Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Cuba and Rubio’s Terrible Foreign Policy Judgment

Rubio's views on Cuba policy are driven primarily by ideology.

Marco Rubio responded to the decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism by denying reality:

Well, the decision made by the White House today is a terrible one, but not surprising unfortunately. Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism.

This would be another example of the “expertise” in foreign policy that Rubio supposedly has. He makes ideological assertions that are contradicted by the evidence, and then he keeps repeating those assertions. When he insists that Cuba is a sponsor of terrorism, all that this really means is that he despises their government. He wants to keep them on the list because it makes things more difficult for them and because it hinders the normalization of relations that he also opposes. As the Bloomberg editors pointed out in their editorial on the administration decision yesterday, Rubio’s assertion is false:

And as the State Department’s terrorism reports have acknowledged for several years, there is no indication that Cuba’s government has provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups. Its ties with Basque liberation groups have become distant, and it has been a sponsor and host for peace talks between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Joshua Keating commented on the decision and called it “an acknowledgment of reality.” The reality is that Cuba hasn’t engaged in the behavior that landed it on this list in a very long time. That change in behavior should be recognized by our government, even if the recognition is very long overdue. Refusing to take Cuba off a list when its external behavior has changed for the better would be perverse. That he would do exactly this shows that Rubio’s views on Cuba policy are driven primarily by ideology. He and the other hard-liners on Cuba can’t admit that anything has changed since the end of the Cold War, which is why they’re stuck defending policies that haven’t made any sense in decades.

Keeping Cuba on this list would be bad enough when it doesn’t belong on it, but it would be even harder to justify while not including the U.S. clients around the world that are indisputably engaged in sponsoring terrorism. If Qatar and Pakistan don’t qualify for this label, Cuba certainly doesn’t. Attacking the decision to remove them from the list is more proof of Rubio’s remarkably bad judgment on foreign policy.