Thursday, February 21, 2013

"State sponsor" no more?

The Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender reports that the State Department is considering removing Cuba from the list of “state sponsors of terrorism.”

If true, it’s a sign of fresh thinking and common sense at the State Department. 

Secretary Clinton, like President Clinton, seemed to treat Cuba issues in large measure according to the political calculation that won President Clinton the White House.  To wit, to erode the Republican advantage on national security issues by taking positions wherever possible that would leave no enemies on the right. 

That meant, in the case of Cuba, letting stand the “terrorist” designation that has been specious for years and that has devalued the U.S. voice on terrorism issues by showing the world that we were happy to make a nonsensical annual statement about Cuba for domestic electoral purposes.

The Calle Ocho line is that removing Cuba from the list would be a unilateral concession to Havana – an argument that adds another layer of absurdity.  If you did something stupid like batting one-handed for, say, a few decades, would you refuse to bat two-handed because to do so would be a concession to the other team?

Also, consider this: If the U.S. government and Calle Ocho really thought Cuba were a terrorism sponsor, would we be admitting every Cuban who arrives on a U.S. shore or border crossing, processing them within days, giving them quick access to public assistance and a path to a green card in one year?  Would we not worry that some might be sent to harm us?

Ending the designation would make the U.S. voice on terrorism more serious, and it might make others take our Cuba policy more seriously because it would be more based on legitimate criticisms. 

It will also reduce financial sanctions that are tied to the “state sponsor” designation; those sanctions harm Cuba’s economy by raising country risk, the cost of doing business, and the cost of credit.  So be it.  If there’s a national security case to be made about Cuba, or a need for additional political criticisms or economic sanctions, let it be made based on evidence rather than repeating an accusation that has not been valid for years.

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