Speakers and members of AWAC

World Affairs Councils of America - Alabama World Affairs Council

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Alabama World Affairs Council's Archive:

Notes, 2008-09

These notes by Jeremy Lewis do not represent the views of AWAC, its Board, or other members.

Bret Stephens, key points of speech to AWAC, YouTube, 3'
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revised 11 Mar. '09 with speaker notes and link to images, by Jeremy Lewis.


16 September 2008: Lee Cullum, "World Affairs and Middle America".  Ms. Cullum is a columnist in print (Dallas Morning News), radio (NPR, All Things Considered) and television (PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer).  A winner of several awards and nominations for journalism, she is the author of Genius Came Early: Creativity in the Twentieth Century.

Additional opportunity on 23 September 2008: Bret Stephens, "Israel: Challenges at Age 60," foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal, at 7:30 pm at the Embassy Suites hotel.  (Courtesy of AIPAC, free reservations for AWAC members.)

7 October 2008: Amb. Robert E. Hunter, Senior Advisor to the RAND corporation, former member of National Security Council staff, and US Ambassador to NATO.

21 October 2008: Dr. Lawrence J. Korb, "Challenges for the Next Administration", defense analyst, Senior Fellow at American Progress, and Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information.  Former member of the Council on Foreign relations, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs 1981-1985.  A sought-after analyst and speaker on TV, he has written 20 books on national security.

3 February 2009: Mr. Bret Stephens, "Israel and Hamas: The End Game," foreign affairs columnist, and member of the editiorial board for the Wall Street Journal.  Named a Young Global Leader by, and a media fellow at, the World Economic Forum, .  Former editor-in-chief (at age 28) of The Jerusalem Post.

10 March 2009: Dr. Brian Latell, Latin America and Caribbean specialist, particularly on Cuba, retired from the CIA, now in the Center for Strategic and International Studies and University of Miami faculty.  His book, After Fidel, is an insider's view of the future of Cuba.

5 May 2009: Four senior Air War College instructors will report on their recent trips to hot spots around the globe, as part of the AWC's Regional Studies Program.


