McCain Declares Cuba Policy a Success

McCain Declares Cuba Policy a Success Senator John McCain declared our policy of containment towards Cuba a success and declared his support for an independent Kosovo in a conference call with bloggers this afternoon.

He made some opening remarks focusing on foreign policy before taking questions and I had the opportunity to ask him to expand his thoughts.

He challenged Barack Obama’s statement in last night’s debate that he would sit down and talk with Raul Castro without precondition. McCain said he’d be happy to hold talks once they have free elections and release their political prisoners but not before.

In my questioning, I noted that we had managed to have unconditional talks with the likes of Joe Stalin and Chairman Mao. While conceding that point — although noting that our marriage of convenience with Stalin quickly fell apart once our common foe was defeated — he thinks Raul is a particularly bad fellow[1] and that, more importantly, our holding talks would increase his legitimacy and possibly extend the reign of Communism over that country. I noted that we’d been trying to change Cuba’s regime by isolating them since well before I was born and that I’m not a particularly young man anymore. McCain begged to differ, saying our policy was containment and it had worked. He noted that Cuba’s ability to expand their influence to far-flung places in Africa and even inside Latin America had been eliminated.

In his opening remarks, the Senator noted the rioting in response to Kosovo’s independence declaration but stated that he believes it will taper off and Kosovo will be a free society. I asked where one draws the line on national sovereignty claims. McCain said there was no cut-and-dried rule that he could apply. He agreed with me that micro-states could be a problem and that tribalism, particularly in East Africa, had created much misery. At the same time, he believes the long history of human rights abuses against the Kosovar Albanians made them a special case.

Pat Curley asked about the possibility of a McCain-Obama race breaking the mold in terms of Electoral College competitiveness and, specifically, which Red and Blue states in recent years would be in play. McCain stated that he thought he would be “very competitive” in California and thought he had a good chance in New Jersey and even New York. On the down side, he thought he would have more trouble with New Mexico than has been the case in recent years. (See Curley’s write-up for more detail.)

Other questions focused on the New York Times allegations, his issues with the FEC, and the Native Hawaiian bill [see Fausta Wertz on the last]. Nothing much newsworthy came of those discussions.

Note: I made some minor additions to the above account to more fully flesh out the conversation in the first few minutes after initial publication.

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[1]He cited Brian Latell’s prize-winning book After Fidel: Raul Castro and the Future of Cuba’s Revolution. See also Latell’s TIME 100 piece, “Raúl Castro.”

Photo credit: The Scratching Post

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Wow. The amount of unadulterated BS in McCain’s remarks is impressive.

    I noted that we had managed to have unconditional talks with the likes of Joe Stalin and Chairman Mao. While conceding that point, he thinks Raul is a particularly bad fellow…

    Really, John? Raul Freaking Castro is a “particularly bad fellow” compared to Stalin and Mao? Really? I double-dog dare him to support that statement. I triple-dog dare any mainstream interviewer to do a follow-up on it.

    McCain begged to differ, saying our policy was containment and it had worked. He noted that Cuba’s ability to expand their influence to far-flung places in Africa and even inside Latin America had been eliminated.

    What utter crap. Cuba’s not influencing many other places any more, but it’s because of the collapse of the USSR (and resulting loss of their aegis) that rendered them moot, not anything we specifically did to Cuba. The fact that Fidel left office only because of old age and infirmity, rather than anything the US has done, pretty much puts the lie to McCain’s entire pile.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Fidel left office only because of old age and infirmity, rather than anything the US has done

    Agreed. We pretty much agreed to disagree on this one.

    The actual order of questions was reversed — I did the write-up in journalistic style so the lede matched the headline — or I’d have just kept pressing rather than doing the Kosovo question. He’s very generous with his time and allows back-and-forths on these things but it’s not a traditional interview, either.

    My sense on Cuba is that politicians have their positions, often for historical and/or electoral reasons, and then do the best they can to make the facts fit their policy.

