MY FIRST TRIP TO CUBA ended recently I thought I would offer a few untutored observations. The meeting I attended was a bi-national, U.S.-Cuban conference on "the way forward." It was at a very high level, with some of the top specialists from both countries--and then there was me: no expert at all in these matters. My paper was on ethnic lobbies. To make a long academic paper short, I found that national policy gives little weight to ethnic groups over time.
After the American War for Independence, Federalists feared there were French and Irish revolutionaries in our midst. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 enabled the roundup and deportation of spies. Nobody was deported, but several hundred resident French and Irish Americans were arrested, and the shameful law remains on the books.
After the Civil War, armed Irish Americans crossed into Canada trying to provoke an Anglo-American war. Though many died on both sides of the frontier, U.S. policy never changed.
Following World War I, Anglophiles lobbied for the League of Nations. Others pushed for its rejection. In the end, no lobby made even a dent on the U.S.'s patrician elders in the Senate, who, all along, were bent on keeping faith with George Washington's famous admonition to "avoid entangling alliances."
In the run-up to World War II, new trality was supported widely by many ethnic groups. There were some ethnic interventionist importunings, but most agreed with those Norwegian Americans who, even after Nazis occupied Oslo, wanted to stay out of war by a margin of more than 10-to-one.
Concerns regarding ethnic American disloyalty were common in the last 100 years or so. There was the shameful roundup of Japanese Americans but, in fact, there never has been a Japanese American spy. Moreover, no German American ever was arrested for spying after 1939.
In the Cold War, hysteria about spies among us was too common, and spies aplenty were arrested. In my research, though, not a single native-born "ethnic" American spy ever was named, no less arrested. Soviet, Chinese, and Cuban spies were "sent" agents, or "residents," or, more often, sympathizers with majority ethnic backgrounds.
Suspicions of ethnic disloyalty were common about Muslims before 9/11, but Arab Americans account for less than 25% of the 400 terror cases the last 10 years.
In contrast, the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies thousands of separate American "nativist," "patriot" and "racial supremacist" terror groups with more than 300,000 dues-paying members. In the last decade, 30,000 of their fellow Americans were targeted--specifically, the president, Cabinet officers, military, non-Christians, and just ordinary citizens. American terror groups brag about hundreds of "successes" each year. Prosecutions are surprisingly few, and investigatory resources appear to be paltry.
In the spring, I went to Washington, D.C., to study one famous lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the conservative pro-Israel group. AIPAC's fearsome reputation and effectiveness seem to be in eclipse. …