The Sony surrender was striking for how quickly it happened, and how completely. After the studio’s private emails were leaked, and after a shadowy terrorist threat invoked 9/11, the company pulled The Interview from release on Christmas Day. In the entire history of Hollywood, there has never been such a complete collapse. Faraway North Korea, the tyranny that is believed to be behind the hack, has effectively become America’s cinema censor. But surrender does not happen in a vacuum.
The same day that The Interview was canceled, President Barack Obama announced a new deal with Cuba. The communist Castro regime would release American prisoner (hostage) Alan Gross in exchange for three convicted Cuban spies. At the same time, the Obama administration would take steps to normalize relations and relax the embargo. The deal was a surprise, especially as the White House recently told Congress there would be no change in Cuba policy without consultation.
Defenders of the deal suggested that it might lead to Cuba’s liberalization and democratization. Yet in announcing the new policy, President Obama suggested that was not his goal. “[I]t does not serve America’s interests or the Cuban people to try to push Cuba towards collapse,” he said, conflating the collapse of the regime with the collapse of the country. Meanwhile, Cuban dictator Raúl Castro declared that he expected Obama to use executive action to push the new policy past Congress.
So it is not Cuba that is expected to move towards freedom, but the United States that is expected to move towards a more authoritarian system.
The Sony surrender to terrorist threats by North Korea–a close Cuban ally, despite President Obama’s claim that Cuba is no longer a sponsor of terrorism–seemed to confirm that shift. Indeed, the Obama administration said and did nothing to defend Sony from attack: the president merely said people should “go to the movies,” and nothing more.
There was so much more that President Obama could have done. For years, military experts have been warning us that the U.S. had inadequate defenses against cyberattack, whether targeted against our government or our companies. Obama could have provided security assistance, direct or financial, to theater chains willing to screen The Interview. On a more symbolic level, Obama could have offered to screen the movie at the White House himself, reiterating the value of free expression.
He did no such thing. Instead, he bowed to the evident wishes of the most repressive dictatorship on earth, while he eased pressure on another regime that suppresses the free speech of its people.
There is no authoritarian enemy to which Obama has been unwilling to bend: the “reset” with Russia, the concessions to Iran, the retreat from the Taliban, the slow retreat from China, the disastrous renewal of diplomatic relations with Syria, the smiles and handshakes with Venezuela, and so on.
Commenting on the Cuba deal, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer quipped: “Is there no tyrant or anti-American center that Obama will not appease for nothing in return?” His opponent on Fox News’ Special Report, Juan Williams, could not argue this time, saying that Obama had bought “a pig in a poke.” Reflecting on his own family’s flight from a dictatorship in Panama, Williams said he was alarmed by Obama’s broader neglect of human rights violations in Cuba and Venezuela.
The Sony deal brings home Obama’s abstract foreign policy failures in a very concrete way. It is inconceivable that a Ronald Reagan would have allowed something like that to happen. It is impossible Americans would agree to give up their freedom at home, were the president not always giving up on freedom abroad. The only opponents Obama is willing to confront are his domestic rivals–and rarely face-to-face.
His lack of courage is telling, and the consequences for all of us have only begun.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak