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By Changing U.S. Policy Toward Cuba, Barack Obama Got Something Right

in Economic Liberty, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Trade & Tarrifs by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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After more than 50 years of a failed foreign policy, President Barack Obama formally announced on Wednesday that his administration will re-open the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba. The historic announcement comes nearly seven months after the administration set in motion the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba.

In 1961, the United States, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, severed diplomatic ties with Cuba. The tiny island country located approximately 90 miles off from Miami had come under the control of a dictator, Fidel Castro, who’d risen to power more than two years prior by toppling Fulgencio Batista, who was friendly to the U.S. The next administration, under President John F. Kennedy, added to tensions by expanding sanctions against Cuba.

CubaForeign policy experts praised the initial move. In December, Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, explained that the foreign policy approach toward Cuba had been a failure.

“U.S. policy on Cuba has been, literally, isolationist — as in, it isolates the United States. Unlike other cases, there is zero multilateral support for sanctioning Cuba — quite the opposite, in fact,” Drezner wrote. “Improving ties with Havana ameliorates a long-standing source of friction between the United States and Latin America. That’s called ‘good diplomacy.’”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Obama said that the new approach “is not merely symbolic.”

With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people. We’ll have more personnel at our embassy. And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island,” he explained. “That will include the Cuban government, civil society, and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.”

While there are many entirely valid criticisms of the administration policies, particularly domestic policy, Obama got this one right. There are, of course, critics. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whose parents left Cuba before Castro toppled Batista, slammed Obama, claiming that his administration handed Cuba a gift.

“Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama Administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession,” said Rubio in a press release. “The administration’s reported plan to restore diplomatic relations is one such prized concession to the Castro regime. It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the President’s December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

“I intend to oppose the confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed. It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end,” he added.

Similarly, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a press release of his own, said Obama is “rewarding one of the most violently anti-American regimes on the planet with an embassy and an official representative of our government.” Cruz, like Rubio, plans to stall the confirmation of any nominee to serve at ambassador to Cuba.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., however, was supportive of the policy shift. “It’s long past time for U.S. policy toward Cuba to be associated with something other than five decades of failure,” he said. “It is difficult to overstate the importance of resuming diplomatic relations ‎with Cuba, in furthering our own national interests, benefiting our relations in the region, and encouraging a positive future for the Cuban people.”

The best way to promote the values of political and economic liberty is through open relations and free trade. Those who fail to realize this basic truth are, in reality, isolationists. As Cubans get see more economic liberty, they will desire more political liberty. It may take time, but that’s better than continuing an insane foreign policy approach that allows the Castros to make Cuba out to be victims.

Word Choice: Blowback — Foreign and Domestic

in Communicating Liberty, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense, War by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Blowback” is a term that originated in the CIA in 1954. It originally referred to the unintended consequences of a covert foreign operation — consequences that are often suffered by the civilians of the nation whose government instigated the covert operation. This “blowback” may take the form of riots, demonstrations, hostage-taking, terrorist attacks, and similar hostile actions. The civilians on the receiving end of the blowback don’t realize that it was their own government’s secret activities that caused the anger and violence being directed against them.

Blowback is a term heard more and more when discussing foreign policy. And its definition is often expanded to include overt as well as covert foreign interventions that have negative consequences.

Ron Paul helped popularize the concept of blowback, as well as the word itself, during his GOP presidential campaign runs. For example, in the 2008 Republican presidential primary debates in South Carolina, he introduced it this way:

“I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about ‘blowback.’ When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages, and that persists. And if we ignore [blowback], we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think… if other foreign countries were doing that to us?”

Scholar Chalmers Johnson also popularized the term in an influential trilogy of books: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000); The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2005); and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006).

Johnson defines the term and tells about the operation that led the CIA to use it:

“’Blowback’ is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA’s fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded. Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression to the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided ‘covert operation’ of the U.S. government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.”

Blowback is a useful word in describing the unintended, but often terrible,  consequences of foreign intervention.

But it is a very useful term for discussing domestic policy as well.

Just like foreign intervention, domestic government intervention has many unintended negative consequences. As the word “blowback” becomes a familiar, popular, colorful pejorative in foreign policy discussions, it is also beginning to be used to describe the unintended destructive consequences of domestic government activities.

Libertarians — who are very aware of the negative unintended consequences of government domestic policy — can use the word blowback to add power and color to our discussions of domestic issues.

Some examples:

“An increase in the minimum wage would lead to blowback in the form of the loss of hundreds of thousands of desperately needed entry level jobs. This blowback would hit the most vulnerable people in our economy: the low-paid, the unemployed, the under-educated, minorities, and the young.”

“Blowback from the War on Drugs includes crowded prisons and wasted law enforcement resources, overdoses from impure street drugs, the spread of AIDS and Hepatitis B and C from shared needles, drugs peddled to children, loss of fundamental Bill of Rights civil liberties, the enriching of violent criminal gangs, the funding of terrorism, drive-by shootings by warring drug gangs… and more.”

“The blowback from government welfare programs includes the break-up of families, multi-generational poverty, dependence on government, and a weakening of the vital role that voluntarily-funded charities play in our society.”

There are innumerable further possibilities.

Blowback is a powerful, provocative word that quickly and colorfully conveys a vital concept. Many people realize its significance in the foreign policy realm. Their ears will perk up, and they may reach new understanding, when you apply it to domestic policy as well.