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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 12/16/2010

Ros-Lehtinen ready to shake up foreign policy establishment

By Jennifer Rubin

The new House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is unabashedly delighted to be taking the gavel in hand and, with it, to start taking on a raft of foreign policy issues. She began a phone interview with me yesterday with cheery informality: "Hi, this is Ileana." And she declared up front her plans for the committee: "We are going to have great fun taking about freedom and democracy."

She was careful not to overstate her committee's jurisdiction, noting that she does not chair the appropriations committee. She emphasized, however: "What we can do is shake the tree. There is always a better way to do things. Certainly, the State Department and international organizations can learn to do better." What she offers, she continued, is a forum for challenging "the tone, the tenor and the policy" of the administration. And she thinks there is a fundamental change needed. "We should stand with our allies and isolate our friends," she said. "Not the other way around."

She stressed that part of her focus is on making sure taxpayer money is well spent. ("The State Department works for the taxpayers. I work for the taxpayers.") But that is not what gets her juices flowing. She wants to play a role in "promoting the interests of the United States of America -- not being ashamed of American exceptionalism. We need to get back to the basics and make no apologies."

I asked her about the UN Human Rights Council, which the Obama administration decided to rejoin after the Bush administration pulled out. She rejected the idea that our presence has helped matters. "In the time we have been a participant, things have gone from bad to worse," she said. "I didn't think that rogue's gallery had yet sunk to the bottom of depravity -- I guess that would be the heights of depravity. They have castigated Israel in every possible way. I don't think our presence has made that body any more responsive." To the contrary, she said our involvement has backfired: "We have given it credibility. What have we got from it? Every serial abuser of human rights in the world gets the protection it needs by joining." She said she understands that money we spend at the United Nations is fungible, to a large extent, but her attitude is that we should "let the serial rights abusers fund their depravity."

Yes, she is a blunt woman, in stark contrast to the State Department's evasive and overly-cautious language. And she intends to grill the administration on foreign policy failures. I asked about our North Korea policy, and she fired back, "What is our policy? What have we accomplished?" She noted that the policy failure began under the Bush administration and has continued. Now, she cautioned, "it is an increasingly aggressive state," while China, she argued, has distinguished itself "by its refusal to rein in" its neighbor. She urged the U.S. to impose new sanctions and "to immediately relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism." And she castigated the Bush administration for removing the regime from the list: "It was part of naive engagement. It didn't work then and it doesn't work now."

Shifting to Russia, she argued against ratification of the START treaty, making the case that "it will put us in a strategic straight-jacket." As Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) has been doing, she argues that "the administration has not satisfactorily answered questions" on verification and missile defense. And she said that entering into a nuclear co-operation agreement with Russia is a mistake. She asserted, "We have no business entering into an agreement with a country that has such a miserable record on proliferation." She argued that "we can't even verify" the extent of Russian proliferation activities.

In fact, she said she is dismayed by the entire approach to Russia: "How many concessions are we going to make?" She noted that she met last week with a high-ranking delegation from Georgia and expressed "my support for standing up to Russian aggression." Does she think we should provide defensive arms to Georgia, a move the Obama administration has refrained from making so as not to upset the Russians? She instantly responded: "Absolutely! It is what they want and what they need. They aren't the aggressors. I don't see why people think that's controversial." Well, those "people" might share the administration's preference for soft-peddling opposition to non-democratic regimes.

As we wrapped up, I asked her about Cuba, a country she fled from as a seven-year-old with her family. She remarked, " I hope this administration understands that freeing prisoners who should never have been incarcerated" is not a sign of progress. She observed that those "released" have been forced into exile. Moreover, she points to the case of Alan Gross, an American "imprisoned for over a year with no charges." She remarked derisively that the Obama administration makes concessions, and the Cuban response is, "OK, we'll jail Alan Ross." She also urged that we reinstitute democracy-promotion programs, so that Cuban activists do not "feel totally isolated and alone."

Ros-Lehtinen is not going to make life easy for the administration. It is not scandal or malfeasance that are likely to be the subject of her committee's work, but, rather true oversight. Are our policies working? Have we gotten anything from our attempts to engage despotic regimes? Unless the Obama administration can show some results, it promises to be a very uncomfortable two years for those who appear before her committee. But, for Georgians, Israelis, Cuban and Russian democracy advocates and others given short shrift by the administration, they now will, finally, have someone asking tough questions. It promises to be both enlightening and entertaining.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 16, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  House GOP, foreign policy  
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Comments

As we wrapped up, I asked her about Cuba

Ask her about the protection we are offering Luis Posada Carilles in Miami. Is he not one of the world's infamous terrorists. As Black September is responsible for the murder of Olympic Athletes,LPC was part of a group responsible for the murder of Olympic Athletes. Right Jennifer?

