Humanitarian Capitulation - U.S.-Cuban Relations According to the Council on Foreign Relations

By Horowitz, Irving Louis | The World and I, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Humanitarian Capitulation - U.S.-Cuban Relations According to the Council on Foreign Relations


Horowitz, Irving Louis, The World and I


Irving Louis Horowitz is Hannah Arendt distinguished professor emeritus at Rutgers. He is the coeditor of Cuban Communism, now in its tenth edition, and author of a recently published work on the history and theory of political sociology, Behemoth.

The Council on Foreign Relations is a strange and wondrous arena for policymaking. From time to time, it issues self-righteous bromides on humanitarian intervention, from which even its ardent participants feel compelled to dissociate themselves. In the words of one of them, Dov Zakheim: "Let us be honest with ourselves. The criteria for intervention have had less to do with the nature of any particular humanitarian crisis than with much more mundane concerns such as power balances, state interests, and military feasibility." Paradoxically, the council has also become the fulcrum and spearhead of the Cuba lobby--those seeking the establishment of normal diplomatic and social relations with communist Cuba. One might describe them as advocates of humanitarian capitulation. The contradiction between an activist military posture in Yugoslavia and a pacifist civil approach to Cuba remains an inexplicable feature of American foreign policy.

Heading the group advocating normalization with Cuba are two distinguished public servants: Bernard Aronson, who served as assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs between 1989 and 1993 in the Bush administration; and William Rogers, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs from 1969 to 1973 and undersecretary of state for international economic affairs in the Nixon administration. The fact that both are, presumptively at least, Republicans underscores a point repeatedly made in the reports of this working group: the council is bipartisan in character. Despite this, judging by the political positions of many members and observers, more Democrats than Republicans are represented. In the world of political flimflam, political allegiances are not incidental to those in search of fame. The second report of the Aronson-Rogers commission of the Council on Foreign Relations, entitled U.S.-Cuban Relations in the Twenty-first Century, contains proposals previously issued in January 1999 as a report of an independent task force also sponsored by the council.

The policy differences between the two are instructive. The 1999 report was a nervous effort to find common ground in liberal and conservative views of Castro's Cuba. It was issued with the obvious goal of changing U.S. policy. The new effort is far more assured and outspoken in pursuit of an accommodation between the two nations. Underlying the assumptions of the first report was the belief that Castro's Cuba, given half a chance, would march down the road to democracy. Given the utter bankruptcy of this piece of prophecy, the new report makes no such supposition. Indeed, it requires not even a good-faith effort on Castro's part to do so. In congressional testimony as well as other publications, I have addressed my reservations about the the initial report. Here I focus my discussion on the revised effort--one that is dedicated to altering the course of American foreign policy toward communist Cuba.

My expressed concerns about the 1999 report have been confirmed by the "follow-up report." If not for the sponsorship of the Council on Foreign Relations, this report would be unlikely to receive even casual attention in policymaking bodies despite its pretentious rhetoric. But that organizational legitimacy, matched by the qualifications of the members and observers associated with the independent task force, compels serious review of its contents. I should add that as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations for more than thirty years, I feel not just a right but an obligation to enter a dissenting opinion.

METAPHYSICAL ASSUMPTIONS

This "follow-up report" spells out policies more or less muted in the 1999 report. Like all documents aimed at policymaking through consensus building, this one rests on a series of metaphysical presuppositions. …

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