16 September 2008: Lee Cullum, "World Affairs and Middle America".  Ms. Cullum is a well-known columnist in print (Dallas Morning News), radio (NPR, All Things Considered) and television (PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer).  A winner of several awards and nominations for journalism, she is the author of Genius Came Early: Creativity in the Twentieth Century.
  • Maps index | Latin America | Asia
  • Introduction:
  • Alabama's developmental model of attrcting car assembly factories is being discussed in Europe.
  • Woodrow Wilson insisted on the Versailles Treaty iwth his 14 points.  (Clemenceau remarked even God only had 10 points.)  The US is Wilsonian, always fighting the war to end all wars.
  • Prepared Remarks:
  • US election campaign:
  • McCain has to hold the states of Bush in 2004 whereas Obama has only to add to Kerry's total, Iowa and New Hampshire plus one battleground state (from OH, CO, VA and NV).
  • Bush (43) administration foreign policy in context of Republican administrations of twentieth century
  • Obama would pursue pax Americana differently.
  • Previous Secs of State considered: Acheson, Kissinger, Schultz, Baker (faced Gulf 1).
  • Condi Rice wanted Israel to continue to victory in Lebanese war.  W. Bush is still seeking agreement in Palestine.
  • Iran: US was willing to accept freeze on nuclear weapons for freeze on sanctions -- but Iran could not accept, because Ahmadinejad had informed crowd in advance.
  • Georgia and Russia: Rice received mixed reviews.  Too enthusiastic publicly for Sakaashvili.
  • Turkey: very unlucky with its neighbors.  Unlikely to join EU via unanimous vote.  Russia has stopped some trucks fom entering Turkey, which has reciprocated despite the scale of oil flow and trade.  Putin wants to control Baku pipeline, whereas US did not want a pipeline via Iran or Russia.  Russia doesn't like US ships in Black Sea, even though allowed 21 days under treaty.
  • North Korea: Rice flew to Pyonyang to get Carter's Framework agreement back on track.  2001 sumit with W. Bush: Bush astonished then by openly distrusting Kim Dae Jung, undercutting him in South Korea.  2005 intelligence saw fuel for perhaps 8 nuclear weapons, compared to 4 in 2001.  W. Bush agreed to talks, North Korea shut down the reactor and allowed inspections.  There was concern over $25 million in laundered money in an Asian bank -- so Kim paused talks.  IN 2006 NK tested 7 missiles, then a nuclear weapon.  Rice restarted talks with assistance from a Russian bank.  After destroying a cooling tower, North Korea slowed its progress again.  Now Kim Jong-Il may have had a stroke, while lacking a successor, leading to fears of refugees and chaos.  US retains 22,000 troops in South Korea.  Five nations should present the same viewpoint in negotiations, but differ. Japan still wanting the return of kidnapped citizens.
  • North pole: could potentially save 3-4 shipping days with a channel -- but could also lead to conflict.  US has not yet ratified the law of the sea , a disadvantage.  Russia left a flag in the sea there.  Other nations are eyeing claims.
  • W. Bush has enjoyed good relations with Japan and some of Latin America, some of Eastern Europe -- but has destroyed some foreign relations.  Next president will need to repair some and rebuild military.
  • Talleyrand: above all, not too much zeal.
  • Question Time:
  • Cuba?  Raoul less flamboyant but not much change.
  • Journalism?
  • NYT and WSJ will survive but many papers are in trouble.  Need younger readers but then lose older readers who want real news.  Lifestyle and trivia predominantly.
  • Murdoch is retrenching on coasts of WSJ -- reduced foreign coverage.
  • India/ Paki?
  • Pakistan may not be dangerous at present.  W. Bush has promised weapons for India, controversial.    Congress may not approve.  Don't know who is in control of nuclear weapons.  Zadari in government, Sharif status is unclear.
  • Ukraine entry to NATO?
  • sitting duck.  Eastern part is ethnic Russian.  West is European.  Sebastopol harbor could be barred to Russian ships and lead to conflict.  France, Germany, Spain dubious about admitting Ukraine.
  • Subprime mortgage collapse?
  • could outlaw kickbacks as incentives for shorter term payback; could require credit check before mortgage.  Some regulation needed but not too much.
  • Mexican /European immigration?
  • yes, serious concern and will likely block Turkey from EU.
  • W. Bush and Condi Rice: from your remarks, and historical examples, are they in foreign policy the weakest Republican President and among weakest Republican Secretaries of State in twentieth and twenty first centuries?
  • yes -- but Rice unlucky with the president she served.  Bush weakest Republican president in foreign policy. [Conclusion]
  • Top of Page

    Additional opportunity on 23 September 2008: Bret Stephens, "Israel: Challenges at Age 60," foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal, at 7:30 pm at the Embassy Suites hotel.  Courtesy of AIPAC, free access for AWAC members -- but individual reservations required (contact information mailed to our members).

