Normal Relations With Cuba Are Long Overdue
Carlos Alberto Montaner makes a remarkably uninspired case for the status quo on Cuba policy:
There’s also a bipartisan consensus in Washington against the Castro regime. All three Cuban-American senators and four Cuban-American representatives, Democrats and Republican, agree that sanctions should be maintained. They are the best interpreters of the opinion of the almost three million Cubans and descendants of Cubans living in the United States [bold mine-DL].
This is a silly claim to make, and it is also a very lazy one. Yes, the elected Cuban-American members of Congress all endorse the bankrupt embargo of Cuba, but that is hardly an argument for why that should be the policy of the United States. This argument amounts to saying that politicians that toe the line of a particular lobby are the true representatives of all of their constituents and of the country as a whole. On almost any other issue, someone making this claim would be laughed out of the room before he could finish speaking. There is good reason to believe that most Cuban-Americans and most Floridians are in favor of ending the embargo and resuming normal relations with Cuba, so Montaner’s claim falls apart under the slightest scrutiny. The “best interpreters” predictably come up with the same old translation, and it doesn’t matter to them what most voters think. The more important point is that U.S. policy towards Cuba should not be the province of a few million people living in one state, but should instead reflect the interests of the entire country.
Even if Montaner were right that a handful of members of Congress were the “best interpreters” of what 1% of Americans wanted, that shouldn’t be what decides U.S. policy towards a neighboring country. As it happens, he isn’t even right about that. It is fitting that the defense of such a bankrupt policy should be this weak, since these is truly no merit to continuing the embargo. This is a policy that has achieved nothing except to provide the Castro regime with some ready-made propaganda and to deprive the people of Cuba of the benefits of a closer economic relationship with the United States. Bringing the embargo to an end and resuming normal relations with Cuba are steps that are long overdue, and neither the administration nor members of Congress should be concerned with what a few unrepresentative politicians think about it.
It’s very important to get past the idea that having normal diplomatic relations with another state implies some sort of approval or “reward” for their treatment of their own people. Establishing normal relations with another government is an acknowledgment of political reality that the regime in question is well-established and not going anywhere, and it is a means to exercise influence that would otherwise not be possible. The U.S. has full diplomatic relations with China and Vietnam. The U.S. fought both in major wars, and no one would pretend that their governments are anything but authoritarian and abusive, but none of this was a compelling reason to oppose normalization in those cases. There is even less reason to oppose establishing normal relations with Cuba. It is beyond absurd that the U.S. doesn’t have such relations with a country in its own neighborhood, and it is long past time to remedy that mistake.