Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Judging Cuba Normalization by an Unfair Standard

Normal relations with one of our closest neighbors should exist as a matter of course.

The Washington Post absurdly declares that normalization with Cuba is “failing” because it hasn’t yet dramatically changed the country’s political system:

Yet there is scant evidence so far of a sea change in Cuba — perhaps because Mr. Obama continues to offer the Castro regime unilateral concessions requiring nothing in return.

It makes no sense to judge normalization with Cuba this way. Even if it were appropriate, it is far too soon to pass judgment on the effects of a policy that has been in place for less than a year. Opponents of normalization have been content to defend a policy of isolation that achieved nothing for the last five decades, but they are not prepared to wait even five years to see what comes from having normal relations with Cuba. The Post‘s editors also fail to grasp that the purpose of U.S. relations with another government is not to facilitate political change in the other country, but to secure the interests of our country and to promote cooperation in securing shared interests.

The chief argument for restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba is that it gives the U.S. more influence to advance its interests in relations with Havana. If a diplomatic opening helps to improve Cuba’s political system, that is a welcome side-effect, but it is a mistake to judge the merits of diplomatic engagement so quickly and to hold it to such an unrealistic standard. The U.S. shouldn’t need to have a reason to establish normal relations with one of its closest neighbors. This is something that should exist as a matter of course. It may be that having an improved relationship with Havana will eventually allow Washington to have some constructive influence on Cuban political change, or it may not, but either way having normal relations with Cuba is a good thing for both countries.