    7 October 2008: Amb. Robert E. Hunter, Senior Advisor to the RAND corporation, a leading figure in US foreign policy and national security for more than three decades.  He served on the National Security Council staff under President Carter, and was US Ambassador to NATO under President Clinton.
  • Maps index | Europe | Middle East | Asia
  • Introduction:
  • Worked in LBJ white house, for Douglass Cater Jr of Montgomery.  During Selma – so mindboggling so see how far we have come as a society with the [diverse] candidates this year.  Raises respect abroad for our society.
  • Knew Virginia Durr, inspiration of Rosa Parks.
  • Two extraordinary men nominated by the two parties.  [Will Rogers anecdote about belonging to no organized party.]
  • Prepared remarks:
  • Foreign policy of next president in principle is to be strong at home and abroad.
  • Global economic crisis, and getting economy back to envy of world.
  • Much to McCain’s comment that fundamentals of American economy are strong – people.  Those abroad worry that we might not be able to lead and provide those things they need from us – the ‘indispensable nation’ even for French.
  • Two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan –
  • we have to validate what they have done with our own security strengthened and a path to peace.  Whoever is President, will wind down wars because we have achieved most of what we desired – and reduction of risk to troops will follow.
  • Elections renew American society –
  • Ulysses passed by island of Sirens – lash yourself to the mast until past the American elections.
  • Afghanistan product of 9/11.  Seared into memory like Pearl Harbor.
  • Issue of bringing Islamic countries into modern world and isolating those few criminals.
  • Competition for hearts and minds; getting to point where average person in Afghan will see it is better to get involved with own govt than with AQ.  We need involvement in development, governance, AID.
  • Recruiting Sergeants of terrorism rely on poverty and ignorance – idea from W. Bush.
  • Challenge to get others to work with us.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall never be unemployed.
  • New security structure in Gulf.  Step one is Iraq.  Two is Iran.  Step 3 is Israeli conflict.  Step 4 is ?.  Step 5 is Saudi.  Work of a generation – whichever is President.
  • Feb 1942, new CNO, Adm. King – when people get in trouble, that’s when they send for us SOBs.
  • Far better to work with allies whenever we can, do it alone when we must.  Security multiplier with European allies.
  • First security system since Charlemagne where every country could play if they accepted the rules.
  • Russians overstepped bounds but they need us more than we need them.  Russians really losers in Georgia – contrast with what China achieved in a week at Olympics.
  • American foreign policy only works when it is bipartisan – president must sell policy to Congress.
  • Next president needs a few top foreign policy officials from opposite party (gave historical examples such as Stimson).
  • Collapse of Soviet internal and external empires.
  • W. Bush policy to ensure commitment to Europe and ensure WW2 cannot happen again.
  • Take Central Europe off chessboard – lock them into NATO, successful.  Reach out to Russia.  Even Iceland (lacking army) sent nurses to war effort.
  • New strategic partnership with EU (?) to dry up recruiting sergeants of terrorism.
  • Reshape societies like Europe post WW2 and post Soviet in Central Europe, vibrant development.
  • We have strong societies with strong governments and joining societies.  Every tourist or businessman is an ambassador for the US abroad.
  • Democracy, good governance, US health care system is equivalent to 7th economy of world(!)
  • Both presidential candidates: human rights, empowerment of women – US will be working on human trafficking etc under either president.  Same with global spread of diseases.  Build better structure around world.
  • Nuclear weapons spread: talk to Iran, Europeans and even Israelis do it.
  • Future of China and India.
  • With Chinese have complex and interdependent relation: they hold a Trillion dollars of US paper.  Depend upon US for selling stuff.  Great Wal-mart of China.  Need their future to be developed without their becoming a military superpower.
  • Conclusion:
  • US: talented people and vibrant political system, regardless of messy elections.
  • Need to modernize global financial system.
  • Succeed regardless of next President.
  • Question Time:
  • Conclusion: Either president will do a good job.

    Top of Page

  • 21 October 2008: Dr. Lawrence J. Korb,  "Challenges for the Next Administration",defense analyst, Senior Fellow at American Progress, and Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information.  He was a member of the Council on Foreign relations for many years.  Dr. Korb served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs from 1981 through 1985.  He has spoken to our Council twice before.    A sought-after analyst and speaker on TV, he has written 20 books on national security.
  • Biography from official site:

  • Lawrence J. Korb is a Senior Fellow at American Progress and a Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information. Prior to joining American Progress, he was a Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. From July 1998 to October 2002, he was Council Vice President, Director of Studies, and holder of the Maurice Greenberg Chair.

    Prior to joining the Council, Mr. Korb served as Director of the Center for Public Policy Education and Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution; Dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh; Vice President of Corporate Operations at the Raytheon Company; and Director of Defense Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

    Dr. Korb served as Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations, and Logistics) from 1981 through 1985. In that position, he administered about 70 percent of the defense budget. For his service in that position, he was awarded the Department of Defense's medal for Distinguished Public Service. Mr. Korb served on active duty for four years as Naval Flight Officer, and retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of captain.

    Dr. Korb's 20 books and more than 100 articles on national security issues include The Joint Chiefs of Staff: The First Twenty-five Years; The Fall and Rise of the Pentagon; American National Security: Policy and Process, Future Visions for U.S. Defense Policy;Reshaping America's Military; and A New National Security Strategy in an Age of Terrorists, Tyrants, and Weapons of Mass Destruction. His articles have appeared in such journals as Foreign Affairs, Public Administration Review, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Naval Institute Proceedings, andInternational Security. Over the past decade, Mr. Korb has made over 1,000 appearances as a commentator on such shows as "The Today Show," "The Early Show," "Good Morning America," "Face the Nation," "This Week," "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer," "Nightline," "60 Minutes," "Larry King Live," "The O'Reilly Factor," and "Hannity and Colmes." His more than 100 op-ed pieces have appeared in such major newspapers as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Christian Science Monitor."

