In the U.S. we’re about to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday. As we enter the zone of the three-day weekend, we thought we’d open the news summary with this head-scratcher:
The State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs is hosting a day-long meeting with high-level representatives from the Caribbean Community countries, the Dominican Republic, and “non-Caribbean partner nation observers.”
State calls the event “a forum for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), which will in turn create a framework for partnership and improving security and citizen safety throughout the Caribbean, two core U.S. objectives for the region. Key goals for this partnership include substantially reducing illicit trafficking, increasing citizen safety, and promoting social justice.”
An event like this should be right in the U.S.-Cuba sweet spot. But when we asked the State Department this week “Is Cuba invited?” a spokeswoman from the Bureau wrote us back (rather promptly, we should note) and said “No,” and then she listed the attendees who are coming just as they appeared in the press release.
Cuba should have had a seat at the table.
As national security expert Randy Beardsworth wrote about the U.S. and Cuba last year:
Both nations are vulnerable to the scourge of illegal drugs and to global criminal networks…In addition, the U.S. has a strong national interest in countering global financial crimes, especially those that may contribute to terrorist activities. One could reasonably expect, given these common interests, the U.S. and Cuba would have a robust dialogue in these seemingly neutral, apolitical areas of interest. But this is not the case, and the lack of functional relationships that would permit dialogue puts our national interests at risk (our emphasis).
From protecting national security to preserving shared resources like the maritime environment in the Gulf of Mexico, the absence of a normal relationship with Cuba imposes profound costs on the United States.
Current U.S. policy – what some people call “conditionality” – requires Cuba to compensate our government with changes in their political system in order to secure meaningful cooperation with us. Cuba has resolutely refused to play that game for five decades.
What this means is that whenever something really needs to happen, we either set the policy aside (which makes us look dumb) or accept the costs of not engaging with Cuba (which makes us look dumber).
In December of last year, the Obama administration turned down a request from the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), based in Houston, to send a delegation to Cuba. In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, now the administration wants them to go, so that IADC can have the kinds of discussions about safe drilling activities it could have had with Cuba before the BP spill occurred.
Why is it better for us to be a step behind events because we’re locked into a policy that hasn’t worked and never will?
It’s a holiday head-scratcher.
This week in Cuba news…