Posted by: rcaruth | December 16, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

rcaruth:
Kindly define "we"

thanks

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 16, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse


]Main article: Cubana Flight 455
Cubana Flight 455 was a Cubana de Aviación flight departing from Barbados, via Trinidad, to Cuba. On October 6, 1976 two timebombs variously described as dynamite or C-4 planted on the Douglas DC-8 aircraft exploded, killing all 73 people on board, including all 24 members of the 1975 national Cuban Fencing team that had just won all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship.[26]
Investigators from Cuba, Venezuela and the United States traced the planting of the bombs to two Venezuelan passengers, Freddy Lugo and Hernán Ricardo Lozano. Both men were employed by Posada at his private detective agency based in Venezuela, and they both subsequently admitted to the crime. A week after the men's confessions, Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch were arrested on charges of masterminding the attack, and were jailed in Venezuela.[27] Declassified FBI and CIA reports show that the agencies suspected his involvement in the airline bombing within days of its occurrence.[28][29] It was reported that several Miami residents and Bosch met in the Dominican Republic shortly before the bombing and issued a statement declaring their intention of waging a terrorist campaign against Cuba.[1] A declassified CIA document dated October 13, 1976 quotes Posada - at the time in Caracas - as saying a few days before Cubana flight 455 exploded: "We are going to hit a Cuban airliner... Orlando has the details".[30]
Posada, who denied involvement in the Cubana 455 bombing, insisted his "only objective was to fight for Cuba's freedom".[31] Posada was found not guilty by a military court; however, this ruling was overturned and he was held for trial in a civilian court. Posada escaped from prison with Freddie Lugo in 1977, turning themselves in to the less-than-sympathetic Chilean authorities. He was immediately extradited, and was held without conviction for eight years before escaping in 1985 while awaiting a prosecutor's appeal of his second acquittal in the bombing. His escape is said to have involved a hefty bribe and his dressing as a priest.[18][32] According to Posada, the escape was planned and financed by Jorge Mas Canosa, by then head of the Cuban American National Foundation, a group with close ties to the Reagan administration.[33] Mas then helped Posada settle in El Salvador, where he joined the White House-directed operations in the region
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Posada_Carriles
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB153/index.htm

Posted by: rcaruth | December 16, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

SkipSailing/"As we wrapped up, I asked her about Cuba"

This is a direct quote from Rubin's article.???? Did you read it?

Posted by: rcaruth | December 16, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"Ros-Lehtinen is not going to make life easy for the administration. It is not scandal or malfeasance that are likely to be the subject of her committee's work, but, rather true oversight."

Give the lady credit. She actually blamed the Bush administration for some of it's many policy failures.

The idea of defensive arms to Georgia unfortunately exposes a third grade mentality toward arms (which I doubt you actually possess, so we'll toss it up to being provocative on your part). There are no such thing as defensive arms and no arms sales can keep Russia from taking over Georgia if it decides to invade.

Arms sales, aside from the simple cash incentive, would just be a further attempt to force us to intervene militarily in any future conflict.

"Have we gotten anything from our attempts to engage despotic regimes?"

Somebody should ask Putin how he liked ridiing in Bush's pickup truck almost 10 years ago. Russia was at least nominally a democracy back then but it didn't bother the Bush administration enough to protest it's slide into a Mafia style oligarchy, that was finished before Obama ever took office.

But I guess it is more fun to focus on Obamma's idiotic bow in Saudi Arabia than to focus on Bush riding in a truck with what according to Jennifer is one of the great enemies of the US.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 16, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I merely seeking to understand the nature of your comment. I wonder what you mean by "we". Thanks for the recap of the events but are you saying that someone is doing something you believe to be wrong?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 16, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

big yawns from the Mr Numbers Person. It is a familiar old tune:

Blame Bush, Blame Bush, Blame Bush.

If that doesn't achieve the objective (whatever it might be) then, Blame Bush.

It is both silly and pointless, but that's the charm of the contribution from this particular source.

Were I to mention that I have in my possession a photograph of FDR shaking hands with Stalin I have no doubt that some rationalization for this heinous act will be forthcoming.

thus far the preferred policy of the numbers guy relative to Georgia can be summed up in a single word: surrender.

Nice, way nice.

I encountered yet another rabid liberal on the WaPo blogs (they are thick on the ground here at the home of macaca) whose policy perference was the selling out of the Georgians for promises of Russian help with Iran. Yeah, so on the one hand, Bush was foolish to have a relationship with Putin. And on the other hand, we should trust Putin to help us with Iran. Yeah, sure.

