Home/Daniel Larison/The Taiwan Blunder vs. the Opening to Cuba

The Taiwan Blunder vs. the Opening to Cuba

Marc Thiessen repeats one of the dumber talking points in defense of the Taiwan call:

The hypocrisy is rank. When President Obama broke with decades of U.S. policy and extended diplomatic recognition to a murderous dictatorship in Cuba, the foreign-policy establishment swooned.

Yes, the reaction to the Cuba opening was mostly positive, because most observers understood that the policy of refusing to engage with Cuba for decades had been a complete failure when judged by almost any standard. The reaction to Trump’s deliberate provocation has been as negative and intense as it has been in part because the policy he is putting at risk has by and large been a great success in advancing U.S. interests and preventing conflict. Cuba policy was horribly outdated and needed changing, as every other government in the region kept pleading with us to do. Virtually no one in the region is interested in having us revisit this aspect of our China policy, and there is no need to alter a policy that is working as intended. The opening to Cuba also didn’t risk straining relations with a nuclear-armed major power whose cooperation the U.S. needs on a number of major issues. I assume most of the people repeating the silly comparison between Obama’s Cuba opening and Trump’s Taiwan call are just being cynical and partisan when they make it, because very few people could be so dense as to take it seriously.

The only thing that the “one China” and isolation of Cuba policies have in common is that they had both been around for decades. The former represents an example of the benefits that come from engagement, and the latter represents the futility of rejecting that same engagement. One has largely done what it was supposed to do and helped keep the peace for almost forty years, and the other has become an embarrassment and a liability in our own hemisphere. Favoring one and opposing the other is not hypocrisy, but an entirely consistent preference for diplomatic engagement over posturing and fruitless confrontation. I’m not surprised that hard-liners have been thrilled by Trump’s preference for the latter, but then that’s exactly why so many other people see it as the irresponsible blunder that it clearly was.

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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