More Thoughts On Normalizing Relations With Cuba

 

President Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that he would seek to normalize relations with Cuba reminded me of an aphorism: even a broken clock is right twice a day.

And so it is that Barack Obama — a man who is objectively terrible at his job — is right about Cuba. He is right because he is reversing (or trying to, anyway) a policy that has been an utter failure for half a century. Obama’s plan is (1) to normalize relations, (2) lift the travel and financial restrictions, (3) build an embassy, (4) seek to lift the embargo.

The response was predictable to anyone who has paid attention to politics long enough: opposition to change, support for preserving the status quo. Senator Marco Rubio held a press conference and angrily denounced the plan. He used the occasion to play the Cuban heritage card. When asked, Speaker Boehner played the terrorism card.

The one card that they couldn’t play — because it’s not in their deck — is the this-policy-works card. That’s because it doesn’t exist. Because this policy has been an utter failure.

Let’s consider the record of our Cuba policy, which has been stuck in time since the Kennedy Administration:

  • If the goal was to bring freedom to Cuba, it has failed.
  • If the goal was to isolate Cuba, it has failed.
  • If the goal was to bring the Castro regime to its knees, it has failed.

Senator Rubio angrily complained that Obama gave away the store; that he received no guarantees from Castro of freedom for the Cuban people. And he therefore complained that Obama is a terrible negotiator. Did Senator Rubio really expect a sudden mea culpa from Raul Castro for half a century of communism? Did he expect that, in turn for an embassy, Castro would dismantle his regime? Senator Rubio brought a lot of anger to his press conference. What he did not bring was any alternative to the current policy which, again, has been a complete failure.

What will restoring relations and eventually trade with Cuba accomplish? First, it’ll help elevate the standard of living. Cuba is a third-world country 90 miles off of Florida. People live in poverty. An influx of American cash will help lift them out of despair.

Second, if Americans travel there to visit relatives or to trade they’ll be bringing with them the truth: that communism doesn’t work and that freedom brings prosperity. The reason North Korea, for example, still survives, is because it remains tightly cloistered. No information gets in without government approval. Once Americans start traveling to Cuba… well, Castro isn’t going to be able to put that cork back into the bottle. It’ll be a new era.

What will follow will be a slow liberalization. This has been done in China. We liberalized trade with China, their economy exploded, and that brought pressure to liberalize. No, it hasn’t happened yet. It’s not an immediate thing. But it will. There have only ever been two communist dynasties: North Korea and Cuba. Cuba’s is nearing its end. Raul Castro is 83. He’s going to kick off at some point. When he goes, a new generation of Cuban leaders will take over.

Maybe I’m being too optimistic. But even if this liberalization doesn’t happen, at a minimum it’ll help lift the people of Cuba out of poverty. It will reconnect families. The wounds of communism will begin the long process of healing. At a minimum, normalizing relations with Cuba will be an improvement.

We should let the current policy meet the death it so richly deserves.

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  1. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Tuck:

    MarciN: Who was the fourth country in the Allies in World War II? Ricochet people will know…

    Huh? Poland?

    FDR, Churchill, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek. And look how badly we treated Chiang Kai-shek.

    FDR basically handed China and Russia over to the communists who took the free pass to begin slaughtering people.

    I’m really wondering what Obama has in mind. First he releases all those blood-thirsty terrorists from Gitmo, and now this.

    It’s unnerving.

    • #61
  2. user_8847 Member
    user_8847
    @FordPenney

    ‘Free trade’ is such a straw man argument it borders on ridiculous, this country has been in the hands of one man for almost 50 years and now controlled by his brother. There is nothing ‘free’ about this country and we are doomed as a society when we put commerce before principles and those principles are reflected in the 10’s of thousands of political prisoners who ‘disagreed’ with their leaders and found out what real power looks like.

    When 10’s of thousands of others flee to protect themselves and give their families some semblance of a life, poor but free, then don’t give me rhetoric about liberalizing a country controlled by despots with guns, I’m calling bs.

    This president invites the worst kinds of leaders into the richness of the freedoms of partnering with the United States and they don’t even have to wipe their feet to come in, they just trail their bloody footprints across the carpets and are excused.

    • #62
  3. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    I’m with Fred.  This was bad policy from the get go and there was no way out without looking weak.  Obama is comfortable with looking weak and he knew he was the man for the job.

    This is essentially Obama’s Panama Canal.

