Note: Since Andrew wrote up the Iron Man 2 review, I wrote this little bit. Now, since I am waiting for a clearer picture to emerge from Europe I will be writing on Greece this Friday, so today, here is my take on a recent event that may have slipped under the radar.
Raoul Castro has presented his terms for a normalization between the United States and Cuba: The closing of the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and the shutting down of TV Martì and Radio Martì, the two anti-regime broadcasts blasted onto Cuban airwaves from Miami.
To agree to both of these terms would be huge to grant the most brutal regime in the Western Hemisphere an enormous gift in exchange for opening up an embassy and allowing American businessmen the opportunity to set up a couple of factories in Cuba. In the former it would be scuttling one our country’s most important overseas naval bases in the Western Hemisphere (overseas meaning “not based in the United States”) and in the latter it would involve removing from the Cuban populace their best opportunity for hearing news contrary to the regime’s propaganda.
Given the overly-generous honor system nuclear deal he offered to the Iranians, among certain grassroots and in the comment threads of many right wing sites you can already see the theories: Obama hates America, he is a Communist with Muslim sympathies, or, as Dinesh D’Souza postulated, he is a “neocolonialist” who thinks America needs to withdraw from the world and become “less arrogant”. All of these have their claims but none fit. If Obama was, say, a secret Muslim why does he spend so much time blasting them with drones? And if he thinks Americans should withdraw why has he sent tanks into the Baltics?
To better answer the question we should probably turn to a quote by Thomas Sowell on racists in a free market, “Racists prefer their own race to other races but prefer themselves to everyone else.” By which he meant that even racists want to make money and will make exceptions in certain cases if they think it will benefit them financially. If they will not, they will lose money. Even bigots have self-interests.
So do Presidents.
What does this have to do with his foreign policy? For 6 years he has treated that issue as either a distraction or something to use to craft his image as the opposite of Bush. The results have ranged from amusing to disastrous, he has continued Guantanamo because closing it became too hard but withdrew from Iraq, trumpeting it as a success until ISIS declared a caliphate, and has tried to make it appear that he has withdrawn from Afghanistan (he hasn’t). Obama’s foreign policy has often seemed to follow a certain line: If he can make himself look “more judicious” and “more cautious” than Bush he grabs a microphone and holds a Rose Garden press conference on the matter, if he cannot then he launches a couple of drone strikes and tries to pretend nothing is happening. Or, if it involves a major power, he just tries to pretend nothing is happening.
Now, however, things have changed. In the 6 years he has been president all he has been able to achieve is a signature healthcare bill that remains vastly disliked with even problems unrelated to the law being blamed on it, an Iraq that is even worse than the one he inherited (which was then by and large secure), and the recognition of same-sex marriage, a position he only supported after it had achieved a plurality of support among Americans. He has nothing, and the clock is ticking.
President Carter, despite presiding over probably the most dismal 4 years in post-war American history, at least had the START Treaty and Camp David Accords for his legacy. Those two items allowed his idiotic pronouncements on foreign policy to be treated as sage advice. Perhaps he can achieve something similar.
Perhaps he can achieve what Bush never did. A nuclear deal! And a normalization with Cuba, to boot! So he sends Kerry to Iran eager to offer whatever the Iranians demand. Nuclear inspectors can only inspect areas approved by Iran (I.e., areas that Iran has made sure are “clean”)? Check. Iran gets to deny it has ever worked on nuclear weapons? Check. Complete lifting of all sanctions? Check.
So, now Raul Castro sees these capitulations and has begun making demands as well. Close Guantanamo naval base and stop the Martì broadcasts. Under most American presidents this would be the beginning of haggling. Our President would say “No” to both of those and then Castro might offer something else and back-track on a demand or he would walk away and the President would bid him a pleasant adieu.
But with Obama, we’re not sure, he may very well take up the deal. The question will be: How much does he think his legacy needs a deal?