President Obama correctly normalized U.S. relations with Fidel and Raul Castro’s Communist tyranny without doing anything for Cuban democracy advocates.
Shortly after Mr. Obama’s announcement on Dec. 17, the dictatorial Cuban regime detained performance artist Tania Bruguera for planning a free speech event in Havana’s Revolution Square. Several other pro-democracy activists were also detained. Ms. Bruguera was then detained twice more.
President Raul Castro declared that normalization would not alter Cuba’s dictatorship.
None of these anti-democratic incidents or avowals should torpedo Mr. Obama’s normalization.
Detractors sermonize that the U.S. government is morally obligated to advance Cuban democracy and that Mr. Obama is betraying Cuba’s professed democracy exponents by refusing to link normalization with democratic reforms.
That sermon is as absurd and misbegotten as was President Woodrow Wilson’s World War I moral crusade to purge all non-democratic governments from the face of the planet by force of arms or otherwise.
The U.S. government has no moral obligation to help Ms. Bruguera or any other ostensible Cuban democracy proponent.
They owe no allegiance to the United States. They do not pay U.S. taxes. They do not obey U.S. laws. They do not vote here. They do not celebrate Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day. They do not sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” or “The Star Spangled Banner.” We are not responsible for their plight.
Under the principles of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Cubans have both a right and a duty to overthrow Castro’s tyranny, but they have no right to demand that other governments assist that endeavor.
Moreover, a Cuban revolution against Castro would yield an equal if not more tyrannical government, just as Arab Spring begot more repressive governments in Egypt and Libya, the French Revolution begot Emperor Napoleon, and the overthrow of Soviet Communism begot the absolutism of President Vladimir Putin. As Sir Thomas Aquinas taught in “On Kingship,” “[I]t sometime happens that while the multitude is driving out the tyrant by the help of some man, the latter, having received the power, thereupon seizes the tyranny. Then, fearing to suffer from another what he did to his predecessor, he oppresses his subjects with an even more grievous slavery.”
Cuba has never sported a democratic dispensation. Its independence was won by the United States through the Spanish-American War of 1898. Cuba’s political culture has never produced books like Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” or oratory like Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death.”
There are no Cuban George Washingtons, James Madisons, Thomas Jeffersons, or Alexander Hamiltons capable of piloting Cuba into a democratic harbor.
Cuba’s best and the brightest fled Castro’s tyranny long ago. And as Jefferson advised, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
At present and for the indefinite future, Cuba and many other political cultures are unfit to sustain democracy. And the right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.
Mr. Obama’s indifference to Cuban democracy is no novelty. The U.S. government maintained customary relations with Spain for more than a century while Cuba was an oppressed Spanish colony. With the repeal of the Platt Amendment in 1934, the United States renounced any authority to dictate Cuba’s form of government. The U.S. proceeded to extend diplomatic relations with all of Cuba’s non-democratic regimes, including Fulgencio Batista, who was thoroughly corrupt and even more thoroughly dictatorial.
The sole moral and constitutional obligation of the U.S. government is to protect the liberties of U.S. citizens. The U.S. government works for them, not for purported Cuban democrats.
The Founding Fathers understood and practiced this sacred principle without exception. The U.S. government did nothing to assist Central and South American colonies in revolt against Spain and Portugal. We established normal relations with non-democratic nations around the world, including Russia, Spain, Portugal, France and Great Britain. We did not boycott or ostracize a single country over a lack of democratic credentials.
When our assistance was sought in the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire, the U.S. balked. Rep. John Randolph admonished, “Let us say to those seven millions of Greeks, ‘We defended ourselves when we were but three millions, against a Power, in comparison to which the Turk is but a lamb. Go and do thou likewise.’ ”
When our assistance was sought to assist Hungarian independence against Russian troops, the U.S. balked. Sen. Henry Clay lectured, “Far better is it for ourselves, for Hungary, and for the cause of liberty, that, adhering to our wise, pacific system and avoiding the distant wars of Europe, we should keep our lamp burning brightly on this western shore as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of a fallen or falling republics in Europe.”
When President Wilson sought to saddle the U.S. with a moral obligation to install and defend democracy everywhere on the planet, the Senate balked by refusing to ratify the starry-eyed League of Nations Treaty.
The sole moral obligation of the U.S. government is to tend to its own gardens.
The morally vacuous shrieks and cries that Mr. Obama has betrayed Cuba’s self-proclaimed democracy proponents by keeping the United States to minding its own business about Cuba should cease.
For more information about Bruce Fein, visit brucefeinlaw.