    • #63
  4. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Of course the policy worked. It was meant to help bleed the Soviets dry and it did. When Venezuela became the Castros’ sugar daddy it still made sense. And it still makes sense today.

    “Opening” China didn’t help the ordinary Chinese citizenry who make crap wages to build your toys and sew your clothes. When the Soviet Union collapsed a handful got very rich. Joe Vodka and his family still struggle.

    Here Castros will benefit and no one else.

    • #64
  5. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    EJHill: And it still makes sense today.

    Why?

    • #65
  6. virgil15marlow@yahoo.com Member
    virgil15marlow@yahoo.com
    @Manny

    EJHill

    Of course the policy worked. It was meant to help bleed the Soviets dry and it did. When Venezuela became the Castros sugar daddy it still made sense. And it still makes sense today.

    Here Castros will benefit and no one else.

    Good point.

    • #66
  7. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    EJHill:Of course the policy worked. It was meant to help bleed the Soviets dry and it did. When Venezuela became the Castros sugar daddy it still made sense. And it still makes sense today.

    “Opening” China didn’t help the ordinary Chinese citizenry who make crap wages to build your toys and sew your clothes. When the Soviet Union collapsed a handful got very rich. Joe Vodka and his family still struggle.

    Here Castros will benefit and no one else.

    We didn’t open China.  They opened themselves.  However, I agree with your comment about the Castros and who will benefit in Cuba under current conditions.

    • #67
  8. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    EJHill:“Opening” China didn’t help the ordinary Chinese citizenry who make crap wages to build your toys and sew your clothes.

    EJ, whatever the merits of the rest of your comment, this is way off the mark.

    From all reports, the industrial revolution in China has benefited ordinary Chinese citizens immensely. Those who have the choice are apparently leaving the countryside for the cities in droves, and people wait in line to apply for the jobs paying “crap wages” – wages which are so low that China is quickly becoming the world’s biggest market for a number of mass consumer goods like cell phones and cars.

    Even most liberal reporters who investigate factory conditions in China come back saying that they’re better off in sweat-shop-like factories than they were starving on a farm somewhere in the hinterlands.

    • #68
  9. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Mendel: EJ, whatever the merits of the rest of your comment, this is way off the mark.

    Everything is relative to what you compare it to. Would YOU work for the wages Foxconn is paying to build iPhones? The starting wage is $282 per month on a 60-hour work week.*

    The consumer products in China are price controlled. The profits, of course, flow to the politically connected and the state.

    Casey: Why?

    Because the average Cuban will not benefit. They hope to expatriate their Beisbol Nacional roster to the Major Leagues. That taxation alone will look nice in the pockets of Raul.

    The average wage in Cuba is $19/month at the state-owned resorts that cater to Canadians and Europeans. Replacing Loonies and Euros with greenbacks is not going to change that one iota.

    NY Times and The Daily Mail

    • #69
  10. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    EJHill:

    Mendel: EJ, whatever the merits of the rest of your comment, this is way off the mark.

    Everything is relative to what you compare it to. Would YOU work for the wages Foxconn is paying to build iPhones? The starting wage is $282 per month on a 60-hour work week.*

    Yes, everything is relative to what you compare it to.  That wage looks good if you were making a fraction of it on a farm.

    Ask someone in China who grew up during the Cultural Revolution whether they are better off now or whether they’d just as soon return to that era and they’d look at you like you are insane.  There’s a lot bad with the government and corruption in China but hundreds of millions of people are living lives they could not have imagined prior to Deng opening up the economy which did help a lot of ordinary Chinese people.

    • #70
  11. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    EJHill: Because the average Cuban will not benefit.

    Well, they aren’t benefiting now either.  So if there’s no benefit either way then why should we factor that in?

    • #71
  12. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    EJHill:

    Mendel: EJ, whatever the merits of the rest of your comment, this is way off the mark.

    Everything is relative to what you compare it to. Would YOU work for the wages Foxconn is paying to build iPhones? The starting wage is $282 per month on a 60-hour work week.*

    This is a challenging situation.  To rural Chinese used to living on a few bucks a day, $282 a month plus a room is a fortune, and one that improves their lives (although given the suicide rate, it’s clear not everyone feels that way).

    In the absence of a Foxconn job working crazy hours for $282 a month, it’s not like their next best opportunity is a McDonald’s working for $13 an hour, it’s back on the farm shoveling pig poop for pennies a pound.

