Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Obama and Cuba

One of the biggest travesties in US politics is the extent to which our policy toward Cuba is driven by domestic politics--on both sides of the aisle. A loud and well-financed Cuban minority in Florida has held foreign policy hostage for five decades while they yearn for days long gone by, all the while Cuba's Marxist government thumbs its nose at us and provides a nearly constant source of enmity. It is high time this relationship changed, and it will be the US side that ultimately has to initiate it.

According to this story, there is hope among some Cubans that the incoming Obama administration means that a new era is coming. I consider it one of the Bush Administration's clearest policy blunders not to work toward normalization of relations with Cuba for the same reasons the Clinton Administration did not do so...electoral politics. Besides, the numbers just don't stack up anymore. The majority of Cuban Americans in Florida now support normalization (the older you are, the less likely to support), and Cuban Americans represent a shrinking proportion of the Latino population in Florida anyway.

We fought a ten year war and lost 58,000 people in the Vietnam War, yet we have normalized relations with the regime there. Fifty years of isolation has done nothing to improve the situation, yet we cling to policies the rest of the world ignores while Europeans enjoy the tourism and trade we deny ourselves. It is time to normalize relations with Cuba, to allow free travel there, to unlock a future market for American goods and let the warmth of the American people and the lubricating impact of their dollars send the Marxist leaders of Cuba forever to the dustbin of history.

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