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Cuba and “Credibility”

There are a lot of overwrought hawkish reactions to the news about Cuba, but Elliott Abrams’ response may be the most risible:

The American collapse with respect to Cuba will have repercussions in the Middle East and elsewhere—in Asia, for the nations facing a rising China, and in Europe, for those near Putin’s newly aggressive Russia. What are American guarantees and promises worth if a fifty-year-old policy followed by Democrats like Johnson, Carter, and Clinton can be discarded overnight?

To call this mindless would be generous. This takes a typical hawkish loathing of diplomatic engagement and mixes it together with absurd beliefs about “credibility” to create a completely irrational reaction. Restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba isn’t going to have negative “repercussions” around the world. For one thing, persisting in a useless policy towards Cuba doesn’t tell us anything about Washington’s willingness to back up its guarantees elsewhere in the world. It does hint that the U.S. is eventually capable of recognizing policy failure when it is staring it in the face, and that has to be modestly reassuring to our allies and regional neighbors.

If there are any repercussions from this decision, they are all likely to benefit America. Latin American governments will have less of a reason to fault U.S. policy towards Cuba. The U.S. will be able to demonstrate that it is still capable of resuming relations with states that it has previously treated as pariahs, and that might make U.S. diplomacy more effective in other places. Resuming relations with a close neighbor is the obvious thing for the U.S. to do. That is not going to make any U.S. guarantees anywhere in the world less meaningful. So the U.S. loses nothing by scrapping part of its failed Cuba policy. Acknowledging the failure of a policy that the rest of the world knows to be worthless doesn’t damage America’s standing with anyone. Normalizing relations with an old adversary doesn’t undermine guarantees to any other state. It does tell the rest of the world that the U.S. is getting closer to eliminating another worthless policy left over from the Cold War.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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