  • Maps index | Europe | Middle East | Asia | Latin America | Caribbean
  • Introduction:
    Korb was actually the first speaker at AWAC.
  • Prepared Remarks:
  • “Challenges faced by the Next Administration.”
  • Foreign policy as driving at night.
  • Changes in international environment.
  • Age of American hegemony is over.
  • Fukuyama, end of history, democratic capitalism universal.  Hyperpower.
  • Was ending but we hastened it.
  • Rising China India, resurgent Russia, Brazil.
  • Had to rely on these states to bail us out [in recent financial crisis.]  No longer able to control destiny all by ourselves, must learn to deal with others.
  • Inability to do things ourselves.
  • Contrast with Working with China for Reagan on Taiwan issue.
  • Suppose crisis over Taiwan, then China has ability to sell US bonds.
  • Opinion polls around world show US does not rank highly any more.
  • Youth in favorable third world elites more interested in experiencing Australia than US.
  • Age of Reagan: government to stand back and allow markets to work.  Government as problem, not solution.
  • Now saying the reverse, with Bush bail out of banks.
  • For national security, budgets will therefore be tighter.
  • Both candidates talking about health care, an expensive area.  $1.6 Trillion committed to bail out – and deficit was half Trillion before this.
  • Bush doctrine now repudiated even by Bush.  2002 National Security Strategy.
  • 1. US going from preemption to preventive war. Underlying this premiss was American exceptionalism and US power.  God’s gift to humanity – not building an empire.  But British had same outlook with their empire in Iraq.  In war, the other side takes advantage of our weaknesses.  Saddam’s failure in Gulf 1 led to better resistance tactics in Gulf 2.
  • 2. Unilateralism. Bush dismisses EPA administrator, dropped Kyoto protocol; dropped biological weapons protocol, ABM limitations with Russians.  Shields: last liberal president (EPA, OSHA) was Nixon.  Rumsfeld dropped idea of allies assistance after 9/11.
  • Must work with rest of world.  Nixon: multilateral if we can, unilateral if we must.  W. Bush is reverse.
  • 3. Democracy is wave of future, even if it means regime change.  Axis of evil speech: Iran, Iraq, NK.  But Woodrow Wilson intended to make world safe for democracy, not actually democratic.  Reagan: tear down this wall – did not tear it down himself.
  • Takes long time to build institutions.
  • Our army is now having a terrible time, small volunteer army with competitive salaries.  Army develops fewer transferable skills than navy – so recruitment is costly.
  • Reserve & Guard is strategic reserve, not operational reserve – but draft has no support.
  • Deal is two periods at home for each one abroad – but now less time at home than abroad.  Spousal abuse, leaving service, and suicides all up.  Army cannot continue to fight if American people do not support – and 10% of recruits last year were convicted felons, given “moral waivers”.
  • Ending of period of supplemental appropriations covering much of budget – modernizing equipment will have to come out of regular budget in next administration.
  • $375 - $505 Billion DOD.  Costs $150,000 per trainee.
  • Health care costs for all $57 Billion per year, 10% of defense budget.  Retirees care now replaces medicare for many – has expanded, benefits have improved in several ways, all of them costly.
  • USAF is $100 Billion short for next three years for existing programs. Navy (short of ships compared to plans) just cancelled new destroyer, army cancelled info satellite system.  USAF tankers short and KC 135 is old, based on 707.
  • Can we do it?  Not easy.  Be honest with American people, first war without draft or tax increases.  We went to war, you went to Wal-Mart.
  • Military said avoided destroying Iraq -- but had no idea how bad shape the Iraqi infrastructure was in.
  • Need Sec Def who understands military as professionals.  Of course, those in each service for career, believe in their missions.
  • Rumsfeld needed to respect experienced officers disagreeing with him (like Shinseki).
  • Need deputy who can manage large enterprise.
  • 1969 Nixon has secret plan to get out of Vietnam, high interest rates, still conscription.  Health plan was more radical than Sen. Clinton’s, but Dems blocked it.
  • Melvin Laird astute and understood military – persuaded to manage the post Vietnam decline.  Services needed to choose among weapons systems – and opened up to women in new volunteer service. Services hated McNamara who had raised their budgets – loved Laird who had cut them.
  • Frank Carlucci was a good civilian government manager.  Put Korb in charge of C-17, needed new lift.  Kept $2 Billion separated and offered to USAF only for C-17s instead of fighters – they accepted.
  • Rumsfeld treated work like hostile takeover.  Wolfowitz deputy smart but not an organizer.
  • Marines do not need amphibious vehicles for assault now, have not since Inchon.
  • Need someone competent and not ideological.
  • Question Time:
  • Top of Page

