Johns Hopkins Magazine - April 1995 Issue

Public Policy and International Affairs

Civil disobedience, etc.


The Cuba scholar who can't get his day in court

Hopkins visiting professor Wayne Smith insists that, press reports to the contrary, he's not hellbent on landing in the clink. "I'm not really trying to get arrested," he says. "I want to be taken to court."

Smith, visiting professor of Latin American studies and director of the Hopkins Cuba Exchange Program, wants to overturn U.S. restrictions that prohibit scholars from traveling to Cuba without first getting licensed by the Treasury Department. The restriction, meant to increase pressure for Cuban governmental reforms, was put in place last August 20, in the wake of a new wave of Cuban refugees attempting to reach Florida.

Cuba signed a new immigration agreement on September 9, but the United States failed to lift its restrictions. So Smith and several other Cuba scholars decided to protest by an act of civil disobedience--they would travel to Cuba without the required licenses.

"Castro did what we wanted him to do. But the government left the measures in place, and we can't get a logical explanation. There's no reason for it. The government is violating the First Amendment," says Smith, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who served as director of Cuban affairs for the State Department and as chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba.

In December, Smith and two other scholars announced that they would go to Cuba in defiance of the regulations. They hoped to be arrested, so they could challenge in court the constitutionality of the restrictions. When they landed in Miami on their return trip, Treasury Department agents were on hand to welcome them.

Smith says the Treasury agents grilled the trio of protesters on the tarmac beside the plane, and threatened to arrest them. Smith replied, "Our lawyer's here. Let's do it." But after a half-hour of questions, the agents let the three protesters go.

In January, Smith repeated his protest, flying to Cuba to attend a conference at the Cuban Center for the Study of the United States. Five like-minded colleagues joined him. Once again, Treasury agents met them on their return to Miami. This time, the conversation lasted for four and a half hours. Agents meticulously searched their luggage and read the scholars their rights. But again, no arrests.

By not arresting him and his colleagues, Smith believes, the U.S. avoids a court test that it might lose. "We wouldn't be in jail over an hour," he says. Meanwhile, by leaving the restrictions on the books, he says, the government may intimidate some would-be travelers.

At the State Department, coordinator for Cuban affairs Dennis Hays says the U.S. isn't trying to interfere with legitimate research, but it does want to prevent tourist dollars from bolstering the Cuban economy. "What we're trying to do is keep Fidel Castro from getting the resources he needs to perpetuate his regime," Hays says. He points out that Cuba has not yet resolved what is to be done with the 26,000 refugees who remain sequestered at Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba at U.S. expense. Nor has the Castro regime taken such steps as freeing political prisoners and allowing them to remain in Cuba. He says Smith and other scholars become symbols of Cuban resistance to American pressure.

Hays also notes that some tourist groups have made vacation trips under the guise of research: "The license lets us work with recognized researchers while culling out people who just want to be tourists."

But according to Smith, getting a license isn't as easy as it sounds. He says the U.S. has refused to grant licenses to some scholars, or in other cases granted licenses too late for intended trips.

"Even if all the licenses were granted, it's unconstitutional to require us to seek a license, to have, in effect, our research projects approved by the Treasury Department," says Smith.

Smith was planning another trip to Cuba in March, to research the effects of travel restrictions on democratization and human rights. He says his hassles with the government have taught him one lesson. After the last search of his luggage, he says, "From now on, I'm traveling light." --DK


U.S. values vs. interests

Former U.S. secretary of defense Les Aspin came to Shriver Hall in February and posed a fundamental question: Should the United States use its soldiers to protect American values?

During the Cold War, Aspin said, the rationale for American military intervention was protection of U.S. interests abroad, to preserve American national security. Now, in countries like Bosnia, Haiti, and Rwanda, there is no U.S. national interest at stake. Yet Americans see overwhelming injustice and must decide whether to commit troops--not as defenders of national security, but as police officers enforcing American values of justice and humanity.

"During the Cold War, yes, people were starving, yes, there was ethnic cleansing, yes, democratic governments were thrown out, yes, there was a need for peace keeping. But no, the U. S. was not being asked to get involved. Now that's changed," said Aspin, the first speaker of the 1995 Woodrow Wilson Symposium.

Soldiers have a tough time doing police work, said Aspin: "For a policeman, everybody is innocent until proven guilty. For a soldier, everyone who isn't wearing your uniform is a bad guy. You come along [as a soldier], there's people in a room, and you knock the door down. Do you go in there with your rifle blazing or do you go in there and read everyone their rights? Making the wrong decision could lead to your own death, or a huge international incident.

