Terrorism and Political Gamesmanship from Brussels to Havana

 

Obama-CheEvery once in a while we end up with what should be called a perfect storm in politics, which is precisely what has happened today. As authorities in Brussels race to assess the damage and catch terrorists, back here in the US, it is politics mostly as usual on the road to the November election. Because our President was in Cuba, the stage was already set for vitriol on foreign matters, so there was just a slight shift in gears.

However, it’s fair to guess that very few people are connecting dots between Brussels and Havana, via the campaign trail — including the candidates. Yes, there will be a fresh crop of comments about the evils of terrorism, and claims that the current administration is utterly incompetent. There might even be a random statement attacking the fact that the Obama Express is not changing course or agenda because of the bombings. I think we can set that aside on the basis of the logistical nightmare Obama’s presence in Belgium would cause, so let’s move on, shall we?

Havana is going to be an historical moment for Obama, and while it’s fine to say he’s simply attempting to build his legacy, the fact is that this administration decided to follow a very old adage on this one. Our country has been insane when it comes to Cuba, because we have stuck with the same policy for so long, while simultaneously expecting a different result. Hate what Obama is doing as much as you may like, but the facts on the ground include direct cash flow to at least some residents of Cuba, and a slow step into the present when it comes to technology as cellular service is slowly reaching the masses there. Of course, it is primarily for the benefit of tourists now, but Pandora’s box has been opened at least a crack. No matter what, the stage has been set for significant change in Cuba, thanks to Airbnb and mobile communications. While trade will be a primary topic of conversation in dealing with the regime, the big deal is the exportation of lifestyle to the citizens — something that they will probably decide to fight to keep if the regime attempts to yank it away from them.

As for the connection with Brussels for today, and the EU in general, admittedly that has much more to do with Obama’s hated Gitmo than anything else. The problem with radicalized Muslims returning to EU nations, particularly Belgium which appears to have the most, is something that European nations are going to have to address, and soon. The term “oubliette” entered my mind, not so much for its actual definition, but for how Hollywood depicted it in the film “First Knight.” There, it was called a “place of forgetting” — a dank, dark place where one could be left to literally rot away, as the rest of world forgets about that person’s existence. It was an honest depiction by most standards, since the term is derived from the French verb, “oublier” – to forget. Gitmo gained a reputation for torture, but perhaps it could do with a change — a place to be forgotten.

Yes, I am making the radical suggestion of the US offering the EU a solution to their terrorist problem, in the form of a place to drop the worst in Gitmo, ostensibly to simply let them rot away as they are forgotten. It may seem harsh, but there is no honor or selling point for recruitment in that scenario. Also, if there is an international interest in keeping Gitmo secure, and the Castro regime would start acting up in defiance of progress toward this century, there would be natural allies in any action to keep it in line — or remove it.

While it has been at least a little uncomfortable for many Americans to think about terrorists being so close to home, we do need to remember one thing — escape essentially involves two options that are not particularly favorable. One is going out into open sea in the hope of being picked up by a ship without the aid of modern navigational tools or GPS devices. The other is attempting to reach the US, where they would likely be greeted by armed Americans who wouldn’t think twice about using weapons against them.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely that anyone in the US or the EU would bring this up as a solution. Perhaps it is too simple to implement, or too difficult to sell after years of condemning the existence of Gitmo. On both sides of the Atlantic, simple solutions are rarely offered because they do not justify radical increases in bureaucracy, and reversing positions on anything important is typically viewed as dangerous. What politician wants to admit being wrong?

However, it is time that we stop only looking for complicated solutions to problems. Most people have heard the story about a trailer truck getting stuck in a tunnel. Groups of engineers couldn’t come up with a complex solution to the problem — a little boy saying that maybe they should let the air out of the tires to make the truck shorter resolved the issue.

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  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Where did I read today that Cuba already has WiFi? It’s only for certain people, of course.

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I’m trying to figure out why Cuban refugees are heading to Texas if things are looking so bright for Cuba, now that Obama has touched it with his magic wand.

