We know not that of which we speak here; we read no minds. Nor even tea leaves … Still, we have some ideas respecting our Presidents’s cuddling up with Cuba after 50 years of repugnance. You may have some, too.
In addition to those seeing traitorous backstabbing, some see clever checkmate of Russia in President Obama’s new Cuba policy. President Putin has been reported reopening the old Soviet military base in Cuba, located as it is always characterized, on our nation’s doorstep. That seems to be generally though a threat, never mind American military bases all over Europe on Russia’s doorstep. And never mind that with submarines carrying nukes, a nearby base is unnecessary in any case. But news crises are always more fun than reality, right? And sell more advertising, too.
So, let’s consider switching Cuba from embargo to tourist destination after half a century. Start with how it got that way. U.S. President Kennedy agreed to support Cubans who intended to invade the island and dump Castro before he could become established. They were mostly refugees who escaped to the U.S. when Castro took over from the previous dictatorship.
The doughty Cubans re-invaded at the Bay of Pigs; Castro’s forces attacked them. And U.S. President Kennedy decided not to provide air cover for the invaders in order to preserve ‘plausible deniability’ for the U.S.. The lack of air cover was definitive; Castro controlled Cuba thereafter. And as he was a Communist, so is Cuba. And like all Communists, it is dirt poor. The U.S. has punished it and its perfectly innocent people for 50 years by preventing trade and tourism.
The Caribbean island is no threat to the United States. Its odious government is no worse than many around the world; it is better than a lot of them. The United States has not shown vastly superior management in its governance of say, Puerto Rico. This is visible in the numbers of Puerto Ricans on the East Coast and the disparity in the U.S. and Puerto Rican economies.
Refugee Cubans have done well in America and have pressed for continued isolation of the island. Some have become influential. Those are currently in orbit over the President’s new policy. They have risen to power upon a wave of anti-Castro ism.
So let’s consider: What have we gained by ostracizing Cuba? Nothing we can see. The Cuban government hates us. So do many others that we don’t ostracize, Venezuela and Bolivia for current regional examples. It’s an unpleasant dictatorship. So are many African, Asian and Eurasian places but we have not isolated them.
What would we have gained if we had not isolated Cuba? One more Caribbean tourist destination, mostly. The Cubans would likely be better off today. The Castro brothers would not love us any more nor hate us any less. The Cuban refugees in south Florida might have been upset earlier rather than later. In the end, little difference. To the U.S, Cuba is less than a flea. Some of us miss its cigars.
The primary effect of our Cuban policy has been the impoverishment of the Cubans who did not choose the Castros but were stuck with them. The policy made a few in Washington and a few more in Florida feel better, perhaps. No more than that.
So what are we to think of President Obama’s normalization of relations? We think it about time, provided we don’t go nuts dumping borrowed money into the place. That will, if it occurs, disgust but not surprise us. Cuba must be about the only place we don’t do that, these days. And we’ve obtained about as much good from Cuba as from most of the others.
We say: Good for you, President Obama. You’ve done something long overdue. Now, let’s go on to something important …