Cuba, Iran, and Russia: ‘Springtime for America’s enemies’

Springtime for America’s Enemies

Dangerous and short-sighted U.S. diplomacy has empowered no one except state sponsors of terrorism and fascistic regimes.

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There has never been a better time in history to be an enemy of the United States of America. While America’s traditional allies in Europe and the Middle East express confusion and frustration, Obama’s White House delivers compliments and concessions to some of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. In the span of a single week, the U.S. has restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, pressured Ukraine to accept Vladimir Putin’s butchering of its eastern region, and brokered a deal to liberate Iran from sanctions.

These actions would represent a tremendous series of diplomatic triumphs if they improved human rights in these repressed nations, saved lives in conflict regions, or improved global security. That is, in fact, what the White House says these deals will do, despite copious evidence to the contrary. These negotiations represent willful ignorance of the fundamental nature of the regimes in question, especially those of Iran and Russia. Cuba is a political hotspot in the U.S. and remains a potent symbol of totalitarianism, but despite its regional meddling, especially in Venezuela, it isn’t on the scale of the global threats represented by Iran’s terrorism and nuclear ambitions and Putin’s nuclear-backed expansionism. Regardless of the wishes of the Iranian and Russian people, their leaders have no interest in peace, although they are very interested in never-ending peace negotiations that provide them with cover as they continue to spread violence and hatred.

The vocabulary of negotiation is a pleasant and comforting one, especially to a war-weary America. It’s difficult to argue against civilized concepts like diplomacy and engagement, and the Obama administration and the pundits who support it have made good use of this rhetorical advantage. In contrast, deterrence and isolation are harsh, negative themes that evoke the dark time of the Cold War and its constant shadow of nuclear confrontation. No one would like less a return to those days than me or anyone else born and raised behind the Iron Curtain. The question is how best to avoid such a return.

The favorite straw man of the “peacemongers” is that the only alternative to appeasement is war, which makes no sense when there is already an escalating war in progress. The alternative to diplomacy isn’t war when it prolongs or worsens existing conflicts and gives the real warmongers a free hand. Deterrence is the alternative to appeasement. Isolation is the alternative to years of engagement that has only fueled more aggression.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a Communist country that I cannot so casually ignore the suffering of the people being left behind as these treaties are signed. Ronald Reagan was called a warmonger by the same crowd that is praising Obama to the skies today and yet Reagan is the one who freed hundreds of millions of people from the Communist yoke, not the “peacemakers” Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

Diplomacy takes two while capitulation is unilateral. Diplomacy can fail and there is real damage, and real casualties, when it does. Putin’s dictatorship was immeasurably strengthened by the catastrophe known as “the reset,” an Obama/Hillary Clinton policy that gave Putin a fresh start as an equal on the world stage just months after he invaded Georgia. Years that could have been spent deterring Putin’s crackdowns and centralization of power while he still needed foreign engagement were instead spent cultivating a partnership that never really existed. Time that could have been used to establish alternate sources of gas and oil were squandered, leaving Europe vulnerable to energy blackmail.

By 2014, Putin had consolidated power at home completely and, with no significant domestic enemies left and sure he would face little international opposition, he was confident enough to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea. The thousands of dead and hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Ukraine are Putin’s victims, of course, but they must also weigh on the conscience of the bureaucrats, diplomats, and leaders whose cowardice—well-intentioned or not—emboldened Putin to that point.

As recent days and past decades past have shown us, it is easy to paint the critics of nearly any diplomatic process as warmongers. Again, the language of peace and diplomacy is soothing and positive. If we just talk a little longer, if we just delay a little more, if we just concede a little more… To make the peacemonger position even more unassailable, every outbreak of violence large or small can be blamed on the failure of the diplomats to talk, delay, and concede more. And sometimes, to be fair, acceptable compromises are reached and, if not win-win, mutually satisfactory lose-lose agreements can defuse conflicts and avoid bloodshed. Diplomacy is supposed to be the modern way, the civilized way, and it should always be considered first—and second.

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