Posted by: bklunk | February 5, 2007

Things That Make You Say, "Hmm. . .”

shae1283 from International Relations gives us this one:


In an article titled “Offical says U.S. Willing to Help Cuba,” U.S. commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez said that the US is willing to help Cuba and that “the US supports a peaceful transition to democracy.”  He further stated, that the United States does not plan to meddle in Cuban Politics but wants to see the country make a transition to democracy.  The article does not touch on whether the Cubans are in favor of this helping hand toward democracy, it only states that Gutierrez  suggested last september to have a referendum with the aid of the Organization of American states to decide if Cubans are in favor of a democratic society.

This article portrays the liberalist stance of the US and thier quest to reform other nations into democratic states.  The liberalist stance states that democratic societies are more inclined to cooperation and compromise, thus a peaceful interaction of states would result.  Factors like whether the states that democracy is being spread to are in fact in favor of a democratic system are irelevant.  Liberalism is said uphold ethics and value humans , yet what is ethical about spreading your normative state philosophy on others? I thought it was funny how he states that the US doesn’t want to meddle in Cuban politics it just wants to see it transition to a democratic state.  This statement basically means we don’t want to take over and rule your government we just want you to govern the way we want.  To change a whole government system cannot be held outside the realm of meddling in Cuban politics.

This is a dilemma for liberals, who do value humans.  A liberal approach does tend to lead us to the conclusion that some kind of democratic politics is normative (although not necessarily democratic politics as practiced in the US or any other specific political system). Yet by definition, democracy probably cannot authentically be imposed on a society. Realists (up to a point) make better cultural relativists, as realists tend to say, “I don’t care how you organize your political system so long as your foreign policy doesn’t adversely affect my interests.”  On the other hand, many realists would have no problem with the US holding that its security interests require that it have great influence over Cuban affairs–see the Melian Debate.  If the US prefers Cuba to have a particular form of government and has the power to bring that about, so be it.

Looked at another way though, ask this.  What argument could a decently organized society make against democracy? Unless we take a (philosophically absurd) radical relativist approach, can authoritarian or totalitarian political systems be justified?  I’m not sure they could be.  However, this does not necessarily justify intervention to impose democratic political systems. The mischief that might be unleased in the attempt may not justify the attempt, as present experience may indicate.

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  1. This type of remark from a United States official, especially in the current political climate, is very interesting. Surely the whole world knows that the United States would prefer that Fidel Castro be out of power and a democratic government be put in place, but I think that Americans, under the current circumstances, will be reluctant to be involved in any sort of “regime change” while the country is still tied down in Iraq and worrying about Iran and North Korea having nuclear weapons. United States citizens are indeed very proud of their democratic system of government, but it seems currently that most citizens are more concerned with the situation in their country rather than another. I would definitely agree that an undemocratic state does not “justify intervention to impose democratic institutions”. It seems that the United States is learning right now how difficult such a process it, and it seems almost foolish, and totally against the whole principle of sovereignty, to attempt to do the same thing again.

  2. Although it is difficult to make an argument against democratic government, the imposition of such a government is not justifiable. In response to the original blog’s questions, it is very difficult to justify totalitarian or authoritarian governments. However, democracy may not be the best government for Cuba. I don’t have the knowledge or ability to decide this, but I don’t believe the US government does either. If a new government is necessary, it should come from within the country. In order to have popular support of the people, and in turn the governmental officials, ideas of government should originate within the country. If Cuba chose to imitate the US’s democratic form of government, ideas from within would be much more influential than if imposed. If liberalism truly upholds ethics and values humans, I do not see the liberalism in imposing democracy on Cuba. If the liberals valued humans, they would value the Cuban’s opinions about government, and imposing democracy is not upholding personal ethics. In the end, the US’s idea of imposing democracy seems a bit hypocritical.

  3. In an uncertain world with threats of violence and destruction around every corner I believe that any step toward democracy is a good move. It should not matter if the U.S is the country that is helping that to get accomplished. If there is going to be a better chance at securing a more peaceful world then I am in full support. I understand that the U.S is often criticized for being pushy, but sometimes that is a good thing if the outcome is a desireable one.