  • 3 February 2009: Mr. Bret Stephens, "Israel and Hamas: The End Game," Foreign Affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal.  He writes the Journal's "Global View" weekly column, published in the US, European and Asian editions.  Regular panelist on the Journal Editorial Report, a weekly political talk show carried nationally by the Fox News Channel.  A member of the Journal's editorial board, and of the Senior Leadership Team of Dow Jones, the paper's parent company, he has previously worked for the paper in editorial features (op-ed) in New York and in Brussels for The Wall Street Journal Europe.  From March 2002 to October 2004, he was editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, at age 28.  In 2004, Mr. Stephens was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, where he is also a media fellow.  He was raised in Mexico City and educated at The University of Chicago and the London School of Economics.
  • Maps index | Middle East |
  • Until an album page is created, images of the speaker and members from this event are found in this folder
  • Prepared remarks:  "Israel and Hamas: The End Game"
  • Like Thomas Mann's protagonists in the novel The Magic Mountain, set in 1914, there is a dialogue between the liberal humanist who expects the twentieth century full of progress and harmony, and the pessimist who expects only wars and totalitarian government.
  • The endgame is not only small, tactical victory -- it is what the sides represent
  • Israel did not win a war in Gaza, it joined a war, after receiving 6,500 rockets, and bombarded Gaza for 21 days with precision and ferocity.  Hamas had to be destroyed -- but could not be destroyed. Israel did avoid a re-occupation, suffered only 6 deaths to hostile fire (6 to friendly fire) and 3 civilians.  Precise firepower and precise intelligence.
  • Hamas had engaged in massive smuggling through tunnels to Egypt, which was aware it had its own problem with Hamas.  Hamas's charter demands a larger Islamic bloc, not merely a Palestinian state -- which (with the muslim brotherhood) is a strategic threat to Egypt's secular regime after Mubarak.
  • Weaponry: Hamas has rockets of up to 20 Km range, but is on the verge of acquiring those with 120 Km range, threatening Alexandria, Cairo and other cities.
  • Alliances: Hamas conducts an alliance of convenience with Shiite Iran.
  • Hamas's goal in breaking the Sadiyah (lull) was not to win a battle but an ideological struggle, rallying the arab world to their side.  Despite this, Hamas deliberately put civilians at risk -- building its HQ in the basement of the Shifa hospital.
  • Israel did win a tactical victory -- but did it win a strategic victory?  This is unresolved.
  • Should the West deal with Hamas?  That question itself is a small victory.
  • Iranian nuclear umbrella is only a few months to a few years away.
  • Egyptian government will also change over during president Obama's term, and is on the cusp of changes potentially like Iran in the 1970s -- so moving in Hamas's favor.
  • Sam Huntington's thesis of the clash of civilizations was partly based on the borders around the middle east and south Asia.  Wars there and in northeast Africa tend to be East-West conflicts rather than North-South conflicts.
  • struggles between moderate and radical Islamic forces, West-East, found within Palestine, within arabia, and within the gulf.
  • More Palestinians, and more muslims generally, have been killed by suicide bombers than by conflicts with non-muslims.
  • So, although the Islamic world is not trending inexorably to the radicals, there is a fault line between westernizers and radicals.
  • Sectarian politics and martyrdom are a bitter pill and a dead end.  A society that has martyrs as a central figure has a poor future.
  • There is also a fundamental split now within the ranks of Salafi Islam now, among the godfathers of Al Qaeda.
  • The west is increasingly unable to defend itself, unwilling to send troops to strange places to fight strange people.
  • Piracy off the Somali coast is another test of Western resolve.  President Reagan had refused to sign the law of the sea treaty which requires inspection by naval boarding parties before attacking pirate ships.
  • Fox and hedgehog analogy: Israelis are foxes who know many things, Hamas knows one thing well,and US must become hedgehog.
  • Question time
  • If Hamas really fought in urban environment, and Israel won tactical victory, why so few Israeli casualties?
  • Israelis do not know how many fighters Hamas really had, and how many were involved.
  • Peace process?
  • during good geopolitical circumstances in 1990s, investing huge capital in Oslo accords failed, and at Camp David there was not a middle ground.  Even now with efforts by Hillary, Obama and Mitchell, the Israelis are acquiring a hard line premier who will focus on economics rather than negotiation.
  • Hamas is entrenched, so that a two state solution is out of the question.  It needs a political settlement that destroys Hamas.
  • Hizballah has veto power over Lebanon
  • Israelis drew the lesson from withdrawal from Gaza that they got an aggressive neighbor.
  • Shimon Peres: not every problem has a solution
  • Israel has built a remarkable society, will not risk it for a peace process
  • Obama will have to deal with broader middle east, not squander effort on small sliver.  Several regimes in region are at risk.
  • Israeli response to Iranian nuclear weapons?
  • will delay until needed.
  • Regime change via support for opposition movements
  • Persuade theocracy that nuclear weapons are not in its interests.  More states have given them up than adopted them in recent years.
  • Trade sanctions are not enough; must blockade gasoline from Iranian ports.  Even a shortage of gasoline in Iran has caused riots -- and regime is aware it came to power in revolution and is at risk from another.
  • Must also persuade Israel not to attack Iran, causing a reaction.
  • Have we won the war in Iraq, as you predicted five months ago?
  • Yes, shown by lack of AQ bombing polling stations in recent election campaign -- "We have achieved a victory".  Fragile but not reversible peace.

