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Nylons for nothing in Cuba

Nylons for nothing in Cuba
By Charles Krauthammer Opinion writer January 1 at 7:40 PM

There’s an old Cold War joke — pre-pantyhose — that to defeat communism
we should empty our B-52 bombers of nuclear weapons and instead drop
nylons over the Soviet Union. Flood the Russians with the soft consumer
culture of capitalism, seduce them with Western contact and commerce,
love-bomb them into .

We did win the Cold War, but differently. We contained, constrained,
squeezed and eventually exhausted the Soviets into giving up. The
dissidents inside subsequently told us how much they were sustained by
our support for them and our implacable pressure on their oppressors.

The logic behind Obama’s Cuba normalization, assuming there is
one, is the nylon strategy. We tried 50 years of containment and that
didn’t bring democracy. So let’s try inundating them with American
goods, visitors, culture, contact, commerce.

It’s not a crazy argument. But it does have its weaknesses.
Normalization has not advanced democracy in or Vietnam. Indeed, it
hasn’t done so in Cuba. Except for the United States, Cuba has had
normal relations with the rest of the world for decades. Tourists,
trade, from , , Britain, , everywhere. An
avalanche of nylons — and not an inch of movement in Cuba toward freedom.

In fact, one could argue that this influx of Western money has helped
preserve the dictatorship, as just about all the financial transactions
go through the government, which takes for itself before any
trickle-down crumbs are allowed to reach the ­regime-indentured masses.

My view is that -state control of every aspect of Cuban life is so
thoroughly perfected that outside influences, whether confrontational or
cooperative, only minimally affect the country’s domestic trajectory.

So why not just lift the ? After all, the unassailable strategic
rationale for isolating Cuba — in the Soviets’ mortal global struggle
with us, Cuba enlisted as a highly committed enemy beachhead 90 miles
from American shores — evaporated with the collapse of the Soviet
empire. A small island with no significant independent military
capacities, Cuba became geopolitically irrelevant.

That’s been partially reversed in the past few years as Vladimir Putin
has repositioned Russia as America’s leading geopolitical adversary and
the Castros signed up for that coalition too. Cuba has reportedly agreed
to reopen the Soviet-era Lourdes espionage facility, a massive listening
post for intercepting communications. Havana and Moscow have also
discussed the use of Cuban airfields for Russia’s nuclear-capable
long-range bombers.

This in addition to Cuba’s usual hemispheric mischief, such as training
and equipping the security and repression apparatus in .

No mortal threat, I grant you. And not enough to justify forever cutting
off Cuba. But it does raise the question: With the U.S. embargo already
in place and the Castros hungry to have it lifted, why give them trade,
investment, hard currency, prestige and worldwide legitimacy — for
nothing in return?

Obama brought back nothing on democratization, a staggering betrayal of
Cuba’s crusaders. No free speech. No free assembly. No
independent political parties. No hint of free elections. Not even the
kind of 1975 Helsinki Final Act that we got from the Soviets as part of
detente, granting structure and review to human rights promises. These
provided us with significant leverage in supporting the dissident
movements in Eastern Europe that eventually brought down communist rule.

If Obama insisted on giving away the store, why not at least do it item
by item? We relax part of the embargo in return for, say, Internet
access. And tie further normalization to serial relaxations of
police-state repression.

Oh, what hypocrisy, say the Obama acolytes. Did we not normalize
relations with China and get no human rights quid pro quo?

True. But that was never a prospect. The entire purpose was geopolitical
and the payoff was monumental: We walked away with the most significant
anti-Soviet strategic realignment of the entire Cold War, formally
breaking up the communist bloc and gaining China’s neutrality, and
occasional support, in our half-century struggle to dismantle the Soviet

From Cuba, Obama didn’t even get a token gesture. Not even a fig leaf
such as, say, withdrawal of secret police support in Venezuela. Or
extradition of American criminals now fugitive in Cuba, including a
notorious cop killer. Did we even ask?

Obama seems to believe that the one-way deal was win-win. A famous
victory — the Cuba issue is now behind us. A breakthrough.

Indeed it is. You know how to achieve a breakthrough in tough
negotiations? Give everything away. Try it. You’ll have a deal by noon.
Every time.

Source: Nylons for nothing in Cuba – The Washington Post –

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