IBD Editorial: Obama's Amateur-Hour Foreign Policy in the Americas

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
From Investors Business Daily's Editorial Board:

Obama's Amateur-Hour Foreign Policy In The Americas

Seeking applause at a summit in Panama, President Obama vowed to swiftly remove Cuba as a state sponsor of terror. It just shows how his foreign policy runs — for political convenience, not national security.

As he headed off to the Summit of the Americas in Panama, President Obama tossed a tidbit for the region's tyrants that's expected to be a crowd-pleaser: A vow to quickly lift the State Department's designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terror.

The move would let the communist dictatorship buy weapons from the U.S., gain dual-use technologies, end some financial sanctions and open Cuba to foreign aid.

And as for whether Cuba really was a state sponsor of terror and a threat to the U.S., well, that was secondary. Given the huge number of State Department political appointees, an independent assessment isn't possible.

Pressure to lift the designation has come from the Cuban regime as a precondition for opening a U.S. embassy in Havana. Obama said he hoped to open it by the April 10-11 summit. It's also come as Cuban client Venezuela has tried to force the U.S. to lift sanctions on its corrupt officials. More free stuff for Cuba in the form of lifting this sanction, with nothing asked in return, might just take the edge off.

Speaking in an interview Tuesday with National Public Radio, President Obama said the only reason he hasn't lifted the terrorist designation already was that he was waiting for a State Department report.

"As soon as I get a recommendation, I'll be in a position to act on it," Obama told NPR.

That says a lot about what's wrong with his foreign policy. It's not about facts on the ground, historic precedent or, heaven forbid, national security or U.S. interests. It's about being popular with dictators, pleasing his supporters, and "making history." In short, politics.

The reality is that the Cuban regime has a dangerous, half-century history as a state sponsor of terror. Cuba was the originator of the 51-year terror war in Colombia, with Cuban "revolutionaries" providing training for FARC as well as the ELN, a terror group it founded.

It launched a reign of terror in Chile in the 1970s and Cuba's violent agents and their acts were the basis for "the dirty war" across South America at that time.

Cuba also fomented and fostered terrorism in Europe, providing arms and haven to Spain's Basque ETA and Northern Ireland's Irish Republican Army.

In 1964, Cuba planned the first 9/11 — a massive terror attack in the subways under Bloomingdale's, Macy's and other retailers on the busiest shopping day of the year in New York City, in a plot foiled by the FBI.

The Cuban regime also harbors U.S. fugitives who have engaged in terrorist acts. As recently as 2007, the State Department estimated that Cuba shelters about 70 cop-killers, revolutionaries, hijackers and other criminals, and has refused to return them to justice.

Call it ancient history, but remember that these are people Obama's now dealing with.

Sure, the Castro brothers today rely on elected leftists to become dictators in democracy's clothing. But they still engage in terror. Cuban agents run Venezuela's identification system, its electrical system, its internal spies, its agriculture and much of its military.

These aren't mere advisers, but trainers of Venezuela's violent, armed, drug-trafficking paramilitaries, called "colectivos," who also terrorize Venezuela's dissidents, according to Mauricio Claver-Carone, writing in the World Affairs journal.

"Last month's executive order by Obama declaring Venezuela as a national security threat and sanctioning seven senior government officials — with well-known links to Cuba's military and security services . . . underscores this menace," he wrote. More to the point, last year, Cuba was caught red-handed with 240 tons of heavy weaponry headed for North Korea.

Last February, a Chinese-flagged ship bound for Havana was caught in Cartagena, Colombia, with an unregistered cargo of 100 tons of gunpowder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 missile heads and 3,000 artillery shells that the Colombian army suspected was meant for FARC. Obama's foreign policy team has mostly been mum. It just wants Cuba off the terror list to get that embassy up and damn the consequences or the kind of damage Cuba can do. It's foreign policy amateur hour.