Fiction in Foreign Policy

Author: Gary Hart

The 21st century is wasting no time in letting the U.S. know we don’t run things anymore, in case there is anyone left who thought we did.  From Tunisia to Oman everyday people are rising up, in almost every case against governments with whom we were friendly or whom, in the case of Egypt, we heavily supported financially.

These lessons work both ways.  We are about to get a really profound lesson from a government we have opposed for fifty years–Cuba.  Future students of American history will be scratching their heads about this case for decades to come.  Our embargo and refusal to normalize diplomatic relations has nothing to do with communism.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War, with China since Nixon, and with Vietnam despite our bitter war there.

No, Cuba was pure politics.  Though it started out to be a measure of an administration’s resistance to Castro’s politics, it very soon became a straight-jacket whereby first-generation Cuban-Americans wielded inordinate political power over both parties and constructed a veto over rational, mature diplomacy.

That is about to end.  And wouldn’t you know it is ending because of…oil.  In an important report a few days ago, the Center for Democracy in the Americas ( documented major oil exploration and production plans off Cuba’s northwest coast in the Gulf of Mexico.  Guess who is helping develop this major project.  China.  It is building a state of the art drilling rig, according to Italian design and paid for by the Spanish state oil company (welcome to globalization), which will then be towed 10,000 miles to Cuban territorial waters. 

Because of our Neanderthal policy toward Cuba, the U.S. will neither profit from the production nor will it be in a position to apply its post-BP experience to make the exploration environmentally safe–though it is 50 miles from Florida’s coastline.  This is both sad and embarrassing. 

Second generation Cuban-Americans are finally beginning to change their community’s attitudes and make it clear they no longer are interested in holding the mighty U.S.’s foreign policy toward a tiny nearby country hostage to their parents’ anger.

Everyday people in North Africa and the Middle East are taking control of their own destiny, largely without our help.  Maybe this new generation of Cuban-Americans will do the same to straighten out one of the U.S.’s strangest foreign policy detours in its history.

Even so, why does it always have to be about oil?

14 Responses to “Fiction in Foreign Policy”

  1. Robert Crump Says:

    “The 21st century is wasting no time in letting the U.S. know we don’t run things anymore, in case there is anyone left who thought we did… ”

    Perhaps someone should inform the Pentagon of this development then given the strong desire to impose austerity measures here at home while the war machine grinds along overseas.

    I agree the Age of America, or whatever future historians will term our blissful moment in the sun was, is nearing an end. Unfortunately however, we appear to be perfectly determined to ride the tiger for as long as we possibly can, no matter how many shuttered schools and reduced services it will cost us.

  2. Tomas Says:

    Amen! I hope.

  3. Pat Boice Says:

    What a timely column! You are so right – embarrassing to U.S. citizens – but I wonder if the Congress is embarrassed at their blatant political cowardice in kow-towing to the Florida Cuban population?

  4. Jim Engelking Says:

    I’m not sure it’s always about oil, Gary, or we would have helped China many years ago when it began trying to exploit its offshore resources. And we would have helped Cuba long before it turned to China. We would have secured new oil supplies by helping others, by being good, honest partners. I think it’s about domination.

    I believe our current problems abroad and at home began most recently when we decided to use our post-WWII military might for imperialist purposes, not for defending ourselves and others against aggression. Slowly but steadily, we have turned other nations and their people against us, because we have been the agressors.

    Under Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses, we have used our military and economic power to change regimes and rules. If we stop doing that, I believe we will be able to restore goodwill with other nations and their people, and among ourselves, because at bottom, we Americans do not consider ourselves to be evil dominators–imperialists. But we the people will have to demand that our policymakers change our national and foreign policies.

    I thought our current President and the 111th Congress would do that. They were off to a good start, right through Barack Obama’s Cairo speech, but something happened. I think I know who slapped Colin Powell down when he got out of line with Dick Cheney, who wanted to control mideast oil, but who did it to President Obama?

    We Americans are better than this, but you would not know it by watching our behavior toward each other during the past two years. The extreme right wing declared open warfare on our President, with South Carolina’s Senator Demint, “it will be his Waterloo,” and Congressman Wilson, “you lie,” leading the vile behavior, and Rupert Murdoch supplying the megaphone 24/7.

  5. Frida Masdeu Says:

    Of course, reward the criminals with moolah so we here can profit from the evil of a totally closed society. And by the way what embargo? ask the US agricultural export lobby. There were record braking profits of food exports to Cuba last year and of course most of Europe trades with the Castrofascists, while the prisions continue to be full while human rights in Cuba are a joke.