    • #2
  3. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    “Our country has been insane when it comes to Cuba, because we have stuck with the same policy for so long, while simultaneously expecting a different result. Hate what Obama is doing as much as you may like, but the facts on the ground include direct cash flow to at least some residents of Cuba, and a slow step into the present when it comes to technology as cellular service is slowly reaching the masses there”

    Yes perhaps we should have ended the sanctions years ago but now? and for nothing?  It doesn’t follow.  Low oil prices and turmoil in Venezuela promise tight times for the Cuban government.  US tourist income will replace those losses.  They need it but we got nothing for giving it to them, no political prisoners released, easing up on dissent and no freedom of movement for our diplomats.  The sanctions were mostly symbolic as the economy is open to goods from everywhere else but they lack foreign exchange  The US is going to be the primary source of tourist dollars and the foreign exchange all goes to the government.  Why did we not use that  leverage?  Just look at giddy Obama greeting Raul.  That man is still living out his adolescent marxist fantasies.  It’s quite extraordinary.

    By the way the result we expected from sanctions was quite simple,  Let the world know there are costs to being our enemy.  It worked.

    • #3
  4. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa
    @RayKujawa

    Liz Harrison: Yes, I am making the radical suggestion of the US offering the EU a solution to their terrorist problem, in the form of a place to drop the worst in Gitmo, ostensibly to simply let them rot away as they are forgotten.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the administration would prefer to turn this idea down flat. It introduces a whole host of complications and commitments between the US and EU countries and goes against the heretofore sanctimonious position held by the administration that the facility serves a negative purpose of inciting the ire of Islamic extremism.

    On the other hand, if, as we are witnessing, events on the world stage have moved to the point where a great many of our allies desire to share custody of a humane detention facility located far from their shores, I would say you just might be on to something.

    • #4
  5. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison
    @LizHarrison

    The Reticulator:Where did I read today that Cuba already has WiFi? It’s only for certain people, of course.

    I caught it on ABC News, and they did say it was for the benefit of tourists, not locals – for now.

    • #5
  6. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison
    @LizHarrison

    I Walton:Yes perhaps we should have ended the sanctions years ago but now? and for nothing? It doesn’t follow. Low oil prices and turmoil in Venezuela promise tight times for the Cuban government. US tourist income will replace those losses. They need it but we got nothing for giving it to them, no political prisoners released, easing up on dissent and no freedom of movement for our diplomats. The sanctions were mostly symbolic as the economy is open to goods from everywhere else but they lack foreign exchange The US is going to be the primary source of tourist dollars and the foreign exchange all goes to the government. Why did we not use that leverage? Just look at giddy Obama greeting Raul. That man is still living out his adolescent marxist fantasies. It’s quite extraordinary.

    By the way the result we expected from sanctions was quite simple, Let the world know there are costs to being our enemy. It worked.

    I did point out that Obama was simply seeking to carve his place in history. Also, my point is about broader cultural and social change that is being started on the ground in Cuba. I could go on ad nauseum about the stupidity of the minutiae in Obama’s deal, but the result is what I focused on here. Yes, it was a bad deal, but like any other deal, it is putting Cuba on a fast track to ending the regime. Give the people a taste of what they can have, and the best bet will be on them fighting to keep what they have and try to get more. Like I said, “revolution by capitalism.”

    • #6
  7. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison
    @LizHarrison

    Ray Kujawa:On the other hand, if, as we are witnessing, events on the world stage have moved to the point where a great many of our allies desire to share custody of a humane detention facility located far from their shores, I would say you just might be on to something.

    That is what I’m thinking here. I think that the EU is rapidly approaching a point of critical mass when it comes to dealing with extremism. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start looking for viable real estate far from their own to keep the trouble under wraps. It’s not like they don’t have a history of it. See the US and Australia especially.

    • #7
  8. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Liz Harrison:

    I Walton:

    it is putting Cuba on a fast track to ending the regime. Give the people a taste of what they can have, and the best bet will be on them fighting to keep what they have and try to get more. Like I said, “revolution by capitalism.”

