As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Guess What, Diplomacy Works

An astonishing statement from Cuba.

SANTO DOMINGO (AFP) — The United States welcomes as an "overture" an offer of wide-ranging talks from Cuban President Raul Castro, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday.

"We have seen Raul Castro's comments. We welcome this overture. We're taking a very serious look at it," Clinton said here at a press availability with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.

On Thursday Castro said "we are open, whenever they want, to discussing everything: human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything they want to discuss."

But, said Castro on the eve of this weekend's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, any dialogue "must be as equals, without the slightest violation of the self-determination of the Cuban people."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said if reports on Castro "are true, it is a positive step."

Obviously, this won't get resolved overnight. But Raul Castro has as much to gain from a cooling of relations with the United States as anyone. Lucas O'Connor has a bit on that.

This new openness from the Cuban government is less surprising than it may immediately seem on its surface. While the government came to power motivated towards empowering the poor and breaking the legacy of oligarchy and neo-colonialism, the political course charted by the Castros has always been pragmatic more than ideological. For decades, the better economic and political support system for this regime came from the Soviet Union and alignment with Communist powers. Since the end of the Cold War, Cuba has been moving slowly to open itself up to free enterprise and outside investment.

These talks, and the potential steps towards openness with the United States, is a logical step along that path. Remittances (largely from the U.S.) currently represent 1.8% of Cuba's GDP and "helps the island's $58 billion economy, as the Cuban government charges fees that take about 20 percent of exchange-wired dollars."

The overall point here is that negotiation and diplomacy works. Extending a hand instead of a clenched fist can result in the opponent recognizing a new era of relations and returning the favor. Those tough guys on the right who thinks that we must only degrade and villify our foes in the world do so because they need enemies and don't want to resolve these problems - they work better as campaign bullet points. The President has taken the opposite view, and it's good to see.

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