Alan Gross and the U.S. Pragmatism Deficit
Courtesy: Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) – a program from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies
By Arturo Lopez-Levy, January 25, 2013
Beltway foreign policy analysts frequently praise the Obama administration for its “pragmatic” approach to world affairs. In dealing with Russia, China, or the economic crisis, the current White House has won plaudits for rejecting more ideological schools of thought in favor of evidence-based, flexible solutions.
A pragmatic approach to foreign policy is by nature flexible, responsive to changes in the target country, clear in its interests and goals, and creative in its implementation.
In short, it’s everything the Obama administration’s approach to Cuba isn’t.
To be sure, in his first term, Obama showed pragmatism by eliminating travel restrictions that had only caused resentment on the island, in the Cuban-American community, and among academic, religious, and humanitarian constituencies in the United States. But after criticizing the Bush administration’s dogmatic policies of isolation, the Obama administration has adjusted course only at the margins.
In Its own universe
The worst managed issue between Cuba and the United States since 2009 has been the detention of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in a Cuban military hospital since December 2009. But instead of facing the facts, the Obama administration has created its own fictional narrative of the controversy, which contradicts even its own publicly available documents.
Alan Gross is an American international development expert who entered Cuba five times as an unregistered foreign agent. A USAID subcontractor, his mission was to create a wireless Internet satellite network based out of Jewish community centers to circumvent Cuban government detection. With the Cuban government well aware of the U.S. role in seeding the Stuxnet virus that nearly derailed Iran’s nuclear program, this was a huge red flag.
The USAID program was approved under section 109 of the Helms-Burton Act, a law explicitly committed to regime change in Cuba. Gross’ actions were covert. He never obtained the informed consent of the Cuban government or the Cuban Jewish community, which has always expressed opposition to the Helms-Burton law—particularly its attempt to politicize religious communities as tools to promote opposition groups.
Moreover, Gross didn’t know Cuba and didn’t speak Spanish. He was in over his head.
All this is well known, but Washington maintains that Gross was in Cuba as part of regular humanitarian programs. The United States insists that the international community simply misunderstands the Helms-Burton law, pretending that it’s about anything other than undermining Cuba’s sovereignty. USAID claims that Cuban civil society, religious groups, and even dissidents who criticize the Helms-Burton approach are mistaken. The Helms-Burton law helps them; they just don’t realize it.
A confidential document from a USAID task force associated with Gross’ work indicates a pattern of consistent misinformation. At the top of a list of go-to sources of information on Cuba, the program recommended the “Babalu” blog, an irrelevant website managed by rabid pro-embargo elements. The blog has called President Obama a “Marxist tyrant” and has also taken aim at Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and various Cuban Americans who disagree with the editors’ McCarthyism. The fact that President Obama’s own USAID recommended Babalu as a reliable source of information is in itself grounds for closing the program until some adult guidance is guaranteed. Only on that planet was Alan Gross appropriately warned about the risks associated with his mission.
Story continues here: http://www.fpif.org/articles/alan_gross_and_the_us_pragmatism_deficit