Cuba and Conscience

Sunday, July 5, 2015
By Jay Nordlinger in National Review:

Cuba and Conscience

Today, the Obama administration and the Castro dictatorship will formalize their pact: There will be an American embassy in Havana and a Cuban embassy, or at least a Castroite embassy, in Washington.

What did the Obamites demand from the Communists to arrive at this new arrangement? Nothing. There was no “linkage,” as we used to say in Cold War days. There was no requirement of liberalization in exchange for improved ties.

With nauseating regularity, U.S. politicians troop to Cuba, schmooze and smile with officials of the regime, and ignore the democratic opposition — who are having the sh** beaten out of them, as usual.

More than 200 dissidents were arrested over the weekend, even as our politicians did their schmoozing and smiling. Read the indispensable Mauricio Claver-Carone on this subject: here and here, for example. I expect this disgusting behavior from certain of our politicians: the libertarian Jeff Flake, for example, or the leftist Pat Leahy.

But even normal Republicans are getting in on the act. Pat Roberts? Dean Heller?

There is virtually no political constituency for human rights in America. Jeff Flake can get elected in Arizona for as long as he wants, I imagine. Pat Leahy can get elected for as long as he wants in Vermont (and has). But the United States has traditionally had a conscience when it comes to dictatorships and dungeons. We at least nod in the direction of political prisoners, and our fellow democrats.

In May, I talked with Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White (who are being arrested, detained, and beaten, as usual). She said, “The European Union, the USA, Pope Francis — they have turned their backs on us.” She also said that Obama’s policy has given “a green light to the Cuban government to crush civil society.”

A democratic government has to do many dirty things to navigate this world: engagement with the Chinese Communist Party, for example. Obama and his like have locked arms with the Castro dictatorship simply for ideological and psychological reasons. They have handed the Castros what they have always wanted, for free.

Over the years, I’ve quoted Vladimir Bukovsky, the onetime dissident in the Soviet Union. He said something like the following: Western policymakers, as they go about their business, should occasionally pause to wonder, “How will it look to the boys in the camps?” I have enough contact with Cuban democrats to know this: We look very, very bad.