    What in the deal puts it on a fast track?  It provides foreign exchange to the government through expanded American tourism but doesn’t change anything.  The foreign exchange will help replace the in flows from Venezuela that are going to dry up.  There are no internal changes, no new opening up to goods or investment.   There is nothing in this deal that shows them what they can have.  They listen to our radio, and get letters from relatives, they know.  They already had access to all goods produced in the world including those produced in the US.

    • #8
  9. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    There’s a more important linkage.  Obama is in Cuba as part of his ongoing efforts to minimize the US.  Europe is in flames because the leaders there don’t have the guts to support their nations.  We have traitors, they have wimps.  The common thread is antipathy towards the West on the part of its leaders.

    • #9
  10. Batjac Inactive
    Batjac
    @Batjac

    “Our country has been insane when it comes to Cuba, because we have stuck with the same policy for so long, while simultaneously expecting a different result.”

    Yes, how dare we stand in the way of such a modern, progressive, up to date idea of Communism

    • #10
  11. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison
    @LizHarrison

    I Walton:

    There is nothing in this deal that shows them what they can have. They listen to our radio, and get letters from relatives, they know. They already had access to all goods produced in the world including those produced in the US.

    For now, on Twitter, I go by @GoldwaterGal. One of Barry’s favorite stories was how he got started in politics by getting people to vote against his neighbor who killed his dog. It was “hen house” politicking, where he just told people what his neighbor did, as he drove them to the polls to vote. It worked, of course. That’s what will be in play in Cuba, along with a fair dose of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Some people will directly benefit from cash from companies like Airbnb, while others won’t. I don’t know about you, but I know very well that the competition for “things” on the personal and neighborly level is fierce no matter where you go. Like I said, I’m not talking about political change – this is cultural change being sparked on the ground level. Otherwise, that dangling carrot they’ve seen sitting on the shores of the US just jumped into their backyard. It will make a difference, regardless of the policies. Demand was stoked, and if there is no supply provided soon, there will be hell to pay. Castro will be stuck figuring out how to do that without losing control, or he will lose control. We want that second option.

    • #11
  12. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison
    @LizHarrison

    Doctor Robert:There’s a more important linkage. Obama is in Cuba as part of his ongoing efforts to minimize the US. Europe is in flames because the leaders there don’t have the guts to support their nations. We have traitors, they have wimps. The common thread is antipathy towards the West on the part of its leaders.

    No. There really isn’t a common thread here. Europe has its issues because they are picking up the pieces after their great experiments in socialism and other big government inventions. They’re also dealing with issues with multiculturalism that they’ve largely avoided until now. As for the US and Obama, you are giving him far too much credit. He’s really not that smart. Too many people have given him far too much credit for having an actual agenda that involves the destruction of our country. Bluntly, he’s just suffering from a very long list of blunders that he’s made because he considered himself capable of far more than he was actually able to do. Couple that with a moderate overestimation of his own intelligence, and it is a dark comedy of errors that even Machiavelli couldn’t dream up.

    • #12
  13. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    Cuba has been free to trade with nearly every nation in the world since the 1960s. Exposure to the tourists and culture of our NATO allies (Britain, Canada, Germany) not to mention the many nations of the Western Hemisphere, save the US, doesn’t seem to have much of an impact. As much as I’d like to see a popular uprising like Polish Solidarity, I don’t anticipate the oppressed citizens of Cuba have much chance.

    I expect visiting Cuba will be much like visiting East Berlin. But the beaches will be better.

    • #13
  14. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison
    @LizHarrison

    Batjac:Yes, how dare we stand in the way of such a modern, progressive, up to date idea of Communism

    We didn’t stand in the way of it, which is the point. It thrived for a time, in spite of us. That in itself is a mind-boggling concept, when one considers the levels of psychological warfare we have been capable of waging elsewhere in other eras. We’re off our game, ladies and gentlemen. I believe we had an icon out there who told us that we must suck profoundly if we can’t sell the concept of liberty. It’s about time we started, don’t you agree?

