Thursday, October 25, 2007

It’s time to normalize relations with Cuba

Yesterday President Bush made clear in a speech that the United States will continue its confrontational policy of attempting to isolate Cuba despite the failure after almost half a century of that policy. The speech was largely geared for domestic consumption.

The President’s remarks come as the General Assembly of the United Nations once again considers an annual resolution calling on the United States to end the economic embargo imposed upon Cuba in 1961. The resolution symbolizes the isolation of U.S. policy among the world community.

Make no mistake about it – the Castro regime is a tyranny and is an abuser of human rights.

And the Cuban government did serve as a proxy for Soviet Union foreign policy but regardless of the pros and cons of American policy towards Cuba in the past, that policy makes no sense now. The Cold War is over. The Castro regime is no longer meddling in the affairs of other countries as it once was. (And, this observation is not to overlook U.S. meddling.) Diplomatic relations should be recognition of fact, not a statement of policy. Mr. Castro and his successors are in power for the time being. Whether Americans like that or not doesn’t change the reality. Diplomacy is nothing if it isn’t about talking to people with whom you disagree or dislike.

But normalization should go beyond exchange of diplomats. Normalization should include lifting trade and travel restrictions. The Cuban people have suffered under trade restrictions. It’s time to open up to Cuba. We don’t have to worry about propping up Castro – his rule is near its end regardless of what we do. It is in our interest economically and politically, as well as those of the Cuban people, to normalize relations with the largest nation in the Caribbean.

Mr. Bush did not start this policy; he inherited it from a long line of both Republican and Democratic administrations. However, he is now in a position to make the over-due correction. That would take boldness, courage and foresight. Somehow, I’m not optimistic.

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