Normal Relations With Cuba Long Overdue

This is the second in a two part series on Cuba by Philip Anderson. The first article in this series can be found archived under the author’s name. Mr. Anderson is a twenty year veteran of the U.S. military.

Establishing normal diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba is long overdue. For over 50 years we have bullied and threatened this small, poor nation for no good reason. Not only has our animosity toward Cuba been irrational and unnecessary, it has been a complete failure. President Obama should be praised and supported for finally considering improved relations.

Unfortunately, we still are blinded by our hubris. The tone set by the administration, and reflected in the media, portrays us as magnanimously accepting the return of the prodigal. Cuba can return to normal relations if they change their behavior. But it is our behavior and attitudes that need to change. Cuba has never seriously threatened the U.S., yet we have done serious harm to the Cuban people with our sanctions and covert actions over the years.

Our trade embargo on Cuba, despite being largely ignored by other nations, has had an impact. The Cuban economy prior to 1959 was dominated by U.S. companies and capital. It was an exploitative, extractive relationship that mostly benefited American companies. Cuba was essentially an economic colony. When Fidel Castro came to power he began reforms intended to improve the lives of the Cuban people. One of these was to nationalize American businesses and properties which resulted in our imposing the embargo. Because of our domination of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Cuba was cut off from the primary source of economic development funds. The result was drastic disruption to the Cuban economy. Our actions also guaranteed that Cuba would develop stronger ties with Russia.

Closer ties with Russia made Cuba a pawn in the cold war. Our unwillingness to accept Castro’s socialist economic programs resulted in decades of unnecessary conflict. In principle we supposedly believe in the “self-determination” of peoples. But in practice it only applies when people vote for capitalist leaders acceptable to us.

We have a history of opposing and overthrowing “socialist” governments in Latin America. Our support for the Bay of Pigs invasion was an example. There were other CIA sponsored efforts to incite revolution and even to assassinate Cuban leaders. Castro was justified in feeling threatened by the U.S. This certainly contributed to Castro accepting Russian missiles. The Cuban Missile Crisis came very close to incinerating the world.

An ironic aspect of the economic isolation of Cuba is that we have no problems trading with China and Vietnam, both Communist countries. How is Cuba different? Why do we vilify and sanction Cuba while importing most of our consumer goods from China? Again our policy is totally irrational.

In addition to being wrong, our policies have also been a complete failure. We have not forced Cuba to yield. Castro has outlived many Presidents. We have only succeeded in looking like an international bully. Our sanctions are relics of the cold war and should have been abandoned long ago. We should seek to normalize diplomatic and economic relations without condition.