Monday, April 20, 2009

Cuba Not So Gooding

Last week, the Obama administration loosened some of the restrictions on the US relationship with Cuba that his predecessor had put in place.

Cuban-Americans will be allowed to make more visits to their homeland and transfer money to family members still there, but you and I still can't go to Havana whenever we want. US telecommunications firms will be able to get licenses to provide cell phone and TV service to Cubans, but the economic embargo that's been in place for half a century has not been lifted.

Fifty years. That's how long Castro has been in power, and his reign over Cuba hasn't seemed affected by the US embargo. So, why continue it? Mostly because of the pressure from Cuban exiles who wield disproportionate political power in the swing state of Florida, particularly around Miami. And then there's that other important reason. We have to, er, wait a minute, um, I'm drawing a blank.

There is no reason to keep up the embargo on Cuba. I'm in no way defending the Castro regime, but how can we defend treating Cuba differently than we do other communist nations? We have normalized relations with Vietnam. It's been years since the US gave most favored nation status to China -- no matter what Castro has done to his people, it pales in comparison to the human rights violations that continue to this day in China.

We've changed our policies regarding those countries because we want to sell soda and computer chips there. China, with its 1.2 billion population, is a marketplace that big business drools over. So, our leadership looks the other way when it comes to human rights problems (plus, we're so far in debt to them that we have to be careful what we say -- you don't yell at your landlord when you're six months late with the rent!). But we should be philosophically consistent. If open trade and travel are good for China, they're good for Cuba, too.

I'm fifty years old. For my entire life, I've been swearing that I'd go on a diet and finally get in shape. But I know I'm just lying to myself. As long as there are still pizza and ice cream and Pepsi in the world, I'm going to be a fat guy.

The United States must recognize its own self-delusion. Now that we've had the Cuban embargo in effect for half a century -- and haven't been able to convince the rest of the world, which continues to trade with and travel to Cuba, to join us -- it's time to admit that nothing has changed, nor is it likely to, on that island nation.

Look in the mirror, America. You've been on the Castro diet for half a century, and you're still fat.