Senator Kerry's Glaring Contradictions

Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Today, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry of Massachusetts, announced his support for unconditionally easing U.S. policy towards Cuba in a St. Petersburg Times opinion editorial entitled, "Open Cuba to U.S. Travelers."

Yet, his rationale is fatally flawed by two glaring contradictions.

Senator Kerry first argues that:

"[W]hen it comes to a small impoverished island 90 miles off the coast of Florida, we cling to a policy that has manifestly failed for nearly 50 years."

We generally challenge such statements, for in order to genuinely classify a policy as a failure, one must be able to identify a successful alternative.

To his credit, Senator Kerry agrees with this notion, and states:

"Fortunately, we know there is a different strategy that can succeed."

Great, what is it?

"The Clinton administration refocused policy around what matters: on the Cuban people, not the Castro brothers; on the future, not the past; and on America's long-term national interests, not the political expediencies of a given moment.

We improved cooperation on issues like migration and fighting drug trafficking. Family travel in both directions skyrocketed, and the regime's portrayal of us as the neighborhood bully was readily debunked. Americans helped repair a synagogue roof, and Baltimore Orioles players visiting Cuba for an exhibition game gave children bats and balls — gestures of American generosity
."

Seriously?

How can Senator Kerry boldly state that U.S policy has "manifestly failed" for nearly 50 years, then qualify the Clinton Administration's travel and engagement initiatives as "successful"?

Wasn't Bill Clinton's presidency within the last 50 years?

Wasn't Jimmy Carter's presidency -- when tourism and all other travel transactions between the U.S. and Cuba were completely authorized without limitation -- also within the last 50 years?

Under this premise, shouldn't travel and engagement also be classified as a "failure"?

Think about it, in the aftermath to the fall of the Soviet Union, during the most politically and economically vulnerable time for the Castro regime in recent history, the Clinton Administration chose the path of travel and engagement -- to no avail.

Senator Kerry then proceeds to note that:

"[T]he administration should review the programs that the Bush administration funded generously to substitute for people-to-people diplomacy...U.S. civil society programs may have noble objectives, but we need to examine whether we're achieving them."

And in the same breath:

"Free travel is also good policy inside Cuba. Visiting Europeans and Canadians have already had a significant impact by increasing the flow of information and hard currency to ordinary Cubans. Americans can be even greater catalysts of change."

As a sidebar -- it's fascinating how the most virulent Congressional critics of American exceptionalism always find an exception (no pun intended) to this criticism when it comes to tourism travel to Cuba.

But back to the point -- how can Senator Kerry question whether U.S. civil society programs are "achieving their objectives," while assuming that European and Canadian tourists in Cuba's apartheid beach resorts "have already had a significant impact by increasing the flow of information"?

It's the other way around, Senator.

The goal of U.S. civil society programs since their creation in 1996 (four years before Bush) has been precisely to "increase the flow of information" to the Cuban people, plus enhance civil society's ability to gather and disseminate information themselves. Therefore, according to your own litmus, they have been successful.

What we should be examining is whether European and Canadian tourists have been "achieving their objectives" (and its cost to the Cuban people).

Tragically though, we already know they have: sun, sex, mojitos and a blind-eye towards repression.