Hypocrisy in Diplomacy

20 Feb

Now that Fidel Castro is stepping down as President, Dictator, Grand Poohbah, or whatever it is he is called, American politicians are highly agitated over what happens next.  Conservatives claim that nothing should change until Cuba initiates democratic processes.  Liberals argue that engaging with the country would help them move in that very direction.  That we are still imposing an all out embargo on Cuba is ridiculous.  Cuba stopped being a threat as soon as Soviet missiles and bombers were removed in 1962.  The Mouse That Roared was a work of fiction, after all.

The arguments against normalizing relations with Cuba are all based in hypocrisy.

Argument:  Until Cuba initiates Democratic processes, we shouldn’t engage with them. If this were a tenet of our foreign policy we wouldn’t be getting toys with lead paint from China or getting raped over oil by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations (nearly all monarchies, totalitarian regimes, etc..,.). So much for Persian limes, too. 

Argument:  Cuba is a terrorist nation; we don’t do business with terrorists.  How many Cubans are there in Al Qaeda?  Weren’t most of those 9/11 hijackers from Saudi Arabia, our allies in oil and dear friends of the Bush’s?  How many marketplaces have Cuban suicide bombers blown up this year? Anyone heard of Tiananmen Square?  Where does our oil come from?

Argument:  Cuba is a communist country.  See: Viet Nam, where we make Nikes.  See: China, where we get our deadly tires, kid’s toys, pet food ingredients, etc..,.  Hey, we actually have a trade deficit with those Chinese Commies.

Argument:  The Cuban totalitarian government is oppressive; we shouldn’t do business with them.  None of the countries listed above are any less oppressive than Cuba.  Their citizens also lack basic freedoms and face overbearing restrictions, especially women in Middle East nations.   

Cuba has an abysmal human rights record, no freedom of the press, and a serious lack of personal liberties for its citizens.  That is reprehensible and surely nothing to brag about.  Although the US overlooks those same humanitarian issues when interacting with other countries, it chooses not to when dealing with Cuba.  There must be some good reason for this. 

Perhaps the Pan-American rum, sugar, and tobacco industries are funneling more money than they make into Washington to lobby against the normalization of relations with Cuba.  Jamaica, Aruba, Costa Rica, the Dominican, and Mexican resort areas must be savagely spreading anti-Cuban propaganda, fearing the potential loss of tourists to Hemingway’s favorite island.  What else makes sense?  

Of course, as Americans we should work (not invade) to help all citizens of the world achieve the same pre-Patriot Act freedoms that we enjoyed here.  The Hangover looks forward to one day doing so with Viet Nam-made Nikes on his feet and a Romeo y Julieta Petit Corona in his mouth.      

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9 Responses to “Hypocrisy in Diplomacy”

  1. John Burgess February 21, 2008 at 3:18 am #

    I think you’ve missed your target!

    Buying foreign goods is not part (or at least a major part) of US diplomacy. It’s the workings of the US economy, from the mom-and-pop store that imports toys made in Asia because American toy manufacturers no longer exist–they couldn’t match the competition. It’s the US oil companies that seek to import the least expensive oil to put through their expensive refineries rather than the more expensive oil that would push pump prices even higher.

    I’ve no argument with your take on Cuba, but the US no longer has the pleasure of closing its doors to the rest of the world. If the US wants to export cars or computers, software or soybeans, it has to have open doors to imports. Boycotts have not proved effective over the past 30 years.

  2. alguschip February 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

    US foreign policy is fueled by two main concerns, national security and economics. If a policy is beneficial for American business interests, Washington usually sees it as advantageous–and that includes creating domestic markets for foreign goods.

    Currently, our trade policies favor corporate bottom lines over the American worker. You are correct in your assesment of what ‘toys’ are selling at Wal-Mart. American toymakers who pay over ten dollars an hour can’t compete price-wise with overseas manufacturers who pay ten dollars a week. And because our manufacturing jobs are disappearing (emigrating or being outsourced), the average American doesn’t have the funds to buy the more expensive American-made goods. It’s a vicious cycle that will result in the US relying on a service-based economy. Not good.

    OPEC has a limited resource in oil. Their policies are designed to maximize their profits, as they should be. US oil companies are also attempting to maximize their profits, and they have never been higher. If this were a free market, it would be that simple. But the oil industry is highly regulated, and it is not the American oil industry that is suffering, it is the American consumer.

    The US has some economic leverage in spare parts, technology, defense products, etc.., all exported to oil producing nations of the Middle East. It is a policy choice that we do not play “hardball” with these goods, which are needed by their importers in the same way (although to a lesser degree) that we need oil. You are correct in that boycotts are not effective. I am not suggesting anything of the kind. However, protectionism and fair trade policies that protect American consumers and workers can certainly level the playing field, or at least tilt it.

