt. Obama does re Cuba will matter if he can’t get the internal fabric of American law & governance right. Cuba doesn’t matter. North Korea doesn’t matter. Afghanistan only matters to the extent Prznt. Obama’s (i.e., Gates’/Bush’s) tactics are unjust & counterproductive enough that he stirs a hornet’s nest — such that long-term blowback comes home to American soil. It’s called Realpolitik. Any centrist gets that.
    Glen Greenwald spells it out:
    “Every defining attribute of Bush’s radical secrecy powers — every one — is found here, and in exactly the same tone and with the exact same mindset. Thus: how the U.S. government eavesdrops on its citizens is too secret to allow a court to determine its legality. We must just blindly accept the claims from the President’s DNI that we will all be endangered if we allow courts to determine the legality of the President’s actions. Even confirming or denying already publicly known facts — such as the involvement of the telecoms and the massive data-mining programs — would be too damaging to national security. Why? Because the DNI says so. It is not merely specific documents, but entire lawsuits, that must be dismissed in advance as soon as the privilege is asserted because “its very subject matter would inherently risk or require the disclosure of state secrets.”
    What’s being asserted here by the Obama DOJ is the virtually absolute power of presidential secrecy, the right to break the law with no consequences, and immunity from surveillance lawsuits so sweeping that one can hardly believe that it’s being claimed with a straight face. It is simply inexcusable for those who spent the last several years screaming when the Bush administration did exactly this to remain silent now or, worse, to search for excuses to justify this behavior. As EFF’s Bankston put it:
    ‘President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties. But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration’s cover-up of the National Security Agency’s dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that the much-publicized warrantless wiretapping program is still a “secret” that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again.’
    Of course, Obama contradicts everything he & his colleagues asserted, scant months ago:
    Jay Rockefeller:
    “Second, lawsuits against the government can go forward. .. . If administration officials abused their power or improperly violated the privacy of innocent people, they must be held accountable. That is exactly why we rejected the White House’s year-long push for blanket immunity covering government officials.”
    Obama, Himself:
    “[The FISA bill] also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses.”
    What did Jenny Holzer say?
    “Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise.”


  11. rich says:

    This is the first time I’ll say it. Prznt. Obama’s taking the same a low-road Bush did — he doesn’t get it.
    No matter how much he accomplishes, no matter what policies he implements, Obama can never elevate this country from the gutter Bush put us in as long as he evades the openness and accountability America and the law require.
    “America doesn’t torture,” Mr. Obama? Prove it. Our own documents say otherwise. And if Obama refuses to let that evidence see the light of day — and goes back on basic law & accountability– how do we sow he’s sincere about torture under his own administration?
    Prznt. Obama is perpetuating the abuse of power he claimed he’d put an end to. Not so, you say? Too harsh? Again, prove it. We have no reason to accept the word of a Prznt. who is active maintainance of an imperial and abusive Executive just codifies the wrongs Bush wrought.
    ’til Obama lives up to the rhetoric he sets, he’s just a better liar that King George W. Bush. If we can’t get minimal movement on basic law and core issues, then we’ve just traded in a half-baked tinpot despot for a more capable brass model.
    Mr. Obama’s made a big mistake if he believes Executive Power comes before the rule of law and before his own political base. It’s a profound misreading of his own election and of the legal landscape. Obama’ll be receiving some fierce resistance in this arena. More important, if he tosses his base under the bus, just who does he think will be standing by him when the going gets rough?
    It was ever thus when it comes to Presidential manipulation of law and abuse of power — but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the case much longer.
    btw — counterinsurgency [sic] via predator drones is a loser’s proposition. Obama won’t have any better luck than Bush did as long as he uses the same tools & tactics.


  12. Don Bacon says:

    If we can “move Cuba out of the domestic political box back into the geostrategic context where it belongs” then perhaps we could do the same with Israel! Besides being a worthy goal in itself it would set a precedent.
    IOW I suspect Scowcroft would agree that the US/Israel relationship is also primarily a domestic issue, with the opposite effect, if he were pressed.


  13. ... says:

    maybe, just maybe cuba doesn’t have any terrorists… if cuba is lucky maybe someone will find some terrorists in cuba, whereby the usa doesn’t really have to change anything, other then the idea of a communist for a terrorist… the fact usa’s policy towards cuba has been locked in the dark ages for so long, makes steves attempt at heating up the deep freeze in washington heartening… the way thru washington’s heart is thru the lobby groups mr. murder mentions… good luck with that! who needs democracy when you have a lobby group??


  14. William Jensen says:

    It seems pretty obvious that our policy in Cuba has been a failure; I relized that in 1976 when I was 17 years old. Not surprsingly, it took the Congress another 33 years to figure it out. Well, perhaps some of them will get their heads out of the rear ends and start allowing trade with Cuba. Mark my workds, if we allowed trade for five years, Cuba will thrive and a semblance of a decent government will appear.


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