Reality is Not a Consideration for this President
No matter how many times I listen to George W. Bush, I can still be stunned by his absolute detachment from reality. Whether Iran or Iraq, World War III or General David Petraeus, his remarks sometimes are baffling. The President's recent words with regard to Cuba are yet another proof. The President demonstrated an ignorance of the real situation on the ground in Cuba that defies belief and scares the bejeezus out of me. Here is a man, for example, who doesn't even know that the transition of power in Cuba has already happened. Moreover, he doesn't understand that given the present U.S. Cuba policy, Cubans don't want U.S. help -- indeed, the U.S. is increasingly irrelevant to any meaningful change in Cuba. In part, this reality is simply due to the inability of any outside power to bring democracy and freedom to another country by fiat. But with respect to Cuba, it is also because U.S, policy is geared to do precisely the opposite, i.e., it is by design crafted to keep Fidel Castro's revolution alive and well. Vicki Huddleston, a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution and a former chief of the United States Interests Section in Cuba, covered these points well in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post. Here's the gist of what she argued:
President Bush yesterday [24 October 2007] made a case for bringing democracy to Cuba. Yet by telling the Cuban people not to expect help from the U.S. until they have made Cuba free, and by refusing to make any substantive change to U.S. policy, he is actually forestalling democratizationÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
WeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦won't see meaningful movement toward democracy without changes to the U.S.'s rigid travel restrictions. These prevent the person-to-person contact and exchange of ideas that could build support for democracy and competition within Cuba.
At the same time, the U.S. provides a safety valve that allows the most disillusioned Cubans and their families to escape rather than press for change at home. Bush was joined by many Cuban-born, could-have-been-reformers at the State Department yesterday, including Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and former Sen. Mel Martinez, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of FloridaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
Fidel Castro has outmaneuvered two Bush administrations and a total of nine American presidents. By continuing hard-line policies, President Bush is making it more likely that the Castro family will be in power on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution on Jan. 1, 2009.
The president said our goal in Cuba is democracy. But it should be both democracy and stability. No one -- most of all the Cuban people -- wants bloodshed or a humanitarian disaster. To encourage democratization and a peaceful transition, the U.S. must start a dialogue with both the people of Cuba and their government.
In his speech, Bush said the Cuban government "isolates its people from the hope that freedom brings, and traps them in a system that has failed them." By maintaining the status quo, the U.S. government is just reinforcing that isolation.
My hat is off to Ms. Huddleston for speaking the truth. The U.S. has reconciled with the Communist governments in China and Vietnam. We support dictators throughout Central Asia under the strategic mantra of "contact and influence is better than isolation". We talked to the Communist Soviet Union for the duration of the Cold War. But we cannot bring ourselves to deal with Havana and have maintained that failed policy for 47 years. There must be something about those 27 electoral votes in Florida that contaminates reality.