January 30, 2015

Cuban Demands No Doubt Please Obama

Lift the embargo, quit supporting dissidents and return Gitmo to Cuba.

Cuban dictator Raul Castro announced an extensive list of demands this week in order to re-establish diplomatic relations with the United States. Under normal circumstances this would constitute a deal breaker for the American government. Unfortunately, circumstances are far from normal with Barack Obama at the helm of American foreign policy.

Castro ticked off a whole grocery list of items at a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States meeting Wednesday that he claims are necessary for normalized relations. This list includes a complete lifting of the economic embargo, compensation for economic damage caused by the decades-long embargo, an end to U.S. support of Cuban dissidents, Cuba’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, an end to anti-Castro radio and television broadcast transmissions, and the return of Guantanamo Bay to the Cuban government.

As for what the U.S. is supposed to receive in return for all this, well, that would be basically nothing. But Obama would get to claim that he opened Cuba, a hollow victory that would nevertheless occupy an entire wing in his future presidential library.

Obama announced his intention to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Communist regime on Dec. 17. His motivations were two-fold, both equally self-serving. First, he was eager to wash away the embarrassment of the complete rejection of his agenda in the midterms, and second, he wanted something, anything that historians could point to as a major accomplishment of his time in the Oval Office.

In the context of this ongoing dialogue, Castro’s recent demands would supposedly constitute the next step toward normalization. But Raul, like his older brother Fidel, who surfaced long enough to give his blessing to the talks while expressing distrust of the U.S., recognizes that Obama is motivated by love of self far more than he is by love of country. And the Castro brothers will play that to their advantage.

It’s likely why Castro floated such a bold list of demands. He has already stated that he will take whatever the U.S. gives him, but there are no plans whatsoever to change Cuba’s current system of government.

Let’s set aside the fact that Obama cannot make good on many of Castro’s demands without congressional approval. (Though his presidency is littered with examples of his lack of concern for Congress or constitutional process.) There are a number of reasons he should not honor a single one of Castro’s demands. However, these demands fit nicely into Obama’s plans for his own legacy. Take for instance his long-stated goal of closing the terrorist holding facility at Guantanamo Bay. No doubt he can’t wait to use relations with Cuba as another excuse for abandoning the territory.

But the naval station at Guantanamo isn’t just a holdout of American territory from a bygone era. It’s a strategic point of operations the U.S. military has used since the Spanish-American War. It has served as a base of operations for U.S. military action against terrorists in the Western Hemisphere. And it held strategic importance on many occasions throughout the Cold War, particularly during the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which the Castro regime was complicit in nearly starting a nuclear war on its own soil.

Obama chooses not to remember any of that. He also chooses to ignore that his offer of normalized relations between the U.S. and Cuba comes with no obligations or sacrifice on the part of the Castro government. Obama is chasing legacy, come what may.

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