On 50 Years of Failed Negotiations With Cuba's Regime

Monday, October 6, 2014
Two long-time apologists of Cuba's dictatorship, Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive and William LeoGrande of American University, have written a new book entitled, "Back Channel to Cuba."

According to its authors, "nearly every U.S. administration for the past 50 years has engaged in some sort of dialogue with the Cuban government."

Ironically, Kornbluh and LeoGrande constantly criticize U.S. sanctions as a "failed" policy. Yet, their book documents how all attempts at high-level negotiations with Castro's regime have clearly failed.

Even worse, in each of these negotiation attempts, the U.S. has been intentionally manipulated, misinformed and misled by Cuba's regime.

Predictably, the authors claim that these failed negotiations have all been the U.S.'s fault -- mainly for three reasons:

1. The U.S. isn't showing Cuba's dictatorship enough "respect."

Here's a novel idea: If Castro wants the U.S. to treat Cuba like Costa Rica, perhaps it should act like Costa Rica.

2. The U.S. needs to wholesale, unconditionally lift all sanctions and normalize relations -- regardless of Castro's illegal behavior.

Because the U.S. should be blackmailed into directly handing Castro's monopolies billions of dollars, while the Cuban people are brutally repressed and precluded from engaging in foreign trade and investment. After all, see the wonders that billions in subsidies from Russia and Venezuela -- not to mention billions in trade and investment from Canada and Europe -- have done for the Cuban people.

3. The U.S. presses Cuba on human rights and democracy too hard.

Because the Castros are really "closet democrats" who would respect the Cuban people's fundamental human rights, if only the U.S. wouldn't insist. The authors really want to test everyone's intelligence with this one.

Fittingly, Kornbluh and LeoGrande will be joined today by the Council of Foreign Relation's Julia Sweig, believed by U.S. counter-intelligence officials to be a Cuban "agent-of influence," to "present" these brilliant conclusions at the Brookings Institution.

As part of their book promotion (and obvious motives), the authors have also written a piece this week in The Atlantic entitled, "The Real Reason It's Nearly Impossible to End the Cuba Embargo."

It's a novel-esque narrative fretting about the U.S. Congress' codification of the embargo in 1996. Imagine that: a democratically-elected legislature having the audacity to write and pass laws.

Rather than focusing their rant on the President's legal inability to lift the embargo, perhaps they should reflect on their own inability to make a compelling case to Congress to do so. 

Finally, without digressing too much, a note on The New York Times story last week on the book, which focuses on former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's purported plans to launch military strikes against Cuba in 1976.

According to the book (and story), Kissinger was miffed that after secretly negotiating with Castro to normalize relations, that Castro would then turn-around and send Cuban troops to launch military interventions in Africa.

(Just one early example of these failed negotiations, where the Cuban regime manipulated, misinformed and misled the U.S.)

Of course, The New York Times trivializes this as Castro, "sending troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas."

We're no fans of Kissinger, particularly of his wrong-headed China policy, which turned a brutal, bankrupt and agrarian regime into the most lucrative dictatorship in modern history. However, such historical revisionism is unacceptable.

First of all, Castro sent Cuban troops to fight proxy wars for the Soviet Union throughout Africa. This was of key strategic importance to the Soviets (and to Castro's delusional expansionism).

As then Columbia University Professor Pamela Falk explained, "the value of [Africa's] mineral and oil resources is estimated at several trillion dollars. The Horn of Africa provides easy access via the Red Sea to the Middle East; the Ethiopian ports of Assab and Massawa allow Cuba and the Soviet Union access to the Gulf of Aden and the ports of South Yemen. In addition, the Red Sea passage to the Suez Canal is of vital importance for transporting Soviet goods. North Africa gives Cuba proximity to U.S. bases around the Mediterranean as well as to critical sea lanes. The southeast African states such as Mozambique and Tanzania afford the Cubans access to the Indian Ocean. Off the coast of southern Africa are the 'choke points' of the Cape of Good Hope and the Channel of Mozambique."

Rationale aside, some just like to focus on Angola, where there were clearly no good guys on either side. However, let's not forget Castro's military support for some of Africa's most brutal tyrants, including Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile-Mariam, whose forced famine and genocide cost more than 400,000 lives.

But back to the point.

Kornbluh, LeoGrande and Sweig now purport to give President Obama advice on how to deal with Cuba's regime -- by bending over backwards to accommodate, finance and embolden Castro's dictatorship.

But the facts and history are unequivocal.

For the U.S., negotiating with Castro's regime is a fool's errand.

Moreover, the Cuban people deserve better.