"The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcasses of dead policies," observed Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister who presided over Britain's rapprochement with the Untied States. Lord Salisbury was right. It is time the United States reviewed its policy of total estrangement from and isolation of Cuba.
This is not to say, as some argue, that our Cuban policy has failed. The reverse is true. From the late Eisenhower years through the Reagan Decade, the policy succeeded. By embargoing Cuba, the United States forced Moscow to divert $5 billion yearly to keep Castro's regime afloat. Maintaining their Cuban colony on the doorstep of the United States was imperial overstretch for the Soviet Empire, and the endless bleeding helped to bring that empire down.
Moreover, the isolation of Cuba was necessary, for in those 30 years, Cuba was a cat's paw of Moscow. Castro hosted Soviet nuclear missiles, nuclear submarines and a giant Soviet intelligence base. Cuban troops were sent to Africa as Hessians of the empire. Che Guevara was sent to foment revolution in Latin America, and Castro inspired and aided every anti-American revolution on earth. But that was then, and now is now.
Today, Che has been in his grave 30 years, there are no Cuban troops in Africa, the Soviet Union is dead and gone, all Russian bases in Cuba have been closed. As our situation is new, said Lincoln, so we must think and act anew.
What endures is the character of the Castro regime. It is a police state, a totalitarian state, and its ruler is the same political criminal and America-hater he has been his whole life. Castro alone is responsible for the 40 years of terror, persecution and repression the Cuban people have suffered. When he took power in 1959, Cuba was, next to America and Canada, the most prosperous nation in the hemisphere. Today, it is among the poorest and least free. If Cuban-Americans want no truck with this irredeemably corrupt dictator, who can blame them?
But still, U.S. policy needs a bottom-up review. For where is our consistency?
While Castro runs a brutal regime, so, too, do the Chinese. Yet as we embargo Cuba, we provide China with $85 billion trade surpluses and chaperone Beijing into the WTO? Why, when China has nuclear missiles targeted on us, and Cuba has no such capacity?
While Castro is responsible for the deaths of countless Cuban patriots, Hanoi is responsible for the deaths of 56,000 Americans. Yet we have normal relations with Hanoi, but not with Havana.
North Korea has missiles that can hit every U.S. base in Asia, sells missiles to rogue regimes, has engaged in state terror and is working on atomic weapons. Yet we engage North Korea, but not Cuba
While the U.S. policy of embargoing and isolating Cuba made sense in the Cold War, placing an immense security and aid burden on a strained Soviet Empire, it makes no sense today The Cuban embargo may well be a case where America can truly declare victory and get out.
During the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy agreed not to cauterize or cut out this communist melanoma in the Caribbean with a knife. But now the cancer of communist revolution is in remission in the hemisphere and around the world. The rising threats to the United States come from a China that is becoming virulently nationalistic, from an Islamic fundamentalism that is on the rise and from rogue regimes colluding with terrorists. Time has passed Fidel by; he is a relic of an era that died a decade ago. What should U.S. policy goals be now with regard to Cuba?
First, prevent its use as a base for another great power rival like Russia -- i.e., China. Second, ensure that when Castro departs, there is no civil war that would send thousands of Cubans fleeing to the United States and perhaps force U.S. intervention. Third, to ease the lot of the Cuban people and deprive Castro of the argument that it is we, not he, who is responsible for their misery.
To permit the sale to Cuba of consumer goods and travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens will surely put dollars in the pockets of Fidel's henchmen, who will steal the money from the Cubans who earn it. But that will only make his regime more detestable and open more eyes among the indoctrinated Cuban young as to who is truly to blame for their condition.
Embargoes are usually reserved for enemies that threaten the United States. Thus, for the United States to lift the embargo on trade and travel to Cuba would be to say to the world that Cuba is no threat to us, that the great revolutionary Fidel is but an irritant. And is that not the truth?
Time to declare victory and end the embargo.