“The Top 7 Myths of U.S. Defense Policy Toward the Americas”
April 29, 2010
Dr. Frank O. Mora
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Western Hemisphere Affairs
Although not necessarily a security or defense issue, the seventh myth regards Cuba. Being here at ICCAS, I would be remiss if I did not discuss U.S.-Cuba relations. The question of Cuba is so complex, with so much history, that it is perhaps not surprising that it forces me to abandon the framework I’ve used for this speech.
In discussing Cuba, there are two critiques of the Administration’s policy to date. Simply stated, critics contend we have either done too much or not nearly enough. Some claim the Administration has not sufficiently broken from the past while others accuse the Administration of propping up the repressive Cuban authorities. Neither is correct. It is important to recognize that the President has done exactly what he promised he would do with regard to Cuba policy. He has removed restrictions on family visits and remittances; he has sought to engage on issues of mutual interest such as migration and direct postal service; he has sought to increase the flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and he has stood up in defense of the basic human and political rights of the Cuban people in denouncing the tragic death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and renewing his call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners. In the wake of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, the United States has also cooperated with Cuba to expedite the arrival of critical supplies to victims and survivors of the worst natural disaster in the modern history of the Western Hemisphere.
In sum, the promises that President Obama has fulfilled are significant because they create opportunities for relationship building and exchange and demonstrate that we are sincere in our openness and desire to establish a new chapter in the history of U.S.-Cuban relations. The administration cannot be blamed, however, for those who project more on to President Obama than what was, in fact, promised.
Of course, and as the President has observed, a fundamental change in the U.S.-Cuba relationship requires action and good will from both sides. We have seen very little good will from the Cuban authorities and even less positive action. As Secretary of State Clinton recently noted, the Cuban authorities remain intransigent.
Despite this intransigence, U.S. policy will remain focused on reaching out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their future and will remain committed to advancing U.S. national interests. Thus, we will push forward constantly to break old paradigms by promoting people-to-people bonds. The risk that such bonds somehow aid current Cuban authorities is, in my view, negligible. I sincerely believe we have developed an appropriately cautious approach that strikes the right balance between moving our relationship with Cuba in a positive direction while simultaneously maintaining pressure on the Cuban government to allow the Cuban people to be truly free.