"On the other hand, America stands for values. We can't stand by idly while these things are going on. Look what happened in the Holocaust. If we take the attitude that if it happens in their country then it doesn't have anything to do with us, then we're going to have Holocausts, or the equivalent of them, all around the world."

There may be a need to divide the U.S. military, Aspin suggested, with some units trained as soldiers and others trained as cops: "Maybe we should develop special units, like the French Foreign Legion." --LD


"This is not Handcuffs 101"

Steven Vicchio poses a question to his class: What are the differences between the Ten Commandments and American criminal law?

"Law is made by men?" offers Inspector Robert White of the Washington D.C. Police Department.

Vicchio nods and writes the statement on the board.

"Men enforce laws," adds Major Marc Paterni of the Howard County P.D.

On the board it goes. And so Vicchio continues with his Friday afternoon class on "Values and Ethics in Society," in which readings of Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill are the standard fare.

This is not "cop school" in the police academy sense of the word. The Police Executive Leadership Program (PELP) is a two- year master's program in applied behavioral sciences, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, offered by Hopkins's School of Continuing Studies. Enrolled are 24 super- visory officers, from sergeants to chiefs of police, representing every major police department in the Baltimore-Washington area, plus the U.S. Department of Agriculture police. On alternate Fridays and Saturdays, they throw on street clothes, sling backpacks over their shoulders, and attend all-day classes.

PELP's genesis was a 1991 New York Times article indicating that in the last 20 years, the number of police officers with college degrees had increased from 4 to 23 percent. Yet there existed no advanced training for law enforcement officials beyond a standard criminal justice curriculum, noted Contin- uing Studies dean Stanley Gabor. So Gabor set out to design a new program, together with Sheldon Greenberg, then associate director of the Police Executive Resource Facility, the largest law enforcement information center in the country.

"Traditional cops and robbers that you see on television is only 3 percent of the job," says Gabor. "We wanted a program that taught law enforcement budgeting, administration, and strategic planning. This is not Handcuffs 101."

The program aims to help officers keep pace with their changing societal role, Gabor says, and improve communication between districts. "Often police officers are first on the scene in cases involving domestic violence, the homeless, prostitution. They need sensitivity and cultural skills to deal effectively with these situations. They don't learn those skills in academies."

"These are people who want to be the change-makers in both their regions and nationally," says Greenberg, himself a former officer. "Before this program, it was unheard of to have first- line supervisory officers and chiefs of police, from different districts, talking to each other and exchanging ideas." As a result of the program, he says, the Washington D.C. Police Department recently shared criminal investigation training methods with the Annapolis department.

In Vicchio's class, students are applying their readings in Kant and Hobbes to issues of modern law enforcement. The class is preparing and hopes to get published an anthology that will combine traditional philosophical writings, moral dilemmas in literature (such as those found in Billy Budd and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), and case studies in law enforcement. --KS


American naivete revisited?

Fifty years after the Yalta Conference, the United States is approaching Russia with the same naőveté that allowed Stalinist totalitarianism to engulf Eastern Europe, says former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Brzezinski, professor of American foreign policy at Hopkins's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, addressed a large gathering in Washington in February on the 50th anniversary of the Allied summit at Yalta. That conference, near the end of World War II, brought together Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin, and decided much of the shape of post-war Europe. The Western powers granted the Soviet Union domination over what became the Eastern Bloc nations.

Among the Western governments at Yalta, Brzezinski said, "There was little understanding of the phenomenon of political totalitarianism." Western political observers, he said, failed to see the implications of Stalin's massive terror campaign and the formation of the Soviet prison system, the Gulag.

Brzezinski is worried that the U.S. is no more realistic today, and he questions U.S. support for Russian president Boris Yeltsin. To call Yeltsin a democratic leader, Brzezinski said, is to ignore the fact that a democratic leader must govern in a democratic fashion. "Hitler was elected democratically," Brzezinski reminded his listeners. "So was Juan Perón."

Brzezinski observed that the former KGB has grown during Yeltsin's tenure, albeit under a new name. Several of Yeltsin's key advisors are from the KGB, and the influence of the Russian army in government affairs continues to grow. The Russian judiciary remains weak, and Yeltsin and the new politburo have exercised rule by decree. No one in the Russian government has disavowed the country's Soviet past, Brzezinski noted, and the country's central monument remains Lenin's tomb. Said Brzezinski, "That tells us something about the ambiguity of the incipient democratic movement." --DK

Written by Lisa Dicker '95, Dale Keiger, and Kevin Smokler '95.


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