Must-Read: Obama’s Shameless Display in the UN

Thursday, October 27, 2016
By Noah Rothman in Commentary Magazine:

Obama’s Shameless Display in the UN

In a body as reflexively anti-Western as the United Nations, it is no surprise that the United States often finds itself under attack. Previously, American representatives had the stomach to defend their country against those assaults. Apparently, those days are over.

Beginning in 2014, the Obama administration began to make good on that perennial liberal objective of normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba for no reason other than the perceived backwardness of its Cold War-era posture. Unilaterally and without reciprocity from Havana, Obama has spent the better part of the last two years unwinding American restrictions on trade and travel with the Communist island nation, insofar as he could without the consent of Congress.

There is, however, only so much Obama could do by himself. There are six active laws affirming restrictions on U.S. relations with Cuba, even including the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (which allows for expedited refugee status for Cubans who make it to U.S. soil even though air travel between the two nations has resumed). Surely, much of these laws no longer make sense in light of the new realities of Cuban-American relations ushered in by Obama, whether congressional Republicans like those realities or not.

Obama has leveraged Congress to bend to his will in a variety of ways, but the opposition-led legislature has so far refused to normalize relations with the repressive Cuban regime. Now, Obama is using a new tool to force the GOP to accept his new status quo: the United Nations.

In a radical reversal of policy, the United States abstained on Wednesday during a vote on a UN resolution calling for an end to the Cuban embargo. Israel, America’s stalwart ally in that body of autocrats and human rights abusers, joined with the United State in abstaining in a vote censuring it. The final tally was 191 with two abstentions in favor of condemning the United States of America.

In the eyes of the administration, this was no vote to condemn the United States; it was a vote to condemn the United States Congress and, specifically, the Republicans who run it. The White House couldn’t muster up the spirit to support the legitimacy of the co-equal legislative branch from denunciation by an unrepresentative global body, but only because the White House agrees with this rogues gallery more than it does its domestic GOP opponents. That is truly shameful.

Republicans have not held fast to the Cuban embargo out of some misplaced sense of nostalgia, as Obama glibly insists on the endless campaign tour that has been his second term in office. Much like the vaunted rapprochement with Iran has failed to compel the Mullahs to moderate their radicalism and join the community of nations, the Castro brothers have only responded to Obama’s overtures by cracking down on the Cuban people.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights noted that Havana made 8,616 politically-motivated arrests in 2015, an increase of nearly 1,200 from the year prior. This is not despite but because of the sudden influx of American tourism dollars and direct cultural exchanges with this prison nation’s northern neighbors. There has been no progress on repatriating fugitives from U.S. justice still living in Cuba and no effort to force Havana to back down from its demand of reparations from the U.S.

There is a case to be made that Congress believes it is standing up for the Cuban people in keeping the screws on the Castros as tight as possible, but it’s a case the Obama administration resents. And for Obama, politics never stopped at the waters’ edge. If Republicans can be embarrassed by the UN, then so be it.

It is lamentable that the Obama administration does not see that it has a responsibility to defend Americans with whom they disagree. It is not, however, surprising. That kind of divisiveness has characterized the entire Obama presidency. Here’s hoping his successor will not emulate behavior so unbecoming in an American commander-in-chief.