  • Top of Page

  • 10 March 2009: Dr. Brian Latell, Latin America and Caribbean specialist, particularly on Cuba, for the last four decades.  Retired from the CIA where he tracked Fidel and Raul Castro, he is currently a senior associate in the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a member of the University of Miami faculty.  His book, After Fidel, is an insider's view of the future of Cuba.
  • Maps index | Cuba | Latin America | Caribbean
  • Book,After Fidel (revised edition) available afterwards
  • Prepared remarks:
  • The embargo
  • New president Raúl (78 soon), his health is a state secret, probably severe problems, heavy drinker for 60 yrs.
  • Fidel 82 now.  None of us imagined he would voluntarily step aside in 2006.
  • Raúl sworn in as President in 2008.
  • Remarkable fraternal partnership for 50 years, this year.
  • Fidel just can’t give up all power.  Voice not heard since 2008, becoming incoherent perhaps, and voice weak.  But still an influence.  Fidel writes reflections from sick bed, published in media.  120-130, some just ruminations and others are direct interventions in policy process.
  • How will Pres. Obama and Raúl proceed to rapprochement, while Fidel interfering?  Counterproductive,
  • e.g Pres. Bachelet of Chile visited with Fidel, had photo op – but next day Fidel’s strident denunciation of Chilean oligarchy and endorsed claims of Bolivia on Cuban land.  Raúl was apologetic.  (Old issue: land had been taken by Chile in war of 1880s.)
  • My op-ed in Miami Herald last week: on issues of import to Fidel, he will continue to write articles interfering, for some time.
  • May 2008, Obama promised to remove restrictions on Cuban Americans visits and remittances.
  • Obama will be meeting heads at Caribbean summit this spring.  Will also loosen restrictions on travel licenses.   Looser policy like Clinton administration.  In addition, Cuban and American diplomats will sit down to reduce the blockages between the countries.
  • Previous work by Kissinger and Ford, but Fidel forced those negotiations off track. Carter likewise, and Clinton’s lesser efforts through third parties also went off track.  Each time because Fidel did not want to improve relations.
  • Fidel using much more strident language than his brother, so long as cognizant only hours per day.  Still occupies the most important position, still First Sec. of Cuban CP, which is formally above presidency.  If Raúl takes that position, it will be a sign he is consolidating power.
  • Gerontocracy, like old USSR.: Last Feb. Raúl took presidency and made six VPs.  First VP already 78 years old.  Recently youngest VP (56) was fired.  Hope for a Gorbachev type leader after the gerontocracy.
  • Youth of Cuba only know terrible hardship since end of USSR, without the $6Bn subsidy per year.  Youth do not believe in revolution and centrally planned system.  Only 1-2% of Cubans can access internet – far behind China.
  • Emigration: Unable to travel without permission.  Most want to raft or speedboat to Miami, and about 20,000 do so legally per year, plus 20,000 illegally, mostly to Hialea in Dade County.  Cubans with university degrees are unable to find jobs except for government jobs paid in worthless pesos – in Cuba, need dollars.  So, they try to work in tourism to obtain hard currency.  Great aggravation in Cuban society, distortion between those with access to dollars (white descended) and peso Cubans (Afro, excluded against in tourism industry).
  • Economy: Nickel commodity prices have come down.  A little revenue from cigars and shrimp; rich in land and used to be greatest sugar producer, but now importing most of food from US, despite the embargo since JFK.  Cuban utility poles come from Alabama.
  • Venezuelan president provides 100,000 barrels daily subsidy about $3bn per year – if not, Cuban economy would plunge.
  • Negotiators will have long list of grievances on both sides.
  • Cubans want: travel restrictions listed.  (Latell will likely still be banned). Want produce and timber imported, on credit (now by cash only).  Have a bad history of not paying debts to Argentina and Japan – several $ billion for decades.  Guantanamo, they want back, but we should insist on a neutrality treaty as with Panama canal Treaty.  The five spies [heroes] they want back, convicted of capital crimes and espionage, cases appealed, found guilty.
