Obama Is Right On Cuba

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been nothing short of a disaster — but his decision to ease sanctions and expand relations with Cuba deserves praise.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and, instead, we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Obama said in a statement from the White House Wednesday.

Obama can’t end America’s embargo on Cuba himself. It will take Congress to do that. But the president says he plans to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, including opening an embassy in Havana. He will also make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba and expand America’s commercial relations with the country.

Good for the president. America’s embargo on Cuba once made sense. Fifty years later it makes no sense at all. Cuba remains a country ruled by a brutal and oppressive communist dictatorship. Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, who now leads the country, are monsters who have enslaved the country’s population for decades. But Cuba is no longer a threat to the United States. Its one time sponsor, the Soviet Union, is long gone. Cuba’s main ally Venezuela, on which the communist island depends for 20 percent of its GDP, is on the verge of economic insolvency with oil prices having plummeted.

America has relations with all sorts of despicable governments around the world. Countries we sanction, like Iran, pose a unique threat to the United States. Iran is an international sponsor of terrorism and their pursuit of nuclear weapons is a grave danger to the world. We sanction them because we hope that the economic consequences of their actions will cause them to change course — or at least because we hope the sanctions will limit the funds they have to pursue their nefarious ambitions. Cuba is not Iran — at least in terms of the threat it poses to U.S. interests.

Cuba today is an economic basket case. That’s sad, because it should be the jewel of the Caribbean. I visited Havana on a humanitarian mission when I was in college. Many of the city’s buildings were decaying and crumbling, but beneath the grime, the architecture was magnificent. So were the people and the culture. If Cuba ever truly opens up to the free market, I have no doubt it will become the number one tourist attraction in the Caribbean. And if millions of American tourists one day are permitted to flood Cuba, one has to imagine that overtime this will lead to at least some liberalization of the country.

It is important for President Obama to make clear that his decision to open relations with Cuba should not be taken as an indication that the U.S. views the Cuban government favorably. Some supporters of ending the embargo in the United States like to sport Che Guevara t-shirts and think Fidel Castro is a great hero of the 20th century. We call most of these people college professors.

But American policy ought to have none of those illusions, none of that useful idiocy. The Cuban regime is abhorrent and their system reprehensible. But the president’s decision today is the right policy for America — and ultimately, I believe it will also benefit the Cuban people and the cause of freedom.

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Jamie Weinstein