    We may  not think of it as making their lives better, but on balance, it probably is.

    • #72
  13. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Their lives are better provided they toe the party line. What of those that don’t? What leverage do we have for them once we “normalize relations” with Cuba? Probably as much as we do with China once we leveraged our debt with them.

    During the CIA torture story the standard Democratic line was, “This is not what America stands for.” But according to this crowd, what we stand for is rewarding dictators and Communist regimes as long as we can get cheaper toys out of it. We can always rationalize THAT.

    • #73
  14. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    EJHill:Their lives are better provided they toe the party line. What of those that don’t? What leverage do we have for them once we “normalize relations” with Cuba? Probably as much as we do with China once we leveraged our debt with them.

    During the CIA torture story the standard Democratic line was, “This is not what America stands for.” But according to this crowd, what we stand for is rewarding dictators and Communist regimes as long as we can get cheaper toys out of it. We can always rationalize THAT.

    You are responding to an argument that no one seems to be making.  You made a statment of fact that I, and others, believed erroneous about whether Chinese citizens are better off than they were 40 years ago.

    As I said in a prior comment I do not agree with Obama’s announcement yesterday on Cuba.

    • #74
  15. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Mark: You are responding to an argument that no one seems to be making.

    Well, I’ve never been one to let others set the parameters of my argument.

    Mark: You made a statment of fact that I, and others, believed erroneous about whether Chinese citizens are better off than they were 40 years ago.

    Are they in where it matters? Are they more free? I do not conflate material comfort and freedom. The former is a poor substitute for the latter.

    Until private property is fully established, until the individual is allowed to compete with the state, until contrary ideas are allowed to compete in these countries, all we’re doing is playing games with the devil.

    And the devil is winning hands down.

    • #75
  16. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    If Rubio can’t block the move in the next congress, maybe he can get himself nominated for Ambassador to Cuba. That would be fun.

    • #76
  17. user_370242 Inactive
    user_370242
    @Mikescapes

    Cuba is the worst place I’ve ever visited. Much worse than China. Havana is nothing but an extended slum. Habana Viejo is scary. The cops look like slobs who wouldn’t interfere if you were being muggged. The resorts that mostly Europeans visit are not typical of the Island. They have been there for years, but the foreign investment and income derived hasn’t benefited the people.The Castros and their cronies aren’t going to loosen their grip on power, politcal and economic, just because more dollars flow into the country. They are and will continue to be committed communists. This appeals to Obama, so it seems. A poor deal aided by the Pope I read. No disrespect to Catholic Ricochetos, but it he’s infallible I’m Julius Caesar. A shame the prisoner swap didn’t include Angela Davis. Remember her?

    • #77
  18. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive
    Blue State Curmudgeon
    @BlueStateCurmudgeon

    Its not the role of our government to help the people of Cuba but to represent, protect and advance the interests of the people of the United States.  How could it possibly be in our interest to have a communist dictatorship 90 miles off our shores? What, exactly, do we get out of the opening to Cuba?

    • #78
  19. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Blue State Curmudgeon:Its not the role of our government to help the people of Cuba but to represent, protect and advance the interests of the people of the United States. How could it possibly be in our interest to have a communist dictatorship 90 miles off our shores? What, exactly, do we get out of the opening to Cuba?

    Exactly! Obama Democrats seem to misunderstand this to the point that they end up representing, protecting and advancing the interests of everyone BUT the citizens of these United States. That’s clearly the case here.

    In addition, Fred asserts — without evidence — that our liberalization of our policy will bring economic and political freedom to people living under communist tyrannies. No. I do not ascribe to that theory.

    Fundamental changes must occur within those societies, or must be imposed from without. Concepts like natural rights — to property, for example — and common law. This idea of incrementalism based on opening “free” markets (they’re clearly not, when controlled by the Castros) is a shibboleth. It’s unproven. It’s barely even theoretical.

    Once again, if the goal of US policy toward Cuba is to free the Cuban people, we’d serve them much better and much more quickly by annexing or colonizing them. They lack the institutions which would allow their liberalization, and always will as long as they’re ruled by communist despots.

    I’m not arguing for the US to take such an action, because I’m unsure as to whether it serves our interests. I just know Obama isn’t doing this for our sake. I suspect he’s hoping to neutralize Cuban Americans as political rivals while he imports and legalizes millions of Spanish-speakers with socialist/communist sensibilities. Like any good leftist, he’s battling the anti-communists on the right.

