The continuing momentous events in North Africa and the Middle East understandably overshadowed former President Jimmy Carter's trip last week to Cuba. That is unfortunate, because rather than compel any rethinking of U.S. policy towards Cuba -- as was the trip's purpose -- it only provided another salient lesson on the futility of attempting to appease tyranny.
For the record, here is a short accounting of what President Carter did in Cuba:
Apparently to balance out these activities, lest no one suspect where his sympathies may actually lie, President Carter also met with Cuban dissidents and religious leaders and did otherwise recognize Cuban human rights by saying that he hoped that "in the future" all Cubans have the freedom to speak, assemble, and travel.
But this was all merely backdrop to what was widely considered the objective of Carter's trip: securing the release of the unjustly imprisoned American aid worker Alan Gross, with whom Carter also met. In this light, Carter's obsequious behavior toward the Castro regime could otherwise be dismissed as the "price" that had to be paid for Gross's freedom.
(Even as Carter tried to dampen prospects for Gross's release -- "I am not here to take him out of the country" -- given the nature of Cuban totalitarianism, such Orwellian doublespeak is meant to pave the way for such a release, since it would allow the Castro regime to "surprise" and reward their pliant guest with a magnanimous gesture before leaving the country.)
But President Carter left Cuba empty-handed and Alan Gross remains imprisoned for the "crime" of bringing internet equipment to Cuban Jewish groups.
So a trip that began ostensibly to improve U.S.-Cuban relations, instead only wound up focusing the spotlight on the regime's continued intransigence. Not only did President Carter not return with Gross, but, for all his supplicating efforts, he returned with no concessions, no overtures, no indication the Castro regime was prepared to do anything to warrant a change in U.S. policy; only the standard Castro line that what are needed are changes in U.S. policy.
It is not surprising then that President Carter's trip placed in bold relief why U.S.-Cuban relations will continue to remain as they are. Absent any true commitment on the Castro's behalf to allay any U.S. concerns about their treatment of the Cuban people, the fact remains that no U.S. president is going to compromise their standing on some wooly process that may (but more likely not) lead to some "future" improvements in respect for the Cuban people's fundamental rights.
ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
Shadow Government is a blog about U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration, written by experienced policy makers from the loyal opposition and curated by Peter D. Feaver and William Inboden.