President Obama declared yesterday the United States would begin a new chapter with Cuba. Obama already began negotiating with Cuba regarding a prisoner swap among with other issues. For years Obama has told Congress he would keep them in the loop regarding Cuba. Predictably Congress had no idea the Obama administration was negotiating with the Communist dictatorship. Yesterday’s announcement came as a surprise to everyone. As with every other negotiation with a hostile foreign power, Obama got completely taken by the Cuban Communists. Obama negotiates from a position of American weakness because he doesn’t believe in American strength. Obama’s flirtations with Cuba are utterly foolish.
Earlier this year Cuba and Russia signed a mutual defense pact. Just last month Russia announced that it was sending long ranger bombers to Cuba. So of course it’s the perfect time to normalize relations with Cuba! Actually, it would be a good time to negotiate a normalization of relations with Cuba. However, not in the manner that Obama is negotiating. The only way the United States should agree to negotiate with Cuba is if they refuse to allow Russian military personnel and equipment in their country. That’s just to negotiate, if Cuba wants to normalize relations with the United States it will have to reduce or eliminate their relations with Russia. That’s how you negotiate with a state like Cuba. Instead Obama has given Cuba everything it wants in exchange for one prisoner.
Part of the problem here is that Obama negotiated with Cuba in secret. Our Cuban policy is half a century old. If we’re going to change our policy it deserves a national debate. Instead, Obama negotiated in secret because he knows the anti-Castro lobby would thwart a change in policy. It’s curious that the President waited until after the midterm elections to announce this. It’s equally as curious that he waited until this point in his presidency to try to change our diplomatic relations with Cuba. Obama avoided Cuba becoming a big part of either the recent mid-term election or the other two elections since he became President. The problem for him is that not only do the Republicans control the House beginning next year, they also hold an 8 seat majority in the Senate. All of his secret negotiations could come to naught if Congress refuses to fund an embassy in Havanna. An even bigger problem could be the confirmation of an ambassador to Cuba. Surely the President doesn’t imagine that will go over well in a Republican Senate.
The problem with negotiating in secret and leaving Congress out of the Cuba decision is that Congress will actually be necessary in order to make substantial changes in our Cuban relations. The American embargo is codified in law passed by Congress. Obviously the embargo is a major issue for the Cubans. President Obama can’t simply eliminate the embargo, it’s part of American law. This President is of course prone to ignore the law or try to rewrite the law via executive order or memorandums. However he cannot negotiate with Cuba an end to the embargo because while he might try to unilaterally suspend the embargo the next President can easily put it back in place. A suspension of the embargo for a year or two isn’t going to satisfy the Castro regime. By leaving Congress out of the initial negotiations, Obama has made it even more difficult to normalize relations with Cuba. Congress is going to be less likely to play along.
After half a century there’s nothing wrong with the United States reevaluating its diplomatic position with Cuba. It’s hardly surprising that a leftist like Obama is the one pushing this. However, even if it is Obama trying to start a debate on Cuba it’s a debate worth having. Obama left the country and Congress out of the debate, which is a major problem. While the Constitution gives the President the duty of deal with foreign powers, he still relies on Congress to fund embassies and policies and he still requires the Senate to confirm ambassadors. Worse, he negotiates from a place of extreme weakness. The United States has a shot to reduce Russian influence in the western hemisphere via Cuba. Instead of trying to normalize relations with Cuba based on that principle, the President ignores Russian military training in Cuba. Why should the United States prop up the Castro regime with Russian planes training in Cuba? Unfortunately our President is more interested in photo ops and historical legacies to be written half a century from now than he is in securing what’s best for the United States.