BBG Watch Just Asking Commentary

Did U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) not only engaged in some unfortunate editorializing in its VOA English News headline, Obama to Meet with Raul Castro, Ally of New Era of US-Cuba Ties,” but also misinterpreted the meaning of the word “ally” and misinterpreted U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the normalization of relations with Cuba?

What is the meaning and connotation of the word “ally” in this process?

Is Raul Castro really Barack Obama’s “ally” in “new era of US-Cuba ties”?

If he is such an “ally,” why didn’t he greet his “ally,” President Obama, on arrival at the Havana airport?

Are Obama and Castro in fact “allies,” or do they have completely different expectations as to how this process should work, what benefits it should bring to each of them, what benefits it should bring to Cuban and America citizens, and what should the final outcome be for Cuba and for the United States?

Do Americans in general have the same expectations as Raul Castro as to the normalization process and its final outcome, whether they support normalization or not?

If President Obama and Americans in fact have quite different ideas and expectations, could they be considered Raul Castro’s “ally of new era in US-Cuba ties”?

Is it possible that Raul Castro wants to take advantage of the normalization to strengthen his own grip on power with the help of new American investments and will try to block any U.S. initiatives he thinks would undermine him and his regime?

Is it possible that President Obama’s “ally of new era in US-Cuba ties” in fact does not want to do many of the things that Obama and American people would want him to do?

Did the Voice of America misunderstood U.S. foreign policy in posting this headline?

Did VOA send a wrong message and confuse foreign audiences?

Is this what U.S. public diplomacy message, if there is one, should be?

Would the Obama White House and the U.S. State Department agree with this Voice of America headline?

Would even Americans who support normalization of relations with Cuba agree with this Voice of America headline?

Just asking. But our guess is that neither the White House nor the U.S. State Department would agree that Raul Castro is in fact President Obama’s “ally of new era of US-Cuba ties,” as the Voice of America has put it, nor would they want to use such language and send such a message to the world.

Perhaps this kind of editorializing should have been left out of VOA headlines altogether. But if editorialize we must, some cynics might say that a more accurate description of Raul Castro would be “a cunning exploiter of new era of US-Cuba ties.” We are dealing after all with a dictator.

Can the President of the United States be an ally of a ruthless dictator when neither country is facing the same mortal enemy in war? Perhaps not. One could say that President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin were allies during WWII, but that was a considerably different situation. The Voice of America and some U.S. media engaged at that time in unfortunate propaganda suggesting that both governments shared essentially the same democratic values and goals, which was, and certainly turned out to be, completely wrong.

Words do matter and they should be used carefully.

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