December 18, 2014

Cuba! It’s certainly a touchy topic, but it’s no longer ignorable, or a topic which can wait. So, I’m all in here.

Formal relations with Cuba do not exist. The signal feature of the relationship, however, is the embargo on trade. The embargo had as its purpose forcing Fidel Castro and his Communist regime from power. It began on October 19, 1960, under President Dwight Eisenhower. It has lasted for more than 54 years, albeit with many exceptions. (Several MRW readers have been to Cuba in the recent past, traveling from Miami on cultural exchanges.) Ten successors to President Eisenhower—Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama—have come and, excepting President Obama, gone. And the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, are still around!

Dumb is doing leaving a policy in place for decades, expecting it to work, suddenly. (If you thought I was going to use the I(nsanity)-word, guess again; it’s a cliché.) There does come a time, though, when anyone—person, group, or nation—must say “We need to try something else.” I don’t know on which of the past 19,783 mornings a U.S. President needed to wake up and say, “This must change,” but it was surely years 5,000, 10,000, or even 15,000 days ago . We’ve been at this embargo/no relations thing for almost 25% of our existence as a nation, with the Castros still in place and no evident likelihood that we will ever achieve our objective. (For an opposing point of view here’s the Washington Post’s editorial board with Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout, proving that if the Washington Post was ever really a liberal outpost, it’s not one now.)

Several usual suspects are out in front on this issue. Here are Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (Ted Cruz: Cuba Relations Thaw ‘a Tragic Mistake’ by Brendan Bordelon for National Review); Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (Marco Rubio’s fury over the Cuba shift shows why Obama made the right move by Dana Milbank for the Washington Post); and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) (McCain v. McCain on Cuba by Steve Benen for MSNBC).

The party line is not strict here. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) favors the new policy, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) does not, and others are not in line. And there is much more which must happen before we have a normal relationship with Cuba, for while the embargo is full of holes and the president does control diplomacy, ending the embargo requires Congressional approval. Check back with me on January 21, 2017, unless we have elected Hillary Clinton in 2016, and if that happens check back in 2021 or 2025. (Of course, we could also have a D-controlled Congress, but that is not likely very soon.)

I know President Obama’s actions have upset many people. Part of the problem here, though, involves a policy that has lasted not because it was working, but because too many politicians have catered to a small group of people whose lives focus heavily on Cuba. That many of these people live in a growing state (Florida) with lots of electoral votes explains much, but I think there is something else going on here. Something bigger!

Our world has changed, whether we like it or not. The United States of America, as a public corporation, would not find itself in a growth fund. We’ve matured, and not so gracefully in many respects. We need not put ourselves out to pasture but, as a nation, we need to appreciate the needs and desires of others and find a satisfactory role going forward. We simply can’t expect to have our way on all issues, all of the time, and assuming we can leaves us worse off.

That we can no longer have our way, on all things at all times, upsets many people. Upset, though, and craven politicians who advocate for and promise the good old days, helps us not at all. Making a deal with Cuba, even when the terms may not be perfect, moves us forward toward a more positive future! Thank you, President Obama, for solving yet another problem.

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