Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cuba & the U.S. (9 of 11): Philosophical Principles re Foreign Relations with Cuba

If you prefer, you can read the whole Cuba report as a PDF by clicking here.

Summary: Cuba should be treated as an enemy because it has consistently and for decades espoused principles that are opposed to those of the United States, and has repeatedly threatened U.S. citizens and expropriated their property.

When Hugo Chavez of Venezuela harangued President Obama about the Bay of Pigs, Obama replied that he was only three months old at the time. In a press conference 4/19/2009, Obama said that he wanted Cubans to see that “we’re not dug in into policies that were formulated before I was born.” But as Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” and there are several important lessons to be learned from Cuban-American relations.

The first question to ask is: What is proper U.S. foreign policy with respect to any nation? In The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America, Peter Schwartz stated the principle of a proper foreign policy:

In her system of ethics, Ayn Rand presented not only a validation of self-interest as man’s moral purpose, but also an analysis of what man’s self-interest entails. She demonstrated that one’s self-interest is achieved, not by “instinct” or by whim, but by acting in accord with the factual requirements of man’s life, which means: by living as a rational being. Since the concept of self-interest pertains fundamentally to the individual, the idea of a nations’ self-interest refers only to the political precondition of a person’s living rationally in a social setting, which means: freedom. Without freedom, man cannot pursue the values his life demands. Just as in ethics it is maintaining his own life that should be the individual’s ultimate purpose, in politics it is maintaining its own citizens’ liberty that should be the government’s ultimate purpose. … Freedom is the end to which all other political actions are the means. (p. 13-14)

Lenin (d. 1924), the first dictator of Soviet Russia, stated that “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” The U.S. does indeed have a very bad record of trading with our sworn enemies: all too often, we have bartered long-term security for the sake of short-term trade. We sold food to Soviets, who then used their meager income to build weapons. We trained and armed  Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, who defeated the Soviets and then turned their training and weapons on the country they had always called the “Great Satan.”

Schwartz describes the proper course of action toward nations that do not value freedom, and that threaten the freedom of Americans:

“Engagement” with our enemies does not make them into friends; it only makes them into stronger enemies. It provides them with the moral sanction they do not deserve and with the material support they could not have generated themselves. “Engagement” with the Soviets sustained them for over half a century; engagement with North Korea has enabled it now to brandish nuclear weapons against us.

The appropriate foreign policy toward such nations is the opposite of engagement: ostracism. Let these nations stand—or, more accurately, fall—on their own. We should stop sanctioning our own destroyers. We should stop helping them pretend they are moral, civilized nations. If they threaten us, the only message they merit is the same one that any domestic ciminial ought to receive from the police: drop your weapons or you will be overwhelmed by force. (ibid., p. 59)

The primary goal of American foreign policy should be to protect the lives, liberty, and property of American citizens. This takes precedence over trade, because one must be alive and free in order to trade. When we trade with Cuba, we fill the coffers of a recognized state sponsor of terrorism. It is likely that American dollars sent there as remittances or as payment for goods will work their way into terrorist pockets, with the approval of the Cuban government. In fact, given their hatred of the U.S. and all it stands for, there is no reason Cuba would not purchase nuclear missiles from North Korea or Iran and aim them at the U.S., as the Soviets tried to do in 1962.

We have an embargo on trade with Cuba not only because they have an ideology diametrically opposed to ours: we disagree with many countries with whom we don’t have trade embargoes. We have an embargo with Cuba because the present government thinks the U.S. is evil, and because Cuba is (yes, even after 50 years!) still a mere 90 miles away, and hence close enough to pose a serious danger for attacks by missiles or by naval forces. It would be extraordinarily short-sighted to help pay for the weapons with which our enemies can destroy us.

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