    • #79
  20. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Western Chauvinist: Fundamental changes must occur within those societies, or must be imposed from without. Concepts like natural rights — to property, for example — and common law. This idea of incrementalism based on opening “free” markets (they’re clearly not, when controlled by the Castros) is a shibboleth. It’s unproven. It’s barely even theoretical.

    However the notion that our current policy works is proven false.  Better to take a bet on an unproven hypothesis than one that’s known to be false.

    I’m not fond of Obama or his action, but I’ll just observe that this plan you defend to free the Cuban people requires making the American people unfree.

    We are the ones who’s liberty is restricted by this policy.  In order to free Cuba, we must import a little bit of Communism into America?

    That’s a heck of an argument…

    What’s ironic is that the fellow who is most likely our first Marxist president is the one taking the action to make Americans more free in this little sliver.

    Yes, he’s no doubt, as you observe, doing this to make us less free in the long run.  More irony.  Americans complaining that Obama’s making us more free.

    My, what obedient little sheep we have become.

    • #80
  21. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I’m really not following you, Tuck.

    How has our current policy worked against the interests of America? How has it made Americans less free? How has it “failed” us? We can’t buy Cuban cigars?

    • #81
  22. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Western Chauvinist: How has our current policy worked against the interests of America? How has it made Americans less free? How has it “failed” us? We can’t buy Cuban cigars?

    For question 1, just a reminder here:

    Whereas the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Serving as Organ of Consultation in Application of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, in its Final Act resolved that the present Government of Cuba is incompatible with the principles and objectives of the Inter-American system; and, in light of the subversive offensive of Sino-Soviet Communism with which the Government of Cuba is publicly aligned, urged the member states to take those steps that they may consider appropriate for their individual and collective self-defense;”

    The embargo had a point.  It was to contain and hopefully end Communism in Cuba.  That’s been a complete failure.  The Cubans operate freely around the world, and have for decades.  Their few failures, like the attempted takeover of Chile under Allende, were due to local action, not our embargo.

    Second question: The only people whose freedom is constrained by this embargo is Americans.  The Castros and the rest of the world operates freely—in near-complete disdain of the embargo.  Europeans, our supposed allies, have been violating the embargo for decades.

    I’d be OK with this policy if it had a point.  But it’s a total failure.  I’m free to travel to Red China, I was free to travel to Soviet Russia, but I’m banned from travelling to Communist Cuba?  Our own government doesn’t even bother to enforce the embargo:

    U.S. man tries, fails to get arrested for travel to Cuba

    So you’re arguing to continue a policy that’s a complete failure and an utter farce.  For no purpose, except that it inconveniences law-abiding Americans.

    What’s really a pity is that the Republicans hadn’t done this…

    There are many things which we could do to actually constrain Cuba.  We do none of them, because we hold up this farce of a policy as evidence that we’re doing “something”.

    • #82
  23. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Tuck: What’s really a pity is that the Republicans hadn’t done this…

    They haven’t because the Cuban vote in Florida is HUGE (albeit diminishing in recent years).  Cubans have been the only majority-republican bloc among Hispanics.

    • #83
  24. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    skipsul: They haven’t because the Cuban vote in Florida is HUGE (albeit diminishing in recent years). Cubans have been the only majority-republican bloc among Hispanics.

    Of course.

    Which makes one think that Obama’s ulterior motive is to break that block free of the Republicans.  This was the one real issue that kept them tied to the GOP.

    “Rubio’s emotional — and at times inaccurate — response to the policy change shows why Obama’s move to normalize ties to Cuba after more than half a century is both good policy and good politics. It’s good policy because it jettisons a vestigial policy that has stopped serving a useful purpose, and because it is a gutsy move by Obama that demonstrates strong leadership and will help revive him from lame-duck status. It’s good politics because it will reveal that the Cuban American old guard, whose position Rubio represents, no longer speaks for most Cuban Americans.

    “Florida International University, which annually polls Cuban Americans, found this year that 68 percent favor diplomatic relations with Cuba. Only 41 percent of those 65 and older favor normalization, while 88 percent between the ages of 18 and 29 do….”

    Once again, the Dems play the long game, and the Republicans make fools of themselves.

    Additionally, he may well have just demolished Rubio as a Presidential candidate.  If Rubio turns into Ahab, he’s sunk.

