It’s a good thing that President Obama wasn’t in charge of American foreign policy during the Cold War. He could have decried the policy of containment followed by more or less faithfully by successive administrations for more than 40 years as an utter failure. At any given point, the Soviet Union was still standing and looked like a permanent fixture on the international scene, right up until the moment it didn’t.
The failure of our policy toward Cuba to achieve its avowed aims is what Obama pitched in his statement announcing our new policy yesterday (video below). I don’t take the statement at face value and don’t think it can withstand much scrutiny.
In his statement Obama referred to the origins of our policy toward Cuba in the Cold War. Let us recall that in the Cold War Obama was a fool for the Soviet Union. The New York Times has reported that in 1983, as a Columbia undergraduate, Barack Obama was among the “useful idiots” expressing high-minded disparagement of Ronald Reagan’s defense policies in support of the nuclear freeze movement orchestrated by the Soviet Union. (That’s not how the Times put it, but it’s the case.) In the Cold War Obama’s heart was on the other side, partial to the causes championed by the other side.
We could write this off to youthful enthusiasm if Obama showed any sign of intellectual growth since 1983, but there is none. The enthusiasm remains. He’s thrilled to be lending a hand to the Castro brothers as they confront the loss of their patrons in Russia and Venezuela. Here is how the editors of the Washington Post put it today:
On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regime everything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide Havana with a fresh source of desperately needed hard currency and eliminate U.S. leverage for political reforms.
Why would he do that? It would be rude to conclude that Obama doesn’t support “political reforms” in Cuba, but it would comport with the evidence. In Obama’s view, it’s not Cuba that is in need of the “fundamental transform[ation]” he promised just before his election in 2008.