  6. carver Says:

    Senator Hart,
    I agree our relationship with Cuba is one of the most baffling decisions made by the US government; although, there are a number of baffling decisions made by the US. However, I can’t help but think it may have been a blessing for Cuba that the US hasn’t meddling in their internal affairs for 50 years, something other So. American countries experienced with less than favorable results.
    The idea that we may normalize our relations with Cuba because they sit on a pool of oil is at best hypocritical at worst it’s morally repugnant. It shows where the values of our government lies.
    In some ways I wish Cuba would tell the US to butt out.

  7. Gary Hart Says:

    Two responses are in order to limit confusion. To Frida Masdeu it is necessary to point out that diplomatic recognition is not, nor has it ever been, a reward for good behavior. Otherwise, we would not have embassies in about half the countries of the world, including those communist nations I point out in the blog that had human rights records much worse than Cuba’s. And to carver, I want to be clear that I am not advocating recognition of Cuba now that it has oil. I find the discovery of oil ironic since we have fought two wars over Persian Gulf oil. But we could help with safeguards in the exploration and production phase based on the BP disaster.

  8. Giacomella Milesi Ferretti Says:

    I simply want to express my pleasure in reading this article, Gary, it is an analysis I share, and am happy to read in a public declaration especially in days such as these!
    glad to follow you regularly since a long time!

  9. David Dreyer Says:

    With some clear, creative thinking and action on the part of the Obama administration, the cause of protecting Florida (from the potential of an oil spill and from the excesses of hard-liner exile politics) could advance the cause of the environment, offer a justification to poke a hole in the embargo for U.S. industry, and send a signal to Cuban citizens that the U.S. is finally on the side of people who are trying to build Cuba’s future rather than topple its government. It’s hard to be hopeful, but oil has tempted us to do much worse. Thank you for this post.

  10. Gary Hart: Fiction in Foreign Policy Says:

    […] To comment, please visit Senator Hart’s blog at : […]

  11. Glenn Snead Says:

    Gary, in order for the Cuban sanctions to lift we must first admit that sanctions never work. So you’re right – it is ultimately our need for oil that will end this morally impotent sanctions regime.
    You’re also right about BP. Like Three Mile Island, we won’t learn from our mistakes. We’ll put our heads in the sand and stick with what appears to be the safest path. Right now, that’s wind and solar and nothing else. Washington can’t even admit that we get thousands of products from oil. Gas and Diesel are just two products. We need the rest to keep our nation moving.

    But how can we, when we stick to the notion that sanctions will ultimately hurt dictators like Castro?

  12. Joe Lorio Says:

    Sentor HArt I enjoyed your article on Cuba. I recommend when you have time to log onto It has many past commentaries on Cuba and other commentaries that need to be read. Although a relatively unknown post it contains some of the best commentaries I have come across. I hope you take the time to check it out. Keep up the good work.

  13. Wim Dankbaar Says:

    “Dick made a lot of statements inside the committee that were a lot more inflammatory than anything I ever said, in terms of his suspicions about who killed Kennedy,” recalls Hart. “He would say, ‘This is outrageous, we’ve got to reopen this.’ He was a blowtorch.”

    Hart too concluded Kennedy was likely killed by a conspiracy, involving some feverish cabal from the swamps of anti-Castro zealotry. And when he ran for president in 1984, Hart says, whenever he was asked about the assassination, “My consistent response was, based on my Church Committee experience, there are sufficient doubts about the case to justify reopening the files of the CIA, particularly in its relationship to the Mafia.” This was enough to blow other people’s minds, says Hart, including remnants of the Mafia family of Florida godfather Santo Trafficante, who plays a key role in many JFK conspiracy theories. “(Journalist) Sy Hersh told me that he interviewed buddies of Trafficante, including his right-hand man who was still alive when Hersh wrote his book (‘The Dark Side of Camelot’). He didn’t put this in his book, but when my name came up, the guy laughed, he snorted and said, “We don’t think he’s any better than the Kennedys.” Meaning they were keeping an eye on Hart? “At the very least. This was in the 1980s when I was running for president, saying I would reopen the (Kennedy) investigation. Anybody can draw their own conclusions.”

    Dear Mr. Hart,

    Could you send me an email at ?

    I want to show you something that I’m pretty sure you will find interesting, to put it mildly.


    Wim Dankbaar

  14. Donita Gaiters Says:

    I agree, awesome article!

Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.