The Closet Moderate: Next stop, Havana!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Next stop, Havana!

Many of my earlier posts on this blog have been distinctly unfriendly to President Obama and to communists. But together, I kind of like them. That is to say, I like that Obama is being soft on communism. As this article in The Economist tells us, Obama is considering weakening the embargo against Cuba. The only problem, as I see it, is that his proposals don't go far enough.


The embargo with Cuba goes against many American foreign policy proscriptions, past and present. Jefferson said that our motto should be "commerce with all nations, alliance with none." Our post-1945 internationalism has worn away the second part of that maxim, but commerce with all still applies. We trade with all sorts of nations, no matter how loathsome their governments. Red China is one of our largest trading partners. We get all sorts of oil from Saudi Arabia. We deal with countless sub-Saharan dictatorships. Hell, we even trade with Vietnam (né North Viet Nam), and our beef with them is far more recent and more bloody than our problems with Cuba. So, the Castro bros may be tyrants and scumbags, but so are the leaders of so many places that make us sneakers and calculators.

Cuba confiscated American property during their revolution, it is true, but they're far from the only nation to have done so. Pemex, the state-owned oil company of Mexico, was constructed of American-owned oil wells seized in 1938. FDR didn't bat an eye at that, and in the 1930's nations came to blows over such things all the time. Venezuela and Saudi Arabia acquired American wells by threatening to do the same thing as Mexico, then buying properties for a fraction of the value. So, again, our grudge against Cuba is singular.

There are, of course, other nations we treat like Cuba, but most of them are threats to us now, not forty years ago. Cuba's government is a threat to its own people, but to the United States, they are as the buzzing of flies. Delicious, rum-flavored flies. So, let's return to the vacation spot of our grandfathers! It will be way easier to encourage democratic revolution when we can actually go there.

My only slight quibble is with the timidity of the proposals from the Obama administration. According to the Economist:
Officials said that all restrictions on visits and remittances to the island by Cuban-Americans will be scrapped, and that American firms would be allowed to provide telecoms services to Cubans, including telephone roaming and fibre-optic broadband connections with the United States (if Cuba agrees). The embargo itself will remain, at least until the American Congress decides otherwise.
That's a good start, but why not allow all Americans to visit, not just Cuban-Americans? And why not propose a full withdrawal of the embargo? This occasion calls for a little audacity from the hopemaster-in-chief!

UPDATE: Then again, we should also make sure Castro's not going to be a total prick before we give away the store.

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