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How Two Leftist Writers See the Middle East and Cuba, and Get It Wrong

The second article appears in the journal Foreign Policy, and is written by senior Latin-American expert William LeoGrande, a professor of Government at American University. In the 1980s, LeoGrande made a name for himself as a major critic of Reagan administration policy in Central America, and as a key supporter of the Salvadoran Communist rebels and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Turning his attention to Cuba, LeoGrande might have taken the occasion to comment on the increased repression by the regime against its own non-violent and democratic dissidents, a campaign which included the widely discussed murder by Cuban state security of Cuba’s leading dissident, Oswaldo Paya -- founder of a petition that demanded democratic and free elections on the island.

Instead LeoGrande chooses to emphasize what he sees as the Obama administration’s bending to the will of the “Castro-hating right wing” lobby.

What Leo Grande is upset about is not the continuing repression of democracy advocates, but those who take “democracy promotion” money from the U.S., a program he argues was created by “conservative Republicans.”

Actually, as LeoGrande knows, the most successful democracy promotion programs emanate today from the National Endowment for Democracy, a thoroughly bipartisan program funded by Congress that can hardly be characterized as conservative -- except by those on the Left who seek to smear it with that term. What critics of the Cuban regime actually argue is that if U.S. policy is to change, Cuba has to first show real movement towards democratic reform.

LeoGrande is apparently only concerned with changing Cuban policy so that the Castro regime gets what it wants, without regard for the growing demand for democracy of the brave dissident Cuban community.

He gives his game away when he writes approvingly of a diplomat who argued that the “traditional dissident movement had very little appeal to ordinary Cubans.” (President Obama had proposed this diplomat be appointed ambassador to Nicaragua.) How does LeoGrande know that real Cubans have no regard for the democracy movement?

Actually, thousands braved reprisal and signed Paya's Verela Project petition, indicating that they were supportive of his efforts. That is why the regime went to such lengths as to actually murder him to send a message to average Cubans.

It is not surprising that LeoGrande sees no merit to democracy promotion. A man of the left -- and actually a friend of the far left in Latin and Central America -- his sympathies are not with development of a sound foreign policy, but with one which rewards dictators and punishes brave defenders of democracy.

Both of these writers, Schenker on Israel and LeoGrande on Cuba, are beholden to the leftist ideas of their activist past. The result are blinders when it comes to evaluating a sound policy in either the Middle East or Latin America. Their articles, each in its own way, reflect the way those on the political Left evaluate policy options. Both writers are stuck in the '60s and the activism of the New Left, whose illusions they still adhere to. When will they ever learn?