Cuba e-news #126 - Hoover Institution: Lift the Embargo on Cuba
- Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000
Cuba e-news #126 - Hoover Institution: Lift the Embargo on Cuba
Saludos to a rapidly growing Cuba e-news readership,
I have been pleasantly surprised at the heightened interest in US-Cuba
relations since Elián was permitted to go home. To me, this is an
affirmation of real commitment to the larger issue of creating a just and
equitable future. I appreciate the many responses that I get from people on
the distribution list, many of whom live outside of the US, and I attempt
to share as much of your input as I can.
After my students and I returned from Cuba in February, I was contacted by
one of the parents who accompanied us on the trip. He said that, upon his
return, he wanted to cross-check the consensus that our group seemed to
reach on key issues regarding Cuba. So he contacted an organization at
Stanford University, the Hoover Institution, that he thought would surely
have a different point of view on US Policy toward Cuba. He was surprised
at what he found. He shared his findings with me, as well as a copy of
"Essays on Public Policy, No.100" that the Institution had just published.
Today's newsletter will take a look inside the Hoover document.
Those of you familiar with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and
Peace at Stanford University may know that it was founded by Herbert Hoover
in 1919 as a center for advanced study in domestic and international
affairs. It houses one of the largest private archives and most complete
libraries in the world on politics, economics, and social change in the
world. It is better known as a conservative think-tank that has attracted
Fellows from around the world interested in advancing the conservative
agenda by researching foreign policy issues and supplying documents to US
policy makers. Hoover Fellows provide conservative legislators with the
rationale for public policy debates and the drafting of new policy and
So what are they publishing and disseminating about Cuba at the beginning
of this new millennium? The title of their new publication provides the
first clue, "A Strategic Flip-Flop in the Caribbean: Lift the Embargo on
The conservative position to lift the embargo is not new. This approach
usually is buffeted by the notion that engagement with Castro's Cuba will
expose the Cuban people to the obvious advantages of capitalistic life and
subvert the revolution. William Ratliff and Roger Fontaine, the authors of
the essay, may agree with this notion, but the thrust of their argument in
the essay takes a more self-serving and pragmatic approach.
Ratliff and Fontaine assert that, although the US embargo of Cuba was a
necessary part of the US Cold War strategy, it should have been lifted at
the end of the Cold War, because Castro ceased to be a threat to the US and
its neighbors and adopted standard rules of international behavior. The
authors assert that the Cuban American lobby and "misguided politicians"
set new demands on Cuba--democracy, improved human rights, and economic
reform. They see this as resulting in a failed US policy toward Cuba,
because the US has never committed the resources to overthrow Castro and
the pressures that have been applied to the Cuban government have not
advanced the stated demands of the US policy.
They further assert that "in the post-cold war world the policy and the
political outlook that sustain it have become a strategic liability." Their
concern is that it supports conflict within Cuba that might draw in the US
military, that it allows pressure groups within the US to stand in the way
of foreign policy, and that it alienates allies worldwide as well as
poisoning US-Cuba relations for decades. They note that the US
inflexibility simply bolsters Castro's global image and reduces the
effectiveness of the US in the conduct of its foreign policy.
Their essay goes on to ridicule the Cuban American National Foundation
(CANF) and their congressional cohorts for blocking the bipartisan efforts
in Congress to review the US policy toward Cuba. They point out that the
will of the American people, according to a recent Gallup Poll, is to lift
the embargo (51% to 42%). They say that too many embargo supporters "seem to
have studied strategy and tactics with Don Quixote," simply brandishing old
"cliches to tilt windmills guarded by straw men."
I am not saying that Ratliff and Fontaine have finally seen the light, they
fall into some pretty tired and worn rhetoric whenever they talk of Castro.
Furthermore, they assert that Castro had the Miami Cessnas (i.e. "Brothers
to the Rescue" planes) shot down because he wanted the Helms-Burton Act to
pass--a pretty far-fetch and diabolical assertion, in my view.
In their seventy-six page analysis, they are very critical of the
Helms-Burton Act, calling it "largely a vendetta against Castro," and
detail its obvious failings. They chronicle the US Defense Intelligence
Agency report that concludes that Cuba is not a threat to the US, and
describe how the Florida lobby went "berserk" when the report was delivered
to Congress. They quoted Miami Republican Ilena Ros-Lehtinen as "shouting"
that it is clear that "these Pentagon types are very politicized. They get
their directions directly from the White House." Ratliff and Fontaine
conclude that the Elián case "clearly demonstrates the negative impact of a
foreign policy that promotes confrontation without any realistic hope of
accomplishing its objectives."
Their real concern though, in my estimation, is that, given the current
official US government animosity toward Cuba and the government's tacit [and
financial] support of the militant exile community, the US is in danger of
getting embroiled in a war with Cuba. They are concerned that a small
incident has the potential of escalating into a full-fledged battle. They
give the example of the recent "bombing" of leaflets over Havana by a
US-Vietnamese immigrant, in which two Cuban MiGs and one US F-16 went up,
but did not engage. They pose the question: what would have happened if the
pilot in the Cessna had actually done something destructive? They point out
that, in a recent Miami Herald poll, 66% of Cuban Americans want the US
military to overthrow Castro, and 71% favor military action against Castro
by Cubans in exile. This data is alarming when juxtaposed with the 42% of US
citizens favoring the embargo and virtually no one, outside of the Cuban
exile community, wanting to send Americans to die in a war with Cuba.
Ratliff and Fontaine assert that the conditions that enable this kind of
potential disaster is deleterious to the larger interests of US Foreign
Policy and needs to be eliminated. Their solution is to end the embargo and
engage Cuba unilaterally.
Gary Bacon, Ph.D.
For further information:
If you wish to obtain a copy of the Hoover Institution's "Essays in Public
Policy No.100" by William Ratliff and Roger Fontaine, contact:
The Hoover Institution Press
Stanford, CA 94305-6010
or visit their web site at: