Civic Discourse Among Nations: Interpreting President Obama’s Visit to Cuba and Argentina
In Havana, President Obama told an audience at the Gran Teatro, “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.” He went on to discuss the troubled past between Cuba and the United States, in addition to extolling the virtues of multiparty democracy. In Buenos Aires, the president discussed the U.S. role in the early years of Argentina’s Dirty War, saying, “There’s been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days, and the United States, when it reflects on what happened here, has to examine its own policies as well and its own past… Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for.”
Remarks such as these inevitably upset a significant portion of the U.S. political and foreign policy communities. They come at a time when a controversial tell-all article by Jeffrey Goldberg about the “Obama Doctrine” continues to reverberate in Washington. These conversations are inevitably linked to philosophical differences on the perennial questions about morality and idealism, pragmatism, and the limits of state power in international politics. Whether people self-identify as “realists,” “liberal internationalists,” “constructivists,” or some other simplifying label masks the reality that most humans struggle to balance competing imperatives amidst uncertainty and limited capacities.
Photo Credit: (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)