Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Which presidential candidate is prepared to move forward on US-Cuban relations?

Fidel Castro has announced that after 49 years he is letting go of his control of the Cuban government. Castro’s announcement that he would not seek or accept a new term as president or commander in chief published in Gramma, follows word yesterday that some political prisoners were being released. Whether or not there is a connection is still to be seen but one can only hope this may finally be the beginning of a liberalizing of political life in Cuba.

What happens next in Cuba is unknown although at this moment it seems likely Fidel’s bother Raul, will likely take over. But the other question is what will happen to U.S. policy towards Cuba. In many ways, Castro was defined in the eyes of the world by his relationship with the United States. U.S. policy for almost half a century has imposed an embargo on the island nation hoping the pressure would turn the Cuban people against the Castro regime.

American policy towards Cuba has been not only a relic from a previous world order -- the Cold War -- but has been a failed policy that this blog has complained about here, here and here. The policy cut off interactions between Cubans and Americans in the hope that this will somehow encourage Cubans to topple their government. Yet, despite the fact the policy never produced the stated result the American government under both Democrats and Republicans held onto this failed policy as if it were sacred. The reality is the only reason the policy existed was to pander to an older generation of Cuban refugees who may cast a deciding vote in the swing state of Florida – it has had nothing to do with Cuba for decades

Steve Clements wants to know which presidential candidate is prepared to move forward on U.S.-Cuban relations:
OK -- Which of the presidential candidates is prepared to finally break US-Cuba relations out of the anachronistic Cold War cocoon they have been frozen in and initiate a new course that benefits American interests?

Barack Obama has sketched out the initial steps of a changed direction already, while Hillary Clinton in response said that the Bush administration's management of Cuba was just fine with her until something triggered a reason to change.

When Fidel Castro hinted in December that he would be stepping down, I asked the Hillary Clinton campaign if this news was substantial enough for it to stop hugging the Bush line and consider a new groove. I was told by a Clinton adviser that if something significant occurred to justify a rethink, then a "full policy review" would be done by the Clinton team.

Well, the hint Castro gave is now real -- and this seems significant.

The ending punctuation point of Fidel Castro's tenure in office marks the conclusion of the longest serving head of state in power today (except monarchs).

The US embargo against Cuba -- which all nations but three vote against each year in the United Nations -- has utterly failed to generate any positive impact on the Cuban government or people.

Of all the low cost opportunities to demonstrate a new and different US style of engagement with the world, Cuba is at the top of the list. Opening family travel -- and frankly all travel -- between Cuba and the US, and ending the economic embargo will provide new encounters, new impressions, and the kind of people-to-people diplomacy that George W. Bush, John Bolton, Richard Cheney, and Jesse Helms run scared of.

This is a huge potential pivot point in US-Cuba relations. Will Hillary Clinton step up to the plate -- and will Obama move beyond the somewhat timid proposals he offered previously and go to the gold standard in US-Cuba relations articulated by Senator Chris Dodd?

And will John McCain just ignore history's offered up opportunity or will he continue to paw the dirt and blow steam at the island nation just off the Florida coast?
The right thing to do would be to stop the pandering and change the policy to reflect the realities of the 21st Century. Barack Obama has proposed doing just that. Hillary Clinton and John McCain so far have not.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

And the tightrope act Obama is how to seem the best at balancing diplomacy with the conservative attacks that claim he is soft on Cuba and on using force when necessary.

We cannot be disputed is that our policies have not worked and that likely a continuation of the status quo wouldn't work either.