We become so accustomed to taking swipes at stupid America's stupid and counterproductive Cuba policy—the pointless embargo, the ridiculous travel restrictions—that we tend to overlook the obvious: When Washington engages in diplomacy with the Castro dictator, it's typically unidirectional (and shouldn't unidirectional "diplomacy" just be called "concessions"?). Our quid is rarely, if ever, followed a quo.
It was long fashionable to argue that Havana's foreign policy, its alliances with sundry Moscow-backed dictatorships, was purely reactive; that the Cubans turned to the Kremlin for assistance only when rebuffed by Washington. In other words, because Washington didn't meddle in the appropriate way (by transferring support from the ancien régime dictator, Batista, to the dictator-in-waiting), Castro decided that he would become a Marxist-Leninist because it was a better paying gig.
Everything about this "analysis"—constructed for ideological, not historical, purposes—is wrong. And it perpetuates the sinister myth that the Castro regime only acts out when others mistreat it. President Obama, I assume, now also understands that dealing with the Cuban regime is rather more complicated, having attempted to engage the regime by easing travel restrictions, loosening limits on the amount of hard currency that can be sent to the island, and generally signaling a dramatic change from the hostility of the Bush administration. Another reset button pressed, another "new relationship" yet to bear fruit.
The simple quo for all of this quid would be the release of Alan Gross, the USAID contractor/imperialist monster arrested for distributing "devices the allowed remote Internet access." Instead, for attempting to provide a few Cubans access to websites other than Juventud Rebelde and Granma, Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison. While waiting to stand trial, Gross, whose daughter and mother are both suffering from cancer, reportedly lost 90 pounds.
The Wall Street Journal has details:
Saturday's sentencing of Alan Gross, a contractor from U.S. Agency for International Development, throws recent progress into question, some experts said. Mr. Gross had been distributing Internet communications equipment on the island under a democracy-promotion program run by the U.S. Agency for International Development. That was illegal, according to a Cuban court, which handed down a harsh 15-year sentence for aiming "to destroy the Revolution."
The ruling—made over a demand by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to immediately release Mr. Gross—will decrease chances the U.S. will push more conciliatory measures with Cuba in the near future, experts said.
"Do we give them all these concessions in the hope that they will do something, or do we think in terms of real politics and try to tighten the screws?" asked Jaime Suchlicki, a Cuba analyst at the University of Miami.