Restoring relations with Cuba may not bring Democracy to the island, but it is guaranteed to help out the people
After half a century of American hostilities towards Cuba, Barack Obama announced plans last week to re-establish diplomatic ties with the country. In spite of Republican objections, Obama will soon move to lift restrictions on travel, commerce and financial activities.
The United States’ fifty-four year old trade embargo against Cuba has not had the direct impact on the Castro regime that Eisenhower first intended. It’s obvious that the embargo has stifled the Cuban economy for at least a generation, but its effect has been felt principally by the Cuban people.
Meanwhile, the Castro brothers have hung tough throughout the decades, even surviving the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has been clear for a long time that economic isolation has not worked. Good on an American President for finally facing reality.
Many conservative Americans don’t understand that the Embargo has been used as a rallying cry and propaganda machine for the Castro regime for decades. If anything American resentment towards Cuba has allowed them to stay in power longer than what could have been otherwise. People are quick to forget that the Cuban Revolution was in response to the American backed, fascist policies of Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista.
It’s no surprise that many Republicans have objected to Obama wanting to normalize relations with America’s Cold War nemesis. Conservatives have always been afraid of change. But the reasons behind the objections are questionable to say the least.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has been leading the war of words against a better relationship with Cuba. Shortly after Obama’s speech he criticized the President by saying “This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people… these changes will lead to legitimacy for a government that shamelessly, continuously abuses human rights.”
Rubio is quick to point out human rights abuses in Cuba, while at the same time he refused just a week earlier to acknowledge that America’s own torture program was wrong. He later stated in an op-ed “Now, thanks to President Obama’s concessions, the regime in Cuba won’t have to change.” Rubio even lectured the Pope for doing his part.
Rubio isn’t alone of course. House Speaker John Boehner said “Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom — and not one second sooner.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted “I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.”
Sen. Rand Paul, the Republican with at least half a brain (the foreign policy half) was one of the few GOP members to voice support for the president’s move, saying the move to normalize relations with Cuba “is probably a good idea.”
Most Republicans have become the poster child for Albert Einstein’s famous definition of insanity (and not just with Cuba). If the same policy has failed for more than fifty years, the best thing to do is continue the policy.
If republicans are against opening relations with Cuba because it is led by an oppressive regime, they may want to rethink their policy with China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and countless others. They may also want to remember the United States has never had a problem propping up, let alone supporting, oppressive regimes in the past (Iran, Egypt, much of Latin America, etc.)
Yesterday, Rubio went on the Sunday talk shows to argue against Obama’s policy. He used China and Vietnam as an example of how normalizing relations doesn’t guarantee political freedom to the people. Fair enough, but Obama made no such guarantee, he simply stated that isolationism wasn’t working and through normalizing relations, there is at least a chance.
Political and economic isolationism never works, Obama knows that. Imagine if the United States had preferred the same policy when it came to the Soviet Union. It’s entirely conceivable that the Soviet Union would still exist today if Gorbachev had never been allowed to meet with Presidents Reagan and Bush.
Obama also knows that America’s Cuban policy has been an utter failure for decades. As the opinions of Americans and younger Cuban Americans change in favor of lifting the embargo, political leaders have run out of excuses.
The change in policy may not bring democracy to the Cuban people, but the change will still benefit them greatly. If you don’t believe me, ask the six hundred million Chinese people who have risen out of poverty since America normalized relations with China.
As a Canadian who’s always been allowed to vacation in Cuba, I’ve had many snowbird friends enjoy weeks on the Cuban beach, helping what exists of the Cuban economy. I can tell you with absolute certainty that their presence on those beaches helped out the Cuban People far more than they helped Fidel or Raul.