Chris Dodd's Cuba Initiative

Late last week, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) officially announced his intention to enter the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate. While he acknowledges his "dark horse" status, he knows "what has to be done" to "make my case." And, according to New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Kathy Sullivan,
"People really like him. He's very smart. He's also very articulate. And I think he might have the sharpest wit of anyone in the field."
(As you may remember, much was made of John Kerry's supposed intellectual superiority to President Bush, but in the end it didn't win him the 2004 election.  His wit hasn't won him any friends lately either.)

Dodd may be a dark horse to the general American public, but he has been a very active player in Washington for over 30 years. First elected to the House in 1974 where he served three terms, he won his senate seat in 1980. A liberal's liberal on domestic issues, Dodd's National Journal Composite Liberal Score was 80% in 2005. (In comparison, Joe Lieberman's score was 66%, while Ted Kennedy's was 97%.) He has strong union ties and has voted favorably many times on the pro-choice agenda.

Yet his ideas on foreign policy raise even more red flags than his domestic ones. One glaring example Americans might be interested to know about is that Dodd is in favor of lifting our embargo on Cuba. At the National Summit on Cuba in September of 2002, he had this to say:
In Cuba today, you will not find people "inspired" by our embargo aimed at the removal of Fidel Castro from power, but rather you will find hungry families living in unnecessary poverty.

In Cuba today, you will not find a Fidel Castro weakened by our 40-year embargo, but a Cuban leadership solidified by what can only be thought of as bullying tactics by the world's strongest superpower against one of our hemisphere's poorest nations.

Most importantly, the summit today has exposed America's policy toward Cuba as profoundly hypocritical - during the 40 years that we have maintained our embargo against Cuba, the U.S. has normalized trade relations with Russia, China and even Vietnam.
Those hungry families Dodd describes do not include president-for-life Fidel Castro (whose health is very fragile at the moment). In 2006, Forbes magazine estimated Castro's personal wealth at $900 million. This estimate was derived from his partial ownership in state enterprises, and his ownership of about ten percent of the Cuban GDP.

The main reason for Cuba's financial plight is its Communist model. While in theory Communism promotes egalitarianism between men and therefore equality in standards of living, in practice nothing could be further from the truth. Economist and commentator Thomas Sowell notes:
One of the bitter ironies of the 20th century was that communism, which began as an egalitarian doctrine accusing capitalism of selfishness and calloused sacrifices of others, became in power a system whose selfishness and callousness toward others made the sins of capitalism pale.

The ruling elites of the Soviet Union, called the "nomenklatura," had their own separate and superior stores where ordinary citizens were not allowed to shop, their own separate and superior medical facilities, as well as their own separate and superior living quarters, all off-limits to the masses.
All enterprises are owned by the state. Private enterprise is strictly outlawed, including any business venture with foreigners. Therefore, any US investment in or trade with Cuba would not be benefiting ordinary citizens; it would be going directly toward the same government regime that oppresses them.

During the days of the Soviet Union, Cuba received subsidized trade and economic assistance. When the USSR dissolved, that assistance to its island sister ceased, which plunged the country's economy into a freefall. In a nutshell: Communism does not work.

This goes a long way in explaining the plight of Cuba's citizens. And, in spite of the fact that a number of other countries trade with Cuba and allow their citizens to spend their tourism dollars there, Cuba cannot sustain itself. Its citizens are not even allowed the same privileges as its tourists: they are not allowed to eat, shop, live, or otherwise exist in the same places as tourists. While tourists see only the best Cuba has to offer, its underprivileged citizens live in substandard conditions. But according to Chris Dodd, it is the United States embargo alone that is to blame for the inequalities in Cuban society.

Russia (on paper) is no longer a Communist country, and has made some effort at incorporating capitalist models into its economy. The same is true for Vietnam and China. The long term effects of these capitalist models in Communist societies are not yet known. But the long term effects of Communism in Cuba are evident: unlike the countries mentioned above, it has little to export and little to offer possible investing companies other than labor.

And those who do the labor do not benefit from it.

Lest we forget, it was Bill Clinton who signed both the China and Vietnam trade bills back in 2000.

In May of 2002, Dodd compared President Bush to Castro, saying that both men
"refuse to listen to the voices of their citizens calling for change...That a small minority holds sway in Cuba isn't surprising - it is a dictatorship. However that it does in the United States is disturbing. We have a right to expect something different from our own government which is after all a democracy."
While a United States president might expect foreign enemies to compare him to a murderous despot who thinks nothing of imprisoning, torturing and even killing those who dare to disagree with the government, one would not expect a United States senator to make such an outrageous statement.

In the same May statement, Dodd also said that President Bush
"should listen to the brave Cubans who have remained on the Island to work for peaceful change."
Cubans who stay do so because they are forced to pay the government large sums of money if they want to leave, something few can afford for obvious reasons. Those who leave without such purchased permission risk imprisonment or death if they are caught. Relatives of people lucky enough to escape are often subject to discrimination and mistreatment by the government in retaliation. Such is the Cuban paradise that so many of its supporters find attractive.

Last, but certainly not least, Castro is suspected of harboring international terrorists and has ties with an increasingly hostile Iran. In May of 2001, Castro made a trip to Iran, where he and leaders there agreed that together they could take down a weak United States.  Of course, this was before 9/11, but as Iran moves toward nuclear bomb capability, a friendship with Cuba could reinstate the dangers we faced when the Soviet Union built missile installations in there, a country less than 100 miles away from the United States. This is a grave security concern that cannot be brushed aside. Any monies that Americans might invest in Cuba may well be used against us in some kind of warfare, terrorist or otherwise. It's amazing to think that this possibility may not have occurred to Dodd.

Senator Dodd's inability to grasp the simple realities in Cuba is alarming. And if he cannot understand those issues, can we expect him to lead us successfully in the GWOT as president?

Pamela Meister writes about politics and world events on her blog. She can be contacted here.
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