    • #14
  15. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison
    @LizHarrison

    Steve C.:Cuba has been free to trade with nearly every nation in the world since the 1960s. Exposure to the tourists and culture of our NATO allies (Britain, Canada, Germany) not to mention the many nations of the Western Hemisphere, save the US, doesn’t seem to have much of an impact. As much as I’d like to see a popular uprising like Polish Solidarity, I don’t anticipate the oppressed citizens of Cuba have much chance.

    I expect visiting Cuba will be much like visiting East Berlin. But the beaches will be better.

    Technology and direct injections of cash to select members of their society are what I suggested would be a game-changer. Yes, they’ve had limited exposure to western influences up until now. Americans are spoiled assholes. We must have our WiFi! We must have our luxuries! Now that we’re in the game, things will change. Other western tourists actually go to nations like Cuba to “experience the native culture.” We’re a bunch of arrogant asses who demand to have it our way! Screw going native! No, I’m not kidding, of course.

    • #15
  16. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    I don’t know whether your analysis is correct but I do hope it is. I want to think opening relations with Cuba will lead to greater freedom for Cubans. If it does I don’t expect to live to see the day they have real freedom but that’s not the point. I don’t think their poverty is our fault nor can we solve it but neither should we stand in their way. If this is the best path for them to start digging out of the deep well they’ve gotten into them I’m all for it. I don’t expect anyone will know how it comes out for some time. I don’t have a high opinion of president Obama but even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally.

    • #16
  17. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    If encouraging trade will encourage an unstoppable force from below for change and capitalism in Cuba, will it not do the same in Iran post-deal?

    Did such a process result in political progress in China?

    • #17
  18. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Liz Harrison:

    I Walton:

    Some people will directly benefit from cash from companies like Airbnb, while others won’t. I don’t know about you, but I know very well that the competition for “things” on the personal and neighborly level is fierce no matter where you go. Like I said, I’m not talking about political change – this is cultural change being sparked on the ground level. Otherwise, that dangling carrot they’ve seen sitting on the shores of the US just jumped into their backyard. It will make a difference, regardless of the policies.

    What country are you speaking about?  Citizens do not and cannot earn foreign exchange.   All dollar earnings go to the government.  There are leakages, like prostitution on the street, but even that is controlled and risky.   Local currency is without value except in controlled retail run by the government.  Air B and B?  Yes if it existed, but the B is the government and the home earns local currency.  Foreign exchange is needed to import legally or illegally.  The point is, Cubans already have access to all the goods you say will change things, but they don’t have access to foreign exchange.  They could buy from the free ports near by in San Andres or Panama, or from the same place we do.  China.   We are the only place not open to them.  All we’ve done is open another source of foreign exchange for the government to replace Venezuelan oil.

    • #18
  19. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    OkieSailor: I don’t know whether your analysis is correct but I do hope it is. I want to think opening relations with Cuba will lead to greater freedom for Cubans

    I think President Obama would be disappointed in such an outcome.  I don’t imagine he consciously wants less freedom for Cuba, but he will be disappointed if it happens.

    • #19
  20. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Liz Harrison:

    Doctor Robert:There’s a more important linkage. Obama is in Cuba as part of his ongoing efforts to minimize the US. Europe is in flames because the leaders there don’t have the guts to support their nations. We have traitors, they have wimps. The common thread is antipathy towards the West on the part of its leaders.

    No. There really isn’t a common thread here. Europe has its issues because they are picking up the pieces after their great experiments in socialism and other big government inventions. They’re also dealing with issues with multiculturalism that they’ve largely avoided until now. As for the US and Obama, you are giving him far too much credit. He’s really not that smart. Too many people have given him far too much credit for having an actual agenda that involves the destruction of our country. Bluntly, he’s just suffering from a very long list of blunders that he’s made because he considered himself capable of far more than he was actually able to do. Couple that with a moderate overestimation of his own intelligence, and it is a dark comedy of errors that even Machiavelli couldn’t dream up.

    Agree.

    • #20
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