    • #84
  25. user_8847 Member
    user_8847
    @FordPenney

    So Tuck believes this is a travel issue? Really? So you are less free because, unlike you, everyone else can travel freely to Cuba? Unless of course you are talking about the ‘free’ peoples of Cuba who can’t travel ‘freely’?

    What a bizarre argument. What Cuba has been deprived of is access to the United States free market to make money, no small deprivation.

    And this whole ‘opening of Cuba’ isn’t going to help the average Cuban get out from under their dictatorial regime. If that was true then why hasn’t all the ‘openness’ of the rest of their world freedom helped?

    It appears that personal freedoms of Americans is all that matter, not the freedoms we say we espouse to the rest of the world. Tell your ‘freedom’ story to the political prisoners and their families, I’m sure that will make them sleep better at night while the Castro wolves guard the doors.

    • #85
  26. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Ford : So Tuck believes this is a travel issue? Really? So you are less free because, unlike you, everyone else can travel freely to Cuba? Unless of course you are talking about the ‘free’ peoples of Cuba who can’t travel ‘freely’?

    No, it’s a freedom issue.

    You’re offering a false choice.  Restricting my freedom has gotten the unfree people of Cuba absolutely nothing.

    “What a bizarre argument. What Cuba has been deprived of is access to the United States free market to make money, no small deprivation.”

    They have access to the rest of the world.  This may come as a shock to you, but they can get everything they need without going directly to the United States.  I assure you that the Castros want for nothing.

    “And this whole ‘opening of Cuba’ isn’t going to help the average Cuban get out from under their dictatorial regime.”

    That was Fred’s argument, not mine.  Although I do suspect that he’s right.

    Hey, if you want me to vote for sending the SEALs in to assassinate the Castros, I’d vote for that in a second.

    It would have at least a chance of doing something for the people of Cuba.

    The policy that you support does absolutely nothing for them, but it apparently allows you to feel that we’re doing “something”.  I hope you enjoy that feeling.  It doesn’t make the Cubans feel any better.

    • #86
  27. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Tuck: Additionally, he may well have just demolished Rubio as a Presidential candidate.  If Rubio turns into Ahab, he’s sunk.

    I’m hoping Rubio is smart enough not to take the bait on this, but then again this may just be Rubio saying the right things to his base (“for the record” as it were), all the while prepared to let it die down over time.

    • #87
  28. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Anyone here read “Back To Blood” by Tom Wolfe?  I think he captures the issues of the Cuban community in Florida rather well.

    • #88
  29. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    skipsul:

    Tuck: Additionally, he may well have just demolished Rubio as a Presidential candidate. If Rubio turns into Ahab, he’s sunk.

    I’m hoping Rubio is smart enough not to take the bait on this, but then again this may just be Rubio saying the right things to his base (“for the record” as it were), all the while prepared to let it die down over time.

    Rubio just has to make the moral case of what monsters the Castros are. He’s on a long lasting terra firma there. This is not a difficult case to make. These people are  not people we want to shake hands with in the drawing rooms of Washington D.C. They are truly evil.

    My moral compass would not let me shake hands with Obama — he’s way too anti-American for that to be Kosher. But, there are worse people than Obama and the Castros and Kims are the examples.

    • #89
  30. user_8847 Member
    user_8847
    @FordPenney

    In answer to all the ‘freedoms’ expressed by all posters that this will hail some new beneficence on the peoples of Cuba you might want to get into the real politics of what and how Cuba and its dictators really act.

    In an official announcement in state newspaper Granma, government officials announced a system in which employees who work for corporations with foreign capital will be paid two Cuban Pesos for every Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC) the corporation actually pays them. The Convertible Peso (CUP) is almost exclusively for the use of tourists and is of significantly greater value; one CUC is the equivalent of an American dollar and the equivalent of 26.5 CUPs. The other 24 CUPs Cuban workers will not receive amount to 92% of their salaries.” 

    http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2014/12/19/castro-to-pocket-92-of-worker-salaries-from-foreign-companies/

    Yeah, the ‘people’ are going to do just fine under such caring leadership.

    And as for ‘restricting’ your freedom to travel, wow who knew Cuba meant so much extra freedom, or depredation thereof. This sounds hollow and narcissistic, your freedom to travel compared to the thousands of thousands of Cubans still in bondage, I’ll pause for a moment to shed a tear for the death of ‘travel freedom’ while humans are denied their basic humanity.

    • #90
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