  3. Man from Monkeytown February 23, 2008 at 12:06 am #

    Last night — that’s Thursday, Feb. 21st — NPR’s Daniel Schorr offered an insightful analysis of our country’s inexplicable foreign policy towards our neighbor 90 miles south of Collins Avenue. Rather than paraphrase, take a listen:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19246350

    Yes, we are blessed to have a stand-up man like Fred Nutter as the collective conscious of Maine. But when it comes to a national perspective, there’s no wiser journalist than Daniel Schorr.

  4. Citizen Diplomacy Man February 24, 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    I think now that Castro is stepping down, we will see some major diplomacy action going on between the US and Cubans – especially those Cubans living in Miami but that still have a fairly large say in what goes on in Cuba (because they have money).

  5. aaron, of course February 26, 2008 at 6:13 pm #

    Maybe the arguments against normailizing trade relations are based not on hypocricy as our esteemed TH espouses, but perhaps on something called principal. Fidel Castro has chosen the wrong (read LOSING!) path for his country. The US can’t be blamed for that. His biggest and most important decision was also his worst. His decision to allow Russia to house ARMED NUCLEAR MISSILES on his soil brought the world within a scimillimeter of nuclear war. Following over 140 of US policy re: the Americas (Monroe Doctrine) JFK could not let this stand. NOW some people want normalized trade relations because Fidel ‘retired'(A show of hands for those out there who believe Fidel still is not running the show.)
    First, what indication does anyone have that Fidel Castro even WANTS normailized trade relations with the US? Second, what does Cuba have to export to the US that we can’t get from any 1 of a numer of other countries? At this point, how does the US benefit?
    The reality is there’s really no compelling reason for the US to go out on a limb with any offers. We can wait this one out a while longer.
    What’s the big deal?

  6. alguschip February 26, 2008 at 7:06 pm #

    Aaron, of course, one must wonder why we are principled with regards to Cuba, but not to China, Viet Nam, OPEC, etc..,.

  7. aaron, of course February 26, 2008 at 10:49 pm #

    Alguschip, again, those countries want relations with the US and they have compelling reasons for it. I haven’t seen or heard anything to indicate that Castro has any desire for any such thing. But this inconvenient truth doesn’t seem to deter the commies I know. Diplomacy is a tool we can use to affect the type of change we approve of and Castro wants no part of that. It just makes me laugh when I hear the old argument of ‘America needs to do more to normalize relations with Cuba.’ Why? What could we offer Castro to make him say, ‘Jeez, after 50 years I’m all of a sudden going to change my mind about the US.’ Again, this is a guy who sought to empower himself and elavate himself on the world stage, and failed miserably.
    China is a major player in the Far East and along with the US is 1 of 5 voting members of the UN Security Council. I think that the US has been pretty effective in using the carrot of ‘normalized trade relations’ to affect some positive change in China. The relationship obviously isn’t perfect but it does hold some value to the US and to China.
    OPEC is the oligopaly that controls a majority of the flow of oil to the US. Oil is kind of important to pretty much every industry and to the lives of nearly every American. A good relationship with the countries of OPEC has value to them and us.
    Small countries like Viet-Nam provide a clear indication that the US is willing to to work with countries who work with us. It kinda makes my point.

  8. alguschip February 27, 2008 at 7:18 pm #

    Aaron, of course I imagine you’d like to smoke a Cuban cigar every now or then, or enjoy some Cuban rum. Perhaps even a compassionate conservative like yourself would like to see the Cuban families of Miami and beyond reunited with their relatives stuck in Cuba. And perhaps by working with the Cuban government, we could even push for release of political prisoners or get them to open up their press. “Good” isn’t just limited to the US.

    As for China, what change have we effected there? They don’t have a free press and they do have political prisoners. They’ve mowed down protesting students, and they limit internet access to approved sites–something that US based companies providing the service have allowed and made a reality. We have a trade deficit with them, and their goods coming here suck. But because all our manufacturing jobs have fled the country (Ross Perot’s whooshing sound), they’re all many can afford.

    I’m not promoting isolationism. But if the US is going to have “ethical” standards for trade, they should be applied across the board, not selectively.

  9. aaron, of course March 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    Hi Algus. Good points although I don’t smoke cigars, and even though rum is my drink of choice, I’ve never had Cuban. I feel for the familes who have fled Cuba and wish to be reunited with their family members stuck living under a dictator, but their situation should not shape US foreign policy. I would submit that Fidel Castro’s regime is responsible for their plight and they should take their case to him. See where it gets them. I pose the question again, what indication do you or anyone have that the Cuban gov’t. would ‘work with’ the US? And I find the statement that ‘US standards for trade should be applied across the board, not selectively’ extremely naive. It’s called self determintion, and we can absolutely select with whom we conduct business and the terms under which that business will be transacted. That’s my opinion. There are people whom I respect and admire who feel differently.

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