Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

A dusty, creaking and antiquated Cold War mentality of the State Department persists and would seem to resist any notion of even a baby step toward a change in policy regarding Cuba. As illustrated in an exchange between Department Spokesman, Sean McCormack and a reporter this past Friday. For the sake of brevity I'll summarize the exchange preceding the quoted exchange.

The reporter mentions Cuba's recent easing of travel restrictions and asks if the State was prepared for an influx of Cuban travelers. McCormick responds, in part, by stating (correctly, IMO) that given the rather sad state of the Cuban economy, most citizens can ill afford travel abroad. He then goes on to paint the recent small steps forward away from oligarchy as events that don't "really amount to much." Henceforth the exchange verbatim:

QUESTION: So it’s got to be all or nothing? They have to get rid of everything? They have to become a full-on U.S. style democracy all at once or you are not going to be happy? I mean, don’t --


QUESTION: Don’t you get points for incremental changes?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I’ll tell you one thing you don’t get points for is transitioning power from one dictator to another without the Cuban people having any say whatsoever in whether or not they want that person to head their government, or even what kind of government they’re going to have. They don’t have a say today. So, you know, you talk about all or nothing; well, we’re just looking for something. And what we have thus far is nothing.

QUESTION: Well, are you saying --

QUESTION: So you don’t think – you don’t think reforms are possible?

MR. MCCORMACK: What does it amount to? How does it change the ability of the Cuban people to really, for themselves, decide what their – what the future of their country is going to look like? You have a situation now in which a handful of people who have been in place for the past several decades determine the direction of this country, what happens in the country, whether or not people can express their opinion freely in the town square, which they cannot. That situation qualitatively has not changed from, you know, today to 10 years ago to 20 years ago.

QUESTION: So are you talking about Cuba or China?

QUESTION: Or Saudi Arabia? (Laughter.)


QUESTION: No, I mean, can I put you on --

QUESTION: No, Sean, I’m serious. You’ve just described something that – you know, you -- that’s a situation in some countries that you’re very friendly with.

MR. MCCORMACK: The situations are qualitatively different. Now we – for example, China; you look at the political and human rights situation, absolutely, we have stark differences there, but you also see a situation where, economically, the Chinese people have many more opportunities than they had (inaudible).

QUESTION: Well, that – but that came about, though, in incremental stages from the end of the – and isn’t that what you’re seeing in Cuba?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s our assessment, Matt, that, no.

Normalized (or a semblance there of) relations with China came about after President Nixon shifted recognition of China's sovereignty to the mainland. The vast economic opportunities afforded to a comparatively small portion of Chinese citizens largely came about after President Clinton's executive order extending MFN trade status.

Amazingly (well, not really) the State is rejecting the pragmatic, realist path that beckons and instead clings to the roots of a long dead ideal. The "Red Menace" is long gone. Hypocritical foreign policy is par for the course and an unfortunate necessity. Unless it's banked in empty anachronism.