Saturday, February 23, 2008

Redefining "transition"

Earlier in the Bush Administration, when the long commission reports were being published explaining how U.S. policies would bring down Cuban socialism, officials made a clear distinction between “succession” and “transition” in Cuba. The former would be a change in leadership within the system, the latter a transformation of it.

But U.S. officials have changed the way those words are used. I discussed the issue, here. More recently, at Babalu, they complained about others’ confusion about those terms, going so far as drag out dictionary definitions for all to see.

Look at State Department spokesman Sean McCormack’s comments last week.

“It’s very clear that there’s a transition underway from Fidel Castro to some other form of government. Unfortunately, at the moment, that form of government is not an elected democracy.”

It used to be that “transition” was good, and “succession” was bad. Easy to understand, and right in line with the normal meaning of the terms.

Now, the U.S. government is talking about “transition” only, but distinguishing between good transition and bad transition.

I don’t think it does the U.S. government any good to make the assertion that Cuba is moving to “some other form of government.” Has anyone else asserted that, and does anyone believe it?

Didn’t think so.

Anyway, why would the Administration fool with its terminology? I have two guesses.

First, the Administration is clearly engaging in what Senator Obama would call “the audacity of hope.” Back to Mr. McCormack at the State Department:

“Very often, when you have dictatorships that are undergoing change, there are possibilities for change…much of this will be up to the Cuban people working with the international community to help build democratic institutions…”

In other words, the idea is to keep the focus on the concept of change – You fired up? – rather than acknowledge that all we have seen is leadership change within the same system.

More important, the new terminology helps to bury the rhetorical track record established earlier in the Bush Administration.

The 2004 commission report was supposed to “accelerate the demise of Castro’s tyranny,” Secretary Rice said. The report included measures to “undermine the regime’s succession strategy.” And on the day it was released, it was said from Mr. McCormack’s own podium that “there will not be a succession” in Cuba, and “the United States, for one, will not accept a succession scenario.”

We’ll see what happens tomorrow, and who accepts what.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The right wingers at Foggy Bottom are nailed. Ha, ha!!!!! Words, just empty words?

i guess in State under Rice words are just words.