Trust But Verify-Ronald Reagan
In the end, foreign policy is based on building trust. After all is said and done, after all of those lower level meetings, when the President of the United States finally meets with a foreign leader, he has to look in the leader’s eyes and believe what they are saying, and believe that their personal relationship will be good for America.
Barack Obama isn’t very good at that. Jim Johnson is just one more example of Obama’s lack of skill in this area. You can add people like Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko to the list also. The issue really is if Obama cannot pick his FRIENDS? How is he going to pick allies for the US?
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By Ion Mihai Pacepa
Finally, Barack Obama saw the light and broke with Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. It took him 20 years to realize that its leaders, its in-house publications, and even its guest preachers were anti-American. If elected president, he will not have so long a grace period to make his decisions.
Another vulnerable point for Senator Obama is his changing policy toward Cuba. A few days ago he announced that, if elected president, he would promote a much friendlier policy toward that country. It was a rousing speech. Even Fidel Castro rose from his sickbed to praise this oration by “the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency,” in a hand-signed piece published — in English, of course — in Cuba’s official Granma.
Senator Obama is smart, well-spoken, charismatic, and charming. But I have reason to doubt he can bring Raúl Castro’s corrupt mind back to normal just by meeting him, even “at a time and place of my choosing,” and by waving the American flag-pin of liberty at him. When we sift the wheat from the chaff in the senator’s flamboyant speech, little remains in his new policy toward Cuba — or toward Iran, Syria, and Chávez’s Venezuela, for that matter.
As national security adviser to Romanian president Nicolae Ceauçescu, I dealt with many tyrants, and I learned that being nice to them never succeeds in making them nice to you. On April 12, 1978, I was in the car with Ceauçescu as he drove away from a meeting in the White House. He took a bottle of alcohol and splashed it all over his face, after having been affectionately kissed by President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office. “Peanut-head,” my boss whispered disgustedly. Afterwards, two other American presidents went to Bucharest to pay Ceauçescu respect. None was ever able to twist his arm — or charm him.
Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military philosopher whose Art of War is still the bible of military strategists worldwide, has credibly demonstrated that knowing the enemy is crucial for winning any war. I do not know how well Senator Obama knows Raúl Castro. But in my former life, I established a fairly close relationship with Raúl. We even raced each other in our identical Alfa Romeos. In all those years, I could not find any hole in his armor to persuade me that by just meeting a U.S. leader — even one as eloquent as Barack Obama — Raúl would follow in my footsteps and switch from tyranny to democracy.
Raúl is a Cuban Ceauçescu. Like Ceauçescu, Raúl supervised his country’s political police before becoming president. Like Ceauçescu, Raúl also desperately dreamed of becoming his country’s president. Sergio del Valle, my Cuban counterpart and Raúl’s closest associate — going back to their early days in the Sierra Maestra — used to call him “Raúl the Terrible.” That was a friendly allusion to Ivan the Terrible, the first Russian to crown himself tsar. Also like Ceauçescu, Raúl wanted to build his country into a monument to himself.
In 1971, on Ceauçescu’s advice, Raúl started transforming Cuba’s party leaders and the top government officials into undercover intelligence officers secretly subordinated to Cuba’s political police, the Dirección de Inteligencia (DI), which the younger Castro built and led. During that same year I traveled to Cuba, Raúl told me he had already sworn in as undercover intelligence officers most members of Cuba’s government, the deputy ministers of foreign affairs and foreign trade, and the majority of Cuba’s ambassadors. Those new undercover officers swore secret allegiance to Raúl’s intelligence community, which remunerated them with salary supplements under the table. They had to follow intelligence discipline and carry out intelligence tasks to keep their privileged jobs.
A couple of weeks after I was granted political asylum in 1978, the Western news media reported that my defection had unleashed the greatest political purge in the history of communist Romania. Ceauçescu had demoted four politburo members, fired one-third of his cabinet, and replaced 22 ambassadors. All were undercover intelligence officers whose supplementary pay vouchers I had regularly signed off on. And all were electronically monitored by a super-secret bugging department I supervised.
By that time, Raúl already had the whole of Cuba in his vest pocket.
There is perhaps one other lesson Raúl learned from my previous boss: If you blink, you die. In December 1989, Ceauçescu relinquished his unchecked power, and a few days later his own people, some of them close subordinates, executed him for genocide. Raúl is also a political assassin whose hands are stained with the blood of many thousands of innocents. And his Cuba is far more isolated from the real world than Ceauçescu’s Romania was.
By 1990, the Soviet bloc had collapsed. But in faraway Cuba, isolated from the revolutionary wave that swept the Kremlin’s viceroys from power in Eastern Europe, little changed.
In August 1991, the Soviet Communist Party was disbanded, and nobody within Mother Russia really missed it. But somehow, the KGB survived — as secret police often do. Today, some 6,000 former KGB officers are running Russia’s federal and local governments, and 70 percent of Russia’s leading political figures have some connection to the intelligence services of the old regime. Vladimir Putin proves how difficult it is to teach an old dog new tricks — particularly when that old dog is rolling in oil dollars.
Raúl Castro’s police state may also flourish thanks to oil money — from Hugo Chávez, South America’s new oil tsar, who attended Raúl’s coronation. Chávez needs Raúl’s tested political police to help him keep the disgusted Venezuelan people quiet, and Raúl needs Chávez’s money to embellish Cuba’s crumbling façade — by creating a network of Western-style tourist attractions run by his intelligence machinery, a dream Raúl discussed with me long ago.
Former Russian president, now prime-minister, Putin has declared the demise of the Soviet Union a “national tragedy on an enormous scale,” and last June he announced a new Cold War against the West. Now he is quietly building a new anti-American axis, Moscow-Tehran-Beijing.
It may not be long before the former KGB officers now ruling Russia will ask their old subordinate, Raúl Castro, to accept Russian nuclear rockets in Cuba once again.
Indeed, the U.S. needs a new policy to deal with Cuba — just as it badly needs a new one to deal with today’s Russia. That policy should be based on thorough, realistic assessments of these leaders and their strategic interests.
From what we know of Barack Obama — from what the entire world now knows of Barack Obama — is he the man America wants across the table from the likes of Ahmadinejad, Castro, and Putin?
— Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest official ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc. His latest book is Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the KGB, and the Assassination of President Kennedy