‘Cuba Experts’ on the Wrong Side of History

Jose R. Cardenas at InterAmerican Security Watch:

“Cuba Experts” on the Wrong Side of History

“The Castro generation is slowly handing power over to the next generation of party and military leaders who will determine the pace and scope of the reform process.”

Jose Cardenas“Cuba Expert” Ted Piccone of the Brookings Institution, giving one reason why the United States should unilaterally change U.S. policy towards Cuba.

The Cold War had its “Sovietologists;” today we have the “Cuba expert” — and anyone seeking to understand the true nature of the Castro regime and the reality of events in Cuba is worse off for it.

Sovietologists, those presumed subject matter experts who were relied upon by the media for insight to the opaque politics and motivations of the former Soviet Union, are now pretty much a discredited lot.  Not because they couldn’t predict the collapse of the USSR, but because for years they grossly underestimated the moral bankruptcy of tyranny and the power of individuals who simply wanted to live their lives in freedom.

Aside from a few notable exceptions, the Sovietologists  basically hewed to the same line: the legitimacy and stability of the Soviet system were givens, the goals and aspirations of the USSR were morally equivalent to those of the United States, and all that was needed to bring about enduring global peace was enlightened statesmanship from Washington to accommodate those realities.

Which brings us to today’s “Cuba experts” — familiar names routinely quoted in the national media whose analyses amount to uncanny regurgitations of those of the disgraced Sovietologists.  They too do not question the legitimacy y or stability of the Castro regime; evince little skepticism over regime policies or actions; exaggerate both its accomplishments and its popularity; dismiss the relevance of Cuban dissidents; and maintain that whatever U.S.-Cuba divisions exist are far outweighed by common interests — and that if not for irrational “hardliners” on both sides, then the two countries could get about normalizing relations.

And, just like the Sovietologists of old when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, they accept at face value the reformability of the system.  In fact, their most consistent meme today is attempting to convince observers that Raul Castro is ushering in a new Cuban dawn of meaningful economic and political liberalization — and that, as usual, the U.S. is behind the curve.

For example, Cuba expert Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations, tells us, “[Raul] is taking a number of steps that imply a major rewriting of the social contract in Cuba to shrink the size of the state and give Cuban individuals more freedom – economically, especially, but also in terms of speech – than we’ve seen in the last fifty years.”

Another of the mainstream media’s go-to experts, Phil Peters of the Lexington Institute, whose obsequious blog reports to the world every pronouncement of Cuban state media, “Cuba is changing, and an economic overhaul is underway. …The changes are important, far more consequential than the liberalizations that helped Cuba’s economy survive the loss of Soviet bloc aid and trade two decades ago.”

The new kid on the block, Arturo Lopez-Levy, is a former “intelligence analyst” with Cuba’s repressive Interior Ministry who is now living in the U.S. and studying at the University of Denver.  Curiously, he can’t seem to offer a single negative comment about his former employer, and instead is aspiring to be a star media critic of U.S. policy towards Cuba.  He writes, “Raul Castro’s commitment to economic reforms and institutionalization is opening venues for the discussion of new ideas within the power structure and the general political discourse.  Propositions in favor of a gradual expansion of the role of the market in the economy, the diversification of the property structure, and the expansion of the role of law and rules in the functioning of the government and the party are openly discussed.”

It is as if the Berlin Wall never fell.

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