  4. A democracy should be about giving power to the people. This includes the power to decide what kind of government those people want to live under without the pressure of bigger, richer countries bearing down on them. Can we recall the origins of our own country? The great historical figures of the United States, our forefathers, rebelled against Britain’s many attempts to use their superior financial resources and world status to shape our system. But in the end WE chose what was best for US; we fought for and created our government independently. I believe that this holds true for the Cuban people today: they alone know what is best for them, and they alone should decide which system should be put into place after Castro is gone. Therefore, if the United States truly supports democracy in our world, we should support the Cuban people. This means that if communism works for them, if a dictatorship works for them, if a parliamentary system works for them, so be it. Of course the U.S. would like Cuba to become a democratic state because it is in the best interest of OUR international relations, but how about we truly give power to the people for once and support Cuban citizens in finding their political voices.

  5. With the failing health of Fidel Castro in recent months, it will certainly be interesting to see how international relations between the United States and Cuba will change, if at all. Seeing as US/Cuba relations have been mired in Cold War mentality for decades, Castro’s predecessor will certainly hold the proverbial key to the future of this relationship. I would raise the question of whether or not it would be beneficial to the United States to rectify this relationship in the coming years, or whether a more pragmatic approach would be safer and remain hands-off in trade.

    However, this notion of the US supporting a peaceful transition to democracy would certainly suggest hopeful thoughts of creating a more favorable relationship with Cuba. Whether or not, in my opinion, Cuba makes the transition to democracy should lie in the sovereignty of Cuba. American democracy developed organically, which makes it work so beautifully in OUR country. The United States has certainly established its view on transitions to Democracy through soft power (or “not so soft” power in many cases). If Cuba were to become a democratic nation, the EU, the US and other big-hitters in the world politics arena would certainly greet this change with open arms, and the economic and diplomatic advantages would be immense. This decision should lie completely with Cuba, and a Laissez-faire approach by the United States to this transition should be taken in order to not further alienate the US from the rest of the world community.

  6. I don’t believe that the United States will ever get involved in Cuba, no matter how badly we want them to become a demorcratic state. We’ve been able to keep from doing it for this long, and I don’t believe it’s one of our country’s top priorities at the moment. We’ve been trying to impose democracy in Iraq and so far this is not looking like a possibility. I highly doubt we will ever feel the need to invade Cuba and make it a democracy, especially because of the failure in Iraq. It shouldn’t be our job to turn every country into a democracy, and if a country doesn’t want it, we shouldn’t try to. We do want to have a good relationship with Cuba and this isn’t possible as long as we refuse to accept the fact that they are a Communist state. If we do anything it should be peaceful and involve no invasion, as this would just lead to another country blunder for the U.S.

  7. The most imteresting part about this is there has been no word from the Cuban people of whether they want a democray or not. If the Cubans decide that they want to live in a democratic society, and want US involvement in making this a reality, then by all means the US should step in. However, to reiterate a point made above, you cannot force democracy on another country. If the citizens of Cuba do not want a democratic state, then forcing such a government on them will only lead to further conflict. Especially since we are still struggling, with no end in sight, to enstill stability in Iraq this will only lead to a further stretch of our already thin military resources. Yes, to have Cuba be a democracy would be desirable for the US. Yes, the argument can be made that for Cuba to become a democratic state would be advantageous to them. The fact is, if the citizens are content with the system in place, and it is functioning to a degree they are happy with, then it’s best to leave it alone.

  8. Of course the U.S. is willing to help Cuba make a transition to democracy. The important issue is whether Cuba is willing to make the transition to democracy. I believe that an argument, whether it is sound or not, against democracy would be irrelevant to this issue. If Cuba is opposed to having a democratic government, there is no need for further justification. Democracy allows each individual the freedom to participate in their government. It would seem contradictory to impose democracy on the Cuban people. A country that champions democracy has to respect that the question of which governmental system is best for Cuba can only be answered by the people of Cuba.

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