  • US desires: Castro expropriated all US property in 1958, without compensation.  Cuba still on list of terrorist state sponsors.  We want renunciation of violence in other countries.
  • Fidel could still pitch the negotiations and Raúl has not shown ability to muzzle him.
  • Future progress: It was 3 years after Mao before Deng could liberalize the economy (1976-79).  Likewise 3 years after Stalin died, K denounced Staliln in 1956.  May be 3 years in Cuba also.
  • By end of this year, noticeable reduction of tensions, and more travel.  Some progress in negotiations on margins of major issues.  Sec. of State Hillary Clinton is interested in building communications connections (e.g. fiber optic cables).
  • Question Time:
  • Thanks to Don Brown for the sponsored reception.
  • Bay of Pigs vet, Hosada Camines (?), accused of having been responsible for blowing up Cuban airliner with heavy loss of life.  Imprisoned in Venezuela for a while.  Possible bargaining chip for US, but a death sentence for him.
  • Oil and Gas?  USGS has sampled Florida straits area and Cuban claimed waters – adjudicated in Carter administration.  Large deposits of oil and gas estimated in deep waters.  Probably no progress in short term, but high price of oil did make it attractive for a while.  Cuban government interested in US technology, and US rigs offshore would not interfere with island directly.
  • Health care system?  Not as good as they claim.  Was progress in early years of revolution, 1960s, equalizing poorest provinces so that they received some health care.  Today greatly exaggerated.  Rhetorical Potemkin village, terrible problems, terrible inequality – some of best hospitals are only available to hard currency customers especially foreigners.  Great shortage of basic medicines, equipment, personnel.
  • Opposition to Dem. spending bill in Congress from Dem. Cuban Americans Reps.
  • Two Sens are Cuban: Robert Menendez; Mel Martinez FL .  Several in House.  They insist on no unilateral concessions, only with reciprocal concessions.
  • Trade? US does not need much from Cuba, not even sugar – but would gain credibility in W. hemisphere where neighbors disagree with our policy.  In last months 8 Latin presidents have visited and paid homage to Cuba.  Guatemalan president even apologized for training Bay of Pigs brigade.  None paid respects to dissidents on island.
  • Probably majority of US would like to end 50 year impasse.
  • In VN, Cuban torturers were most feared?  Yes, in my book, and familiar to John McCain.
  • Young Cubans looking to Chavez?  No.  After 50 years of gigantic character, forced to listen to speeches for 4 or 5 hours, they are looking for something different than Chavez.
  • Is Cuban government going to work successfully with us when Chavez controls purse strings?  Raúl just returned from international trip: Russia, Angola, Algeria, Brazil and Venezuela – all oil producers, in case Chavez’s successor does not supply oil.
  • Alacon, ex amb to UN, is president of national assembly (rubber stamp).  Late 60s, younger than some but not a favorite of Raúl’s.
  • Angolan relationship?  50,000 troops 1975-89, won independence for Angola, long history of affection.  Oil producer still.
  • Steve Schwab, ex CIA and Now U.AL, has license to teach in Cuba – concerned about chaos after Fidel.  Our licenses are simply funding Cuban military and government.  Still little private enterprise outside of government firms.  But I believe Raúl is interested in early stages of Deng’s opening of market to small farm producers and trucking to market.  Fidel won’t let him.  See last week’s Miami Herald.
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  • 5 May 2009: Four senior Air War College instructors will report on their recent trips to hot spots around the globe, as part of the AWC's Regional Studies Program.
  • Maps index | Middle East | Asia | Latin America | Caribbean

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