Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Obama’s Cuba appeasement

    Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 10/18/2011

    Obama's Cuba appeasement
    By Jennifer Rubin

    Last week, the newly confirmed undersecretary of state, Wendy Sherman,
    let it be known that the was considering a potential
    swap with Cuba to free imprisoned American Alan . The
    Daily Caller reported:

    The spy swap was set in motion by former New Mexico Governor Bill
    Richardson, who traveled to Cuba last month to seek Gross's release. He
    told Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez that the Obama
    administration would be willing to consider the release of a convicted
    Cuban spy, Rene Gonzales along with other concessions.

    Hernandez is serving two life sentences for sending information to
    which enabled Cuba to shoot down two Miami-based civilian
    aircraft with warplanes in 1996. All four Americans on board were
    killed. The victims were members of the
    humanitarian organization

    At the State Department briefing the spokeswoman left just enough wiggle
    room in her denials to make clear that some sort of discussions were

    The blowback was swift. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) put out a statement
    that read: "It's deplorable that the U.S. government offered several
    unilateral concessions to the regime in exchange for the release
    of a man who was wrongfully jailed in the first place. Rather than
    easing sanctions in response to hostage taking, the U.S. should put more
    punitive measures on the Castro regime. Until Secretary Clinton answers
    for this, the nomination of Roberta Jacobson to be the next assistant
    secretary of state for the western hemisphere will be in question."

    The chairwoman of the foreign affairs committee, Rep. Ileana
    Ros-Lehtinen was equally irate: "According to news reports, the
    Administration attempted to barter for the of wrongly imprisoned
    U.S. citizen by offering to return Rene Gonzalez, a convicted
    Cuban spy who was involved in the murder of innocent American citizens.
    If true, such a swap would demonstrate the outrageous willingness of the
    Administration to engage with the regime in Havana, which is designated
    by the U.S. as a state-sponsor of terrorism. Regrettably, this comes as
    no surprise as this Administration has never met a dictatorship with
    which it didn't try to engage. It seems that a rogue regime cannot
    undertake a deed so dastardly that the Obama Administration would
    abandon engagement, even while talking tough with reporters. Cuba is a
    state-sponsor of terrorism. We should not be trying to barter with them.
    We must demand the unconditional release of Gross, not engage in a
    quid-pro-quo with tyrants."

    As bad as a prisoner exchange would have been, the administration
    actions didn't stop there. The Associated Press reported, "The
    Gross-Gonzalez swap was raised by former New Mexico Gov. Bill
    Richardson, as well as by senior U.S. officials in a series of meetings
    with Cuban officials. Richardson traveled to Cuba last month seeking
    Gross' release. He also told Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez that
    the U.S. would be willing to consider other areas of interest to Cuba.
    Among them was removing Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of
    terrorism; reducing spending on Cuban democracy promotion programs like
    the one that led to the hiring of Gross; authorizing U.S. companies to
    help Cuba clean up oil spills from planned offshore drilling; improving
    postal exchanges; ending a program that makes it easier for Cuban
    medical personnel to move to the United States; and licensing the French
    company Pernod Ricard to sell Havana Club rum in the United States."

    Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams explained, "It is
    especially offensive that we were willing to negotiate over support for
    democracy in Cuba, for that would mean that the unjust imprisonment of
    Gross had given the Castro dictatorship a significant victory. The
    implications for those engaged in similar democracy promotion activities
    elsewhere are clear: local regimes would think that imprisoning an
    American might be a terrific way to get into a negotiation about ending
    such activities. Every American administration faces tough choices in
    these situations, but the Obama administration has made a great mistake
    here. Our support for democracy should not be a subject of negotiation
    with the Castro regime."

    The administration's conduct is all the more galling given the behavior
    of the Castro regime. Our willingness to relax sanctions was not greeted
    with goodwill gestures, let alone systemic reforms. To the contrary,
    this was the setting for Gross's imprisonment. So naturally the
    administration orders up more of the same.

    Throughout his tenure, President Obama has failed to comprehend the
    cost-benefit analysis that despotic regimes undertake. He has offered
    armfuls of goodies and promised quietude on ; the despots'
    behavior has worsened. There is simply no downside for rogue regimes to
    take their shots at the United States.

    Whether it is Cuba or Iran, the administration reverts to "engagement"
    mode when its engagement efforts are met with aggression and/or domestic
    oppression. Try to murder a diplomat on U.S. soil? We'll sit down and
    chat. Grab an American contractor and try him in a kangaroo court? We'll
    trade prisoners and talk about relaxing more sanctions. Invade Georgia,
    imprison political opponents and interfere with attempts to restart the
    peace process? We'll put the screws on our democratic ally to get you
    into World Trade Organization. The response of these thuggish regimes is
    entirely predictable and, from their perspective, completely logical.
    What is inexplicable is the Obama administration's willingness to throw
    gifts to tyrants in the expectation they will reciprocate in kind.

    By Jennifer Rubin | 10:00 AM ET, 10/18/2011