American Hýbris: 1 Us Democracy Promotion in Cuba after the Cold War - Part 2

By Badella, Alessandro | The International Journal of Cuban Studies, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

American Hýbris: 1 Us Democracy Promotion in Cuba after the Cold War - Part 2


Badella, Alessandro, The International Journal of Cuban Studies


Promoting Democracy and the 'Two Level Game'

Another answer to our main question - Why is the US promoting democracy abroad? - is based on the bi-univocal relationship between US foreign policy and internal and electoral dynamics. After the Cold War, the collapse of a powerful external enemy (the Soviet Union) brought a redefinition of the policy-making process at an internal level: the mutated international scenario, public opinion, Congress and the groups of pressure could now influence US policy in the global arena (Maynes 1990). After 1989, the 'costs' promoting democracy ebbed: during the Cold War, it was hazardous to abandon US-friendly authoritarian and military regimes in the name of human rights (with the risk of paying a high prime in geopolitical terms). However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, those 'costs' could now be perceived as minimal. As Holsti (2000: 152) pointed out,

not only were the potential costs associated with expanding democracy significantly reduced, but this goal also seemed to offer a unifying focus for American foreign policy ... In short, this has appeared to be a foreign policy goal that not only promised a very favourable risk-reward ratio abroad, but that also offered the promise of rich domestic political dividends.

Actually, American public opinion never looked at democracy promotion with interest and enthusiasm (Holsti 2000). In particular, after the invasion of Iraq, the American people started to associate democracy promotion with the high costs of the global war on terrorism and the 'Bush doctrine' in terms of economic resources and lives lost (Tures 2007).

In the post-Cold War world, ethnic lobbying has become a distinguishing feature in the construction of US foreign policy: ethnic or national groups could now influence the foreign policy-making process (Shain 1995). The existing literature about the condition of successful influence of ethnic groups presents several factors: the organisational strength of the group, and the political unification, and power of mobilisation (Ahrari 1987; Haney and Vanderbush 1999; Said 1981; Watanabe 1984); the numerical and electoral significance of the ethnic group (Ambrosio 2002; Haney and Vanderbush 1999); the cultural affinity with the broader US population (Said 1981; Uslaner 2004; Watanabe 1984) and the ideological and strategic compatibility and affinity with US geopolitical views (Arnson and Brenner 1993: 214; Dent 1995; Trice 1976; Watanabe 1984). The Cuban community in the US had the possibility and the capability to develop all the above-mentioned elements (Haney and Vanderbush 1999).

The results were a strong political influence over the process of foreign policy making. Since the 1980s, Cuban-American constituencies in Florida, and partly in New Jersey, became Cuban political citadels and 'no aspirant for local, state or national office could ignore the ethnic vote' (Morley and McGillion 2002: 11). In that decade, Cuban-Americans won important mayoral and representative offices in Miami and Florida (Pérez 1992: 102-103). As Portes (2005: 193) pointed out, 'many exiles ... seemingly believed that they had been elected in Cuba and not in the US, and that they could behave accordingly'. In the 1990s, the penetration into US institutions was successfully completed, and the Cuban hardliners directly entered Congress, defying Clinton's foreign policy over Cuba (Haney and Vanderbush 1999: 345; Vanderbush 2009: 299-300). The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) expanded its lobby activities to non-Cuban Congresspeople too (Calvo and Delercq 2000: 69-70). The 'Cuban question' came to represent a 'two-level game' (LeoGrande 1998), so that being too softwith Castro meant being 'punished' by Cuban-American voters: in this way, US-Cuba relations entered the national political competition (Eckstein 2009: 112-9; LeoGrande 1998).

The 'symbiotic relationship' and the 'convergence of interest and world view' (Fernández 1987: 116; Moore 2002: 86) between the White House and the Cuban ethnic group, which was formed during the Cold War and maintained in the 1990s, played a major role in the field of democracy promotion too. …

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