Monday, October 29, 2007

Imperious Attitudes (Part 1)

Yesterday, there was interesting commentary from some hard-liners related to Bush's recent Cuba policy speech.

Alberto De la Cruz from the Babalu Blog wonders if there's really any difference between the moral support of sanctions policy against South African Apartheid in the 80's and US sanctions policy now. There are plenty of differences, but its astonishing that most hard-liners cannot grasp them. The most obvious moral difference is the fact that the US administration at the time was initially opposed to sanctions towards South Africa (here's a chronology). Then-Pres. Reagan was actually calling for "constructive engagement" since the beginning of his term in 1981. By 1985, after years of pressure from international organizations, South African riots and UN resolutions for sanctions, the US Congress finally decided that it was time to follow the lead. That's one moral difference.

The basic political difference is the fact that multilateral sanctions were imposed on South Africa, not a unilateral embargo like the one imposed on Cuba by the US. And, even so, the multilateral sanctions imposed did not immediately end the Apartheid system in South Africa, as the economy sought ways to divert the "economic pain." In 1997, a book titled "Political Gain and Civilian Pain: Humanitarian impacts of economic sanctions" highlighted how the sanctions on South Africa had many negative effects on the civilian population, adding to what they were already suffering. It was around this time that international sanctions policy in general was being doubted and questioned. Today, the literature on sanctions is quite vast in investigation and opinion. That's also another moral consideration to compare.

Comparing South African and Cuban sanction policy, both originate from an understandable moral outrage. But, similarly we should consider what is the best policy option if we want to encourage change: unilateral, multilateral, sanctions or inducements. Furthermore, there are psycho-political considerations, especially between former colonial powers and their former subjects, in these cases there are plenty of examples.

But, some commentators don't understand this paradigm of super-power vs former subject. Carlos Alberto Montaner yesterday refused to acknowledge this fact as he praised Bush's Cuba speech. Montaner believes that the US is on the "ethical side of the conflict" with the Cuban government as the appropriate target of US pressure. But, its a very different picture around the world, as well as moral.

Also yesterday, US Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart appeared on the local show "This Week in South Florida" (WPLG) with Michael Putney. As one of the "select group" that met with Bush in preparation for his Cuba speech, Rep. Diaz-Balart made many revelations regarding the assumptions held by hard-liners. Putney asked some standard questions such as why should we support such an old and ineffective policy. Rep. Diaz-Balart actually told Putney that Fidel Castro is still an "omnipotent ruler" even if he succumbs to a coma! Diaz-Balart also revealed the imperious attitude behind Bush's speech: he said that US policy towards Cuba is "the only solution" to change on the island and that the rest of the international community "is making a mistake" by not supporting Bush.

As the old saying goes: "Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak." (John Adams)

[Part 1]

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