It has been an interesting several weeks for foreign relations! While I like to consider myself someone that is well-informed about global happenings, even I am having a hard time keeping up with all that is going on. From changing relations with Cuba to North Korea cyberterrorism attacks, A LOT is happening.
In recent news, President Obama announced that he was going to make strides to improve or, rather, “normalize” relations with Cuba. His agenda involves removing the nation from the “U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism” list, lifting sanctions, and lifting the U.S. embargo, etc…This move has caused a lot of stir in the political and human rights arenas. Critics of Obama’s call for change has had opponents challenging Fidel Castro’s historically ominous and flagrant disregard for human rights. On the other hand, proponents of Obama’s announcement agree with his statement: “What I know deep in my bones is that when you have done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome. And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome.”1
Discussion Question: In terms of U.S. relations with Cuba and lifting sanctions or maintaining a distanced relationship with Cuba, what side of the issue are you on, why??
Since its inception during the Cold War, the U.S State Sponsors of Terrorism list has targeted countries that have been antagonistic and incompatible in their geopolitical orientation. In the 1980s, that encompassed several countries within the Soviet sphere of influence, including Cuba. Today, only three other countries remain on the list: Iran, Syria and Sudan.2
States (nations) that have been sanctioned are essentially nations with the “Scarlet Letter” branded on their chest. Such nations (like Iran, Syria, and Sudan) have a lot to gain by rejecting rogue tendencies and shedding the label. Being branded as a sponsor of terrorism comes with weighty consequences that include bans on U.S. financial assistance, defense exports, and considerable banking restrictions that can effectively cut a country off from the U.S. and, by extension, the rest of the global community.3 Refer to Libya (under Gadaffi’s reign) for classic examples of how relations with the international community can change with the removal/adding of the “terrorist sponsor” label.
In other news, there is major discussion among political analysts that suggest North Korea should be added to the “list”. On the morning of December 19, 2014, the FBI confirmed North Korea was behind a massive Sony cyber-attack that released private studio information to the world. These alleged attacks were in response to the upcoming release of a satirical comedy (from the creators of Pineapple Express) that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Brief information about Kim Jong-un: Kim Jong-un is a notorious dictator that has been antagonizing the international community with threats of nuclear attacks for years. He was appointed his father’s successor in January 2009.
The validity of his threats remain murky as his approach to leadership could be best described as a petulant adolescent (my analysis). Anyone in his immediate circle that he doesn’t like or get along with has long since been removed and “dismissed”. At present, he is under investigation by the United Nations and other international governing bodies for major human rights violations.
As soon as the initial previews of the controversial film were released to the public, Kim Jong-un’s response was (obviously) less than enthusiastic; however, he went so far as to consider the film an act of war on the part of the United States. Major movie theaters refused to support The Interview and opted out of releasing it to the public. Despite North Korean threats, select movie theaters throughout the country have chosen to release the film. President Obama responded with: “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States.”4
I will let you form your own opinion on the alleged “act of war” carried out by the United States by way of Actor/Director Seth Rogen. I have not seen the movie but (if I am being really honest) I am curious to see if this film is worth all of the hype and controversy that it has created. Here is a link to a movie preview for The Interview: www.youtube.com/watch?v=frsvWVEHowg
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1Siddiqui, S. (December 19, 2014). Obama On Cuba: ‘Change Is Going To Come. It Has To’. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/19/obama-cuba_n_6354872.html
2Pizzi, M. (December 22, 2014). Obama mulls reshuffle of 'State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list. Aljazeera America. Retrieved from http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/22/cuba-korea-stateterror.html
3Pizzi, M. (December 22, 2014). Obama mulls reshuffle of 'State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list. Aljazeera America. Retrieved from http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/22/cuba-korea-stateterror.html
4N.A. (December 19, 2014). Obama: ‘Sony made a mistake’ by not releasing The Interview. BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-30557906