How enemies become friends—and vice versa.Mar 23, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 27 • By GABRIEL SCHEINMANN
A half-century of estrangement is over, President Obama declared late last year, in a surprise announcement that he was transforming U.S. policy towards Cuba. Having broken the ice, the administration hopes that normalizing diplomatic relations and lifting the economic embargo will, as the recently released National Security Strategy explains, “enhance our engagement in our own hemisphere, where there are enormous opportunities to consolidate gains in pursuit of peace, prosperity, democracy, and energy security.” Actually, it’s a geopolitically insignificant decision—except for the pattern it continues, one we would do well to recall as the deadline for a deal with Iran looms.
Obama’s approach to the world can be summed up with the title of a single book: How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace. Influential Georgetown professor Charles Kupchan published it in 2010 and now serves the president as senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council (on which he also served during the Clinton administration). Contravening conventional wisdom, Kupchan argues that “deft diplomacy, not trade or investment, is the critical ingredient needed to set enemies on the pathway to peace.” The Russian reset, the two-plus years of nuclear negotiations with Iran, the 18 months of secret talks with Cuba: The administration clearly agrees that diplomacy, not shared interests or values, can overcome longstanding barriers.
Kupchan outlines a four-step transformation sequence to turn enemies into friends, one the White House has followed to a tee: unilateral accommodation, reciprocal restraint, societal integration, and the generation of new narratives and identities. States remove a threat by “exercising strategic restraint and making concessions to an adversary” as a way to signal benign intent. To indicate the seriousness of the gesture, the concession needs to be “unusual and costly,” such as “backing down on a border dispute or unilaterally withdrawing forces from a contested area.”
Evidence of the Kupchan approach is ubiquitous. Towards Russia, the unilateral accommodation included accepting Russia’s occupation of Georgian territory, giving up American missile defense plans in Eastern Europe, and agreeing to a massive reduction in America’s nuclear arsenal. For Iran, it involved removing the credible threat of U.S. military force and recognizing Iran’s right to enrich uranium despite U.N. Security Council resolutions and regular Iranian perfidy. With Cuba, Obama is using his executive powers to normalize relations and weaken the embargo as much as he can but not requiring an end to repression there.
Kupchan’s book does not seem to have been translated into other languages because none of America’s adversaries has taken step two, reciprocal restraint. China continues to bully its neighbors, Russia has invaded Ukraine and backstopped Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which in turn has murdered 200,000 people, and Iran, while cheating on its interim nuclear commitments, now boasts of controlling four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Sanaa. This uncooperative behavior has not led the administration to rethink its approach of treating enemies as friends. America finds itself partnering with China, Russia, Syria, and Iran to solve problems those countries themselves have caused.
Putting Kupchan’s theory into practice was bound to fail. He points to the Iroquois Confederation, the Anglo-American rapprochement, the European Union security community, and the Swiss Confederation as his successful cases. Such transformations, Kupchan writes, can only occur when three conditions exist between the two parties: institutionalized restraint, compatible social orders, and cultural commonality. Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Xi Jinping’s China, Assad’s Syria, the mullahs’ Iran, and the Castros’ Cuba hardly fit the bill.
The White House does not seem to believe its strategy comes with costs. As Obama said about America’s Cuba policy, “these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.” But the Kupchan approach has done real damage. Not only have the administration’s unilateral accommodations encouraged additional bad behavior, they have also caused huge rifts with allies caught in the crosshairs. Obama’s weak response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led Poland’s then-foreign minister to bemoan that the “Polish-U.S. alliance isn’t worth anything.” Similarly, the administration has infuriated Saudi Arabia with a series of decisions, from the chemical weapons red-line climb-down in Syria, to the suspension of military aid to Egypt, to the unveiling of the interim nuclear deal with Iran—all of which the Saudis reportedly learned from CNN.
8:09 AM, Feb 27, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama will not be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week when the Israeli leader comes to Washington. Neither will Secretary of State John Kerry. And though Netanyahu will deliver an address to a joint session of Congress (thanks to an invitation from Republican John Boehner), he will not be getting a photo op from the Democratic administration at either the White House or State Department.
Unlike a Cuban diplomat, who will be getting a State Department photo-op later this morning.
12:31 PM, Feb 25, 2015 • By JUDITH AYERS
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and eight other members of a congressional delegation that recently headed to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, spoke positively of the trip at a press conference on Tuesday. They not only met with government officials in each country, but they also visited the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba, and spoke with Cuban members of civil society. “People in the streets were very enthusiastic,” said Pelosi.
7:06 AM, Feb 12, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a possible Republican presidential candidate, is using a crowdsourcing platform to try to reach dissidents and human rights activists in autocratic regimes. In particular, Rubio is trying to help those oppressed by the governments of Iran and Cuba.
"I'm a member of the U.S. Congress looking for Iran and Cuba human rights cases to highlight," the headline for Rubio's post on the platform Movements.org reads.
Hosted by Michael Graham.11:38 AM, Jan 2, 2015 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on the new year, the College Football Playoff, Foreign Policy, and Politics.
12:01 PM, Dec 31, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Coming on the heels of President Obama's Cuba announcement, the State Department is condemning the "Detentions of Activists in Cuba."
President mistakenly calls Tehran a 'country.'8:01 AM, Dec 29, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama made a gaffe in an interview with NPR when he called Tehran a "country." But the gaffe isn't the news from the interview at all.
Instead, expect people to focus on Obama talking about Iran having a "path" to being "a very successful regional power."
5:25 PM, Dec 22, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Barack Obama’s accommodation with Castroite Cuba is a low point in the history of American international relations. Benjamin Franklin affirmed, “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” The Obama administration, in its attitudes on Iran, Syria, and Ukraine as well as on Cuba, appears to prefer the principle, “Where tyranny dwells, there is my country.”
2:23 PM, Dec 22, 2014 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
Having twice visited Castro's Cuba -- once during the 1970s, when Cuban troops were fighting in Angola and Mozambique, and again a dozen years ago, long after the Soviet subsidies had disappeared -- I can attest that the place is a horror.
8:17 AM, Dec 22, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Secretary of State John Kerry, who wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, evoked Ronald Reagan's timeless challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Berlin Wall in 1987, "Mr.
8:38 AM, Dec 21, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
In an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, President Obama took a shot at pundits--and Putin. He made the comments in response to a question about whether he's getting rolled in his deal with Cuba.
In a recent op-ed, Rand Paul argues for President Obama's foreign policy.12:50 PM, Dec 20, 2014 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Senator Rand Paul has an op-ed in Time magazine making the case for normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba as Barack Obama has proposed. It’s a reasonable objective for U.S.
Cuban communist leader lectures Obama for 30 minutes.2:34 PM, Dec 19, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Barack Obama apologized to Cuban president Raul Castro during their phone conversation after the American commander in chief's opening remarks. Speaking to reporters at his final White House press briefing of 2014 Friday afternoon, Obama gave more details about his phone call with the communist leader of Cuba earlier this week before the announcement of a change in U.S. policy on the Caribbean island nation.
7:57 AM, Dec 19, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Matthew Continetti, writing for the Washington Free Beacon:
“It’s a sad day for freedom,” Marco Rubio told Bret Baier after President Obama announced he would normalize relations with Cuba. Not a sad day, senator: a sad year.
Dec 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 16 • By LEE SMITH
Last week’s announcement that the White House intends to restore normal diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba is part of Barack Obama’s larger project to overturn what he perceives to be wrongheaded, or at least outdated, foreign policies. From Obama’s perspective, the Cold War ended nearly a quarter of a century ago, so let’s catch up to the new reality.