Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Let's Try Getting along with Cuba It's Time to End the Decades of Economic Sanctions and Animosity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Let's Try Getting along with Cuba It's Time to End the Decades of Economic Sanctions and Animosity

Article excerpt

Among dumb U.S. foreign policies, our approach to Cuba is probably the dumbest, one prevailing in its breathtaking stupidity through 11 presidencies.

Other whoppers include, of course, Africa in general, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, recently Russia, and - moving up - Afghanistan. I define "dumb" in this context as policies not in the best interests of the United States and ones that reflect profound misunderstanding of the countries or regions on the receiving end.

Each case is different. There is no one villain of the piece. But the policies are defective, they have cost Americans money and, in some cases, they have cost America lives.

Cuba is stunning. Basically, America's relations with Cuba, an island nation of 11 million, 40 minutes from the United States by air, did not need to be bad.

Fidel Castro's coming to power there in 1959 was messy for the United States, which was closely entangled with the Cuba of the Fulgencio Batista era. There were business, political and criminal links. American businessmen and bankers lost money as Mr. Castro attempted to remake - reform - Cuba. Our resistance to his attempted changes opened the door to the Soviet Union, thus sealing Cuba's fate for the next 30 years, until the USSR rolled a seven in 1990.

American governments since, Democratic and Republican, let themselves be driven - perhaps even to this day - by the money and votes of the Cuban exile community in Florida. When Richard Nixon was in the White House, his close friend Bebe Rebozo called the shots. Now, the presence of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is from a Cuban exile family, may be driving the Washington political- financial cabal away from serious attempts to improve U.S. relations with Cuba.

Let's try a different scenario, starting in 1959, when Mr. Castro took power. The United States doesn't like him much but accepts that different things happen in places south of the border, that people are different there, that they proceed from a history different from ours. There was Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti. He ruled on the basis of Tonton Macoute brutality and witchcraft. There was Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. There was Juan Domingo Peron in Argentina. He ruled on the basis of glamour and stunning financial profligacy that prevails to this day.

So maybe we don't like Fidel Castro much, but we retain close links with Cuba, we don't try to kill or overthrow Mr. Castro, and we use our ties - including the usual type of American aid - to see that the Soviets do not cash in on Mr. Castro's professed common ideology to get their large foot in the door. No Bay of Pigs. No Cuban missile crisis. No U.S. economic sanctions that cost American businesspersons and bankers easily as much as they penalized Cubans. No flood of people out of Cuba to the United States because its economy had been trashed, including by us.

Would anyone like to argue that by 2014, or an awful lot sooner, Cuba would have morphed into a state with which the United States would have easy, if not perfect, relations? Fidel Castro stepped down anyway in 2008. …

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