When is it ok to intervene?
Posted by Charles II on January 18, 2013
If one is curious about just how the US meddles abroad, the NS Archive released some documents from a lawsuit filed by a man who has been jailed by the Cuban government. The documents released by Peter Kornbluh describe providing “support to the Cuban people in hastening transition:
The U.S. government has “between five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba, and the USAID-sponsored “Democracy” program aimed at the Castro government is “an operational activity” that demands “continuous discretion,” according to documents filed in court this week, and posted today by the National Security Archive. The records were filed by Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), one of USAID’s largest contractors, in response to a lawsuit filed by the family of Alan Gross, who was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 for attempting to set up satellite communications networks on the island, as part of the USAID program.
In an August 2008 meeting toward the end of the George W. Bush administration, according to a confidential memorandum of conversation attached to DAI’s filing, officials from the “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program,” as the Democracy effort is officially known, told DAI representatives that “USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.” The program, the officials stated, intended to “provide a base from which Cubans can ‘develop alternative visions of the future.'”
There’s a useful conversation to be had about how the US government should respond to authoritarian states. Alan Gross was jailed simply for providing communications equipment to Cuban Jews, a jailing which seems manifestly unfair…unless it was part of a campaign to destabilize the Cuban government.
If we supplied communications equipment to the Arab Spring or to the Syrian rebels to resist dictatorial censorship, most Americans would probably approve. We would never do the same thing to a rival like Russia or China, since it would have serious diplomatic consequences. So part of the judgment about what is ok is actually based on what we can get away with. And we would never intervene in an authoritarian state whose government we support like, say, Saudi Arabia. In the case of Cuba, the rest of the world has concluded that we are obsessed with Castro and that we are behaving like bullies.
We need a consistent policy, one that doesn’t vary depending on how strong or weak authoritarian states are, or whether we support the government or not.
One other interesting angle is that one can find the quality of partner the USG is using to learn about Cuba, like The Babalu Blog which relies on FrontPage Mag and Judicial Watch for its reality, as well as The Cuban Triangle. Really, if this is what the USAID is using to find out about Cuba, they are very confused.
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