I remember when the left stood for something. I remember when the lefties valued freedom.

When did the left lose its soul?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 16, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Uh, Jennifer...this can't be right:

"We should stand with our allies and isolate our friends," she said. "Not the other way around."

Posted by: russell41 | December 16, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

skip:

Once again you have deftly, or not so deftly avoided saying how we should approach Georgia or Russia, although perhaps you believe in a more stern talking to?

That's why we HAVE history books so that each four years we don't entirely forget how we got into any particular situation.

You have not seen me suggest Russian help with Iran, since they have very little influence in this regime other than technology.

The Russians have their own agenda in that Islamic militants like them no better than us, and they are a lot closer geographically. A cunning and ruthless politician like Putin will try once again to get us to make concessions for following that which would have been his policy anyway in his own best interests.

Your term "selling out the Georgians" has no basis in reality unless your consider that Bush made some promises to them implicit or explicit which are disasterous for us. We have no interest in Georgia other than the foolish diplomacy perpetuated by the Bush administration and quoted herein:

"In September 2008, NATO and Georgia established the NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC) to oversee NATO’s assistance to Georgia following the conflict with Russia and to play a central role in supervising the process set in hand at the Bucharest Summit. In December 2008, Allied foreign ministers agreed that Georgia should develop an Annual National Programme under the auspices of the NGC. In this framework, the Alliance is maximising its advice, assistance and support for Georgia’s reform efforts, in particular in the field of democratic, institutional and defence reforms."

Notice this lunacy all involved the BUSH ADMINISTRATION, oh, but my bad, history began in January 2009 did it not?

Posted by: 54465446 | December 16, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I didn't say that it was you who called for the trade of Georgian freedom for "co operation" from Russia on Iran. It was just another garden variety liberal.

Perhaps before you critique my characterization of a statement you admit you didn't write you should have read it. Don't you think that would, you know, add some validity to your "points". Just too funny.

If what you are saying is that the Russians will act in what they percieve to be their own best interest then allow me congratulate you on your iron grasp of the obvious. I believe that the Howard Cossell Memorial Trophy is given to the liberal who demonstrates the best grip on the obvious. You are in the running. I will certainly nominate you. the elections for the award are limited to members of the Journ-o-list so I suggest that you comment copiously at Ezra Klein's blog.

What should we do about Georgia? Demonstrate to Russia that we will fight to keep it free. Just as we should do with all the former Soviet client states. That, of course will be in diametric opposition to the stated Obama position, which is apparently to give the Russians whatever they demand.

You will ask your childish question, childish because decisions about the use of force, or the threat thereof, should not be based on anything other than the advancement of American interest.

there is no point to the quote you offer about the NGC. It seems you have a visceral need to look backward. Let me share with you a quote from Buckminster Fuller:

Here we are marching into the future with our eyes firmly fixed on the past.

If shoving the retrospectoscope around is what passes for insight with you, color me unimpressed. The past is a great learning tool and I read history avidly, but the present is the arena in which we must act.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 16, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

mean by "we". Thanks for the recap of the events but are you saying that someone is doing something you believe to be wrong?
Posted by: skipsailing28

Yeah "someone" is protecting LPC against extradition to Venezuala thru two administrations. Check out R-L's stance on Posada,does she see Posada as a freedom fighter like Rubin does?

Posted by: rcaruth | December 16, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

skip:

Thank you for telling me what you want to do about Georgia. The idea that we could send troops to fight there is absurd, as any perusal of a topographical map would indicate, BUT you answered what I asked.

If as you indicate decisions about the use of force should not be based on anything but American interests, then we have no debate because there are none in Georgia.

As to my visceral need to look backward, I confess. The quote I used is about things that happened two whole years ago and as such never existed at all according to the Republican party.

Anyway, thank you for addressing my request.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 16, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Where did I say "send troops"?

Please provide some proof as to your bona fides as an expert on military logistics.

Your opinion about Georgia is noted. If the the crux of your argument is "we don't have an interest there because I said we don't and that settles it" I remain unimpressed. To me assertions such as that require support. Why should anyone on the planet believe what you say to be true? I certainly don't.

Yes your need to look back is your problem, but if you wish to waste your time whining about choices that were made in the past, leave me out. The retrospectoscope has limited use. Methinks you just like to complain about Bush and don't really know what the impact of his choices have on the options available to us today. Again, you just like to complain. I had a wife like that once.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 17, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

@skipsailing28:

big yawns from you, Mr. wouldbe Popeye. It is a familiar old tune:

Never Blame Bush, Never Blame Bush, Never Blame Bush.

Did we mention...NEVER BLAME BUSH??

Posted by: grosmec | December 21, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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