Thursday, December 18, 2014

Policy toward Cuba needs to grow up

The United States has been trying to run the Castro regime out of Cuba for longer than President Obama has been alive. It hasn't worked. Now Obama wants to try something different — and more sensible.

Obama announced Wednesday a relaxation of restrictions against Cuba and the opening of diplomatic relations, which were severed in 1960 in response to Fidel Castro's coup and his embrace of communism. A year later, President Kennedy went ahead with a plot started by the Eisenhower administration to overthrow Castro through the support of anti-Castro exiles. The Bay of Pigs is remembered today as one of the great debacles of Cold War foreign policy. Cuban troops routed the ill-trained and ill-equipped insurgents.

 An embargo of trade with Cuba has not succeeded in more than 50 years, and it will not succeed for another 50 years. Cuba is a natural trading partner for the United States and was a favored tourist destination in the pre-Castro years.

It is difficult to justify an embargo of Cuba when regimes of similar or even worse human-rights and anti-American policies enjoy free trade and diplomatic recognition. Can the United States continue to isolate Cuba while it maintains normal relations with Russia, China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia and other nations? If an embargo worked, wouldn't the United States have used it against other nations with totalitarian regimes or socialist economies?

The Cuban embargo was born out of Cold War fears, which were affirmed and exacerbated by the truly frightening 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, but so much has changed since the Castro regime's early years. The Soviet Union has collapsed. The Cold War officially ended. Russia and China have embraced capitalism in one form or another. Cuba is no longer sending soldiers to fight proxy wars in Africa. The rationale for isolating Cuba has disappeared.

American interests lie with helping Cuba to reform, adopt more free-trade and human rights policies and come into the 21st century through the example of American freedoms and products. A trade embargo and other restrictions make no sense in 2014.

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