Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bringing Cuba Under Our Wings

Daniel Larison has written several good posts on President Obama's move to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba.  Today he took Marco Rubio to task for saying the predictable stupid hawkish things about it:
There is no good reason for the U.S. and Cuba not to have normal relations today, and so we should have them. If the U.S. refused to have normal relations with every state because of its authoritarian character or the abuses it has committed, as Rubio claims to want, it would have to shut down its embassies in half the countries around the world.
But then he wrote something just about as absurd as anything Rubio had said:
That is especially true in those states that mistreat their people and govern in an authoritarian and abusive fashion. These are the states that most need to be opened to outside influences, and they are the states that are often the most opposed to the U.S. Having diplomatic representation in these countries not only helps to secure U.S. interests there, but it also provides an opening for communication with the people of that country.
I know Larison knows better than this, because he wrote in this very piece that "The U.S. maintains normal relations with all kinds of governments, including some of the very worst in the world."  I go further than that, and want to stress that the US has excellent relations with numerous very repressive governments, indeed with "those states that mistreat their people and govern in an authoritarian and abusive fashion." Far from viewing this state of affairs as a distasteful Realpolitik necessity, our rulers are quite enthusiastic about right-wing dictators.  I doubt Rubio is an exception to this rule.  It's simply false that such states "are often the most opposed to the U.S."  Sometimes, yes, they are; but often they are quite friendly with us.

Once we've removed a turbulent, excessively democratic government, we train the new regime’s police in techniques of torture. I don’t know if it’s still true that there’s a positive correlation between a state’s human rights abuses, positive investment climate, and the amount of US aid it receives, but it was true until the 1980s at least. Far from opening such countries to outside (presumably ameliorating) influences, having good relations with the US protects them from such influences. Apologists for this tendency, who are of both parties, tend to adopt an extreme cultural-relativist position: Oh, Those People don’t feel pain the way we do, life is cheap there, they don’t understand Democracy, and besides, we can’t play cops to the whole world.  Openness to outside influences goes both ways, too: the US generally manages to resist such influences that would curb our abuses.