Home/Daniel Larison/The Incredibly Weak Case Against Restoring Ties with Cuba

The Incredibly Weak Case Against Restoring Ties with Cuba

The Wall Street Journalmoans that normalization with Cuba hasn’t immediately brought political change there:

The reality is that Cuba’s future is still reserved for the Castro brothers and their political comrades to shape, and that hasn’t changed a whit since President Obama decided to recognize the Cuban regime in December.

There are many bad and weak objections to restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, but this is one of the silliest. If restored ties and modestly increased economic exchange have any positive effect on Cuba’s internal politics, it will necessarily take many years and possibly even decades before there will be significant political changes. No one has promised–and no one expects–dramatic changes to Cuba’s political system because of the change in U.S. policy, and it is an unfair and unreasonable standard to use to judge that change. According to this survey, most Cubans don’t anticipate political change as a result of restored ties with the U.S., but they nonetheless overwhelmingly welcome the decision to resume ties.

Like most Cuba dead-enders, the WSJ editors have an extremely odd view of the purpose of establishing diplomatic relations with other states. They seem to think that having normal relations with certain governments “rewards” them, when in fact it makes it easier for the U.S. to promote its interests in that country and in the surrounding region. Refusing to have relations with the other regime does not punish them, but it does deprive the U.S. of a way to exercise influence there. The U.S. has had to cooperate and communicate with Cuba on various issues in the past for practical reasons, and it has had to do this through its limited “interests section,” but with normal relations both of these become easier for the U.S. That not only facilitates cooperation on issues that affect both countries, but it also helps the governments to keep crises from getting out of control. That benefits the U.S. by creating a regular mechanism for handling disputes and cooperating on issues that are of common interest to both countries. Normalization with Cuba also removes one of the irritants in our relationships with the rest of Latin America, which can only make our dealings with the rest of our hemisphere more constructive. We may hope that Cuba becomes a freer and more prosperous country as U.S.-Cuban ties increase, but even if it doesn’t it still makes more sense and it is better for the U.S. to have normal relations with their government. The alternative is to continue a discredited policy that hasn’t made the least bit of sense in more than twenty years.

As ever, hard-liners ignore the benefits that the U.S. reaps from engagement simply because they don’t like the idea of engaging with particular governments. This distaste for dealing with ugly regimes might be slightly credible coming from someone else, but most of the people that object to normalization with Cuba are some of the loudest boosters of U.S. backing for even more repressive and horrible regimes. The same people that berate the U.S. for doing too little to placate the dictatorship in Egypt and the despotism in Riyadh suddenly feel faint when contemplating the prospect of an embassy in Havana. The WSJ‘s position is typically preposterous, and no one should take their objections seriously.

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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