It’s very good news that steps are finally being taken to ease relations with Cuba. So far, Obama’s efforts to normalize American/Cuban relations have not gone nearly far enough, but I understand the need to move slowly. International politics is a sort of dance and dagger fight, and one side cannot be seen as making too many concessions to the other. Face must be saved, feathers left un-rumpled.
I think what a lot of people miss when they critique Obama’s overtures to Cuba is that Fidel Castro is on the way out – ostensibly he’s stepped down already, but such is the persistence of dictators – and we need to anticipate what comes next. We simply can’t expect little brother Raul Castro to be able to make all the reforms necessary without some American moves in that direction. In other words, this is a case of meeting each other in the middle. If we maintain a hard line on Cuba, then Raul will be pressured and held politically captive by the hardliners in his government. If we soften up, then Raul will be able to soften up. We are sending him political capital with gift-wrapping. With Fidel soon to be out of the way, this might actually work.
The other day, Matt Yglesias wrote:
Making the Cuban population as poor as possible isn’t going to bring democracy to the island, and the idea that a more prosperous Cuba could somehow become so prosperous as to pose a security threat to the United States is ridiculous. A Communist economy running without subsidies from the USSR is bound to be pretty poor no matter what, but there’s no reason for us to contribute to the situation.
These new policies toward Cuba need to be seen in such a light – not as soft on dictators, but as tactics undermining the hardliners and helping the Cuban people. The guard has changed in America, and it’s changing, if only slightly, in Cuba. It’s a perfect storm for normalizing relations, but if either side balks then we could be back to the dysfunctional relationship we had before, to the detriment of thousands of Cubans and millions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on outdated, foolish anti-Cuban policies. America, as the free nation must lead the way to freedom by extending its hand first. The likeliest path toward a more democratic Cuba is a move toward normal trade relations with the United States. Think of it as a nonviolent promotion of democracy, and as rather smart and refreshing foreign policy from the Obama administration.