To even the most casual observer, it has become all too clear that President Obama fails to appreciate the value of negotiating from a position of strength.
From Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s crossing of Mr. Obama’s “red line,” to Iran’s continued commitment to developing nuclear weapons in the face of international objections, naiveté and incompetence have characterized this administration’s global outlook.
Even so, Mr.Obama’s latest stunt should leave even his staunchest defenders scratching their heads.
Obama’s hearty handshake earlier this month in South Africa with Cuban dictator Raul Castro is not only baffling, it’s offensive to Americans who support basic human rights, the families of Americans wrongly imprisoned in Cuba’s many gulags, and the millions of Cubans who have been forced to flee their homeland to escape the Castro brothers’ tyrannical rule.
The Cuban regime also has a long history of inflaming regional tension and support for international terrorism and terrorist networks. The country has been on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List since 1982 — just the second nation in history to receive that notorious status, and one of only four countries on the list. The others are Iran, Sudan, and Syria for those keeping track.
In the case of Iran, President Obama has eased U.S. sanctions — extending de facto recognition to the regime while allowing it to access billions of dollars. In return, Mr. Obama has received nothing from Tehran, which has vowed to continue construction of a heavy-water reactor at Arak, and refused to rule out future ballistic missile tests. That latter point prompted an embarrassing “clarification” from the Obama administration that an Iranian missile launch would not invalidate our “agreement” with Iran. Charming.
The accord is so toothless and so impotent that even Howard Dean recently took to Twitter to criticize it.
“Remind me why we are negotiating with Iran while they murder unarmed civilians? This makes State and the Administration look foolish,” Dean Tweeted, adding “The US looks weak and incapable in negotiating with Iran while they murder unarmed dissidents who are under US protection.”
In the case of Syria, the U.S. has taken an equally flaccid approach.
President Obama drew a “red line” in August 2012, warning that the use of chemical weapons would result in serious consequences for the regime. Yet, a year later, when Syrian Dictator Assad used chemical weapons against innocent civilians, Mr. Obama backed away from that “red line,” weakening America’s credibility and standing with our regional allies.
In Cuba, beyond the egregious examples we’ve listed above, there is also the case of Alan Gross.
Gross, an international aid worker, was arrested just before Christmas in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for “Acts against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State.” Despite the efforts of several Members of Congress to secure his release, Mr. Gross just spent a fourth consecutive Christmas in a Cuban prison that he has described as “hell.”
From the very outset of his administration, President Obama has placed unelected dictators and terrorists on an equal, if not higher, footing than other world leaders. He has traded pleasantries with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi for the cameras, while ducking meetings with Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu. He has hosted state dinners for communist China’s unelected dictator, while barring Taiwan’s democratically elected president from even setting foot in Washington, DC.
Mr. Obama’s embrace of the Cuban strongman (while failing to raise the issue of human rights or Mr. Gross’ release) has given the Cuban regime a valuable public relations victory. It will also serve to undermine the morale of those in Cuba and other totalitarian countries who face torture, imprisonment and death every single day in their ongoing struggle to secure the basic human rights that we take for granted every single day.
Many have brushed off the Obama-Castro handshake as an act of accidental politeness – but to dismiss it so easily would be to ignore Mr. Obama’s past use of this type of “handshake diplomacy” with a “Who’s Who” of the worlds worst despots (see photos).
In 2009, President Obama said, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” Obama has clearly extended a hand, but not in return for the unclenched fists of the dictators he naively hoped for back then. Indeed, Mr. Obama’s latest overture to the repressive and brutal Cuban regime is simply more evidence of an out-of-touch administration that views diplomacy and negotiation as a result instead of a tactic.
We are beginning to wonder if Mr. Obama — after he’s finished texting the Iranian dictator and back-slapping with Raul Castro — will ask to catch a ride with Dennis Rodman on his next trip to Pyongyang.