Improved relations between the US and Cuba may, in fact, result from the historic meeting of President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. It remains to be seen just what our country is willing to give up, or let slide, in the name of diplomatic camaraderie.
US Congressman Jim McGovern, who represents Worcester and has long pushed for normalized relations with Cuba, has accompanied Obama, and sounds an optimistic tone over what the future holds between our two countries.
Let it not be forgotten, however, that Rome still burns. Only this Rome is the Middle East, and while attention has turned to what could be with Cuba, we still face what is in the MidEast. Historic instability in that region poses a constant threat to the countries caught in the middle of civil wars, but the threat to our own shores cannot, and should not, be minimized.
Terrorism, of course, is the familiar and easy target. We remain fearful of attempts by radical groups to carry out devastating and murderous attacks in the US and abroad. The world received a deadly reminder of the threat of terrorism with this week’s attacks in Brussels. We do, however, see merit in the opinion of Kenneth Pollack, senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy, as outlined in an article earlier this month from Brookings writer Ian Merritt. He referenced a report by Pollack, jointly published by Brookings and the Atlantic Council, in which Pollack suggests the US should reengage the MidEast.
Pollack said, while ISIS is the central concern for the US, an overemphasis on counter-terrorism ignores the deeper root issues and in the MidEast. Pollack believes the US can play the role of peace-broker and help end the civil wars tearing apart so many families and lives in the MidEast.
To do this, however, we must be a country acting decisively, not tepidly. We must be strong, not weak; resolved, not unsure. For too long, our policy in the MidEast has seemed based on a fear of what might go wrong. That has turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We must, instead, be convinced of what might go right. We cannot bow to enemies, but we cannot blow them off the face of the earth. Instead, we must show our might by taking sides, standing resolved, while at the same time attempting to negotiate not for what will shape our legacy, but what will advance our nation.
Our recent actions concerning the MidEast have either been to capitulate to an arrogant and treacherous enemy in Iran or to express a neutrality, such as with Israel, that threatens to undue alliances that took decades to form.
The hardest path forward in the MidEast is also the most dangerous. As Pollack notes, it will not be easy, and it will not come without cost. But consider the cost of inaction as civil war spreads throughout the region, more and more families flee to other countries, and ruthless dictators go unchecked and unchallenged.
All the lifted trade embargoes and travel restrictions with Cuba will mean nothing if we allow the fires in the MidEast to continue to burn. In the end, it will be the US and other countries that end up scorched.