Among the many foreign policy disasters for which President Barack Obama has been responsible, none is uglier than the recent Cuba deal.
It is not as dangerous as the Iran deal, which virtually guarantees that Iran will eventually become a nuclear power. It is not as irresponsible as the premature, politically-driven withdrawal from Iraq, which allowed ISIS to rise. It is not as naïve as the Russia “reset,” which gave up missile defense and emboldened Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
But in terms of America’s founding values, the Cuba deal is the worst so far.
President Barack Obama received almost nothing in exchange for restoring diplomatic relations with the Castro regime. That would have been bad enough.
But then Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Cuba to re-open the U.S. embassy, and delivered a stomach-churning speech in which he wished the Cuban regime well, and declared: “I feel very much at home here.” This, in a country that many have risked their lives to escape.
The Obama administration also excluded Cuba’s dissidents from the embassy ceremony, in deference to the Castros.
Worse, the White House is also circumventing Congress, and the law, in order to appease the Cuban regime.
When the negotiations with Cuba were revealed in late 2014, Raùl Castro demanded that President Obama take executive action to lift the U.S. embargo, in direct violation of the law and the U.S. Constitution: “Even though the measures of the blockade have been made by law, the President of the United States can modify their application through his executive powers,” Castro said in a speech hailing Cuba’s diplomatic achievement.
And President Obama is eager to comply.
ABC News reported this week that the Obama administration “plans to unilaterally ease the travel restrictions to Cuba….The new measures would bypass limits on travel imposed by Congress by changing regulations at the executive level.”
While there is still a travel embargo on the statute books, “Americans going to Cuba would still have to fall into one of the 12 pre-approved licenses to travel, but would merely attest to compliance on-line or at the airport as they buy a ticket. No special visa would be required.”
Travel and trade are both good things, and could help open Cuban society to reform (though travel and trade with the rest of the world have failed to loosen the Castros’ grip thus far). Americans are curious about Cuba, and even romanticize it somewhat–the old cars, the beautiful women, the music and (of course) the cigars. Time magazine is already selling a glossy Cuba travel guide at supermarket checkout lines. The Cuban-American community itself is ambivalent, and opinion polls suggest that Americans as a whole are eager for U.S. policy to change.
But if so, that policy is surely worth taking to Congress for approval.
The danger of breaking the rules for the sake of popular changes is that it sets a precedent for unpopular ones. Already, Obama has circumvented Congress by taking the Iran deal to the UN Security Council first. The “Corker bill” guts the Senate’s treaty powers. And the White House hints it will carry out the deal regardless.
Kerry defended Obama’s power grabs by saying it is “physically impossible” to pass a treaty through Congress today, yet Republicans just gave Obama fast-track authority on trade!
Instead of encouraging Cuba to become more democratic, the Cuba deal is making the U.S. more autocratic. And Raùl Castro knows it.
That is why he is insisting the U.S. censor news broadcasts to Cuba, and hand over the Guantánamo Bay naval base.
After all, Obama made sure an anti-Muslim filmmaker went to jail after Benghazi, and he is desperate to close the GTMO prison. He broke the law once by evading Congress at GTMO; he would surely do it again.
We are less safe because of Iran, Russia, and ISIS. But the Cuba deal has made us less free.