    I’m not sure Obama is right, in that I’m not sure what we’re going to accomplish talking with Castro, but I figure you’ve got to talk to the people in charge.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    There seems to be a bit of a flip flop on Obama’s part.

    Last August he was for easing the travel restrictions part of the embargo.

    When Fidel stepped down, he issued a press release including this statement.

    If the Cuban leadership begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change, the United States must be prepared to begin taking steps to normalize relations and to ease the embargo of the last five decades.

    That statement would sure seem to be a pre-condition. Now maybe he issued the statement and then on further consideration changed his mind. Maybe its a Clintonesque parsing of the sentence that allows two seemingly incompatible statements be true at the same time. Or maybe he has decided that his original reaction captured in his initial statement doesn’t play well with the democrats and being a bold candidate for change he quickly changed tack to align himself with the left side of the democratic party.

  4. Brainster says:

    James, I asked the question about the electoral college map; I was very pleased to hear him mention my old home state of New Jersey, because I definitely think he has a chance to break through there. New York seems unlikely though. I am hopeful that New Mexico can be won due to McCain’s obvious popularity with Hispanics, but it’s definitely trending blue.

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Of course Obama wants to talk to Raul Castro. He needs to know what to do with those who oppose the change he has in mind for America. He wants to manage the economy. Only in socialist/communist dictatorships currently do we have managed economies. If you believe anything B. Hussein Obama has to say, I want to sell you some property I own in Florida.

  6. FireWolf says:

    If anyone has read any history on US relations with Cuba either before or after the Cuban missile crisis can see that our foreign policy was stupid.

    The containment policies for communism wasn’t very effective when you consider the cost we had to pay for that narrowminded viewpoint. When Truman was president he decided that Stalin was a bum, and after the Churchill “Iron Curtain” speech sealed the fate of the Cold War era.

    There is nothing wrong with re-establishing diplomatic relations with a Cuban government sans Fidel. Raul doesn’t have much time for a 74yr old and that country needs to look ahead beyond the castro monopoly.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I wonder what things would have looked like if the policy had failed.

  8. obsessed says:

    There’s another Arizona Republican, Jeff Flake, who has a very good handle on the Cuban situation. Too bad he’s not the one with the commanding lead for the nomination.

  9. tom p says:

    My question is simply this: Why do we continue to allow a major segment of our foraign policy to be held hostage by a minority in a single state that continues to be fixated on a bygone era?

    Millions of Americans fought (and 60,000+ died) in Vietnam, and yet we have normalized relations with them?

  10. anjin-san says:

    Funny how the GOP has no problem at all doing business with the ruthless, brutal communist dictators of China.

    But Cuba, which is about as much threat to America as a toy poodle… hey, we are drawing the line!

    Moronic at best.

  11. Tano says:

    Can we just agree now that John McCain is totally clueless about foreign policy, and singularly unqualified to become POTUS?

    I mean, to call a policy a success, when it has failed miserably for over 40 years is beyond misguided, it is even beyond delusional.

  12. davod says:

    “I’m not sure Obama is right, in that I’m not sure what we’re going to accomplish talking with Castro, but I figure you’ve got to talk to the people in charge.”

    Just like the Syrians and Iranians. Every time we talk with the people in charge they beat up on the opposition or continue to build bad things.

    As for the US being held hostage by the Cuban expatriates in Florida, that may be so. But it still doesn’t get past the fact that those in power in Cuba always had the means to make life better for Cubans and they did not. They always had the means to improve the Human Rights record and only did so when it suited them (then threw people back in jail after their aims were met).

    Just remember that a large number of those in and out of the US government were previously advised by Anna Montes the DIAs chief adviser on Cuba. You know the Anna Montes. who spied for Cuba for over twenty years.

    And let’s not get all cuddly with Raul, who is as bad, if not worse, than his brother.
    Gorbachev He’s Not.