President Obama Cuba policy a promise fulfilled
Why did it take so long? Why did no previous American President have the courage to engage with Cuba? As shown above, President Obama was never a fan of America’s Cuba policy. In Carbondale, Illinois he was explicit. “I think it’s time for us to end the embargo on Cuba,” then Senator Obama said. “The Cuba embargo has failed to provide the source of rising standards of living and has squeezed the innocent in Cuba. .. It’s time for us to acknowledge that that particular policy has failed.”
Back in 2008 the President Obama went in front of an anti-Castro group and articulated the same sentiment while running for President. One should remember that he won Florida, home of most Cuban expats, twice.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We have had virtually the same Cuba policy for over 50 years. We have established relations with China, the largest communist country on the planet. We have established relations with Vietnam, a country that has been brutal to its citizens.
When many were attempting to be punitive with South Africa, President Reagan and his administration balked. In fact he came up with the moniker of ‘constructive engagement’. A few years ago Salon published an article titled “Reagan’s embrace of apartheid South Africa” that is worth a read. It defined Reagan’s constructive engagement policy with South Africa.
The idea of constructive engagement was that there were moderates in the South African government and so you wanted to encourage them. And if you constructively engaged with them, they would promote gradual change, political reform and so on. But to just oppose the government would make it intransigent and that would create greater polarization, and that was a situation that only extremists would benefit from. The Reagan administration saw the African National Congress (ANC) as a dangerous, pro-communist movement. So the notion of constructive engagement was gradual reform. It was also linked to Reagan supporting the Sullivan principles as a proper way to bring about change.
Reagan’s thinking was flawed at best or intent on maintaining the status quo at worst. President Obama, Cubans, and all Americans have watched a policy of mutual belligerence between the United States and Cuba fail. Cuba is no South Africa. In fact the US supported Cuba of President Fulgencio Batista likely shared more in common with South Africa than present day Cuba. The Cuba of today is poor but people of all races, ethnicities, and creeds have had more access to success (relatively speaking) than the Cuba where many were born second class citizens.
President Obama’s real exercise of constructive engagement is likely to succeed where the embargo and belligerent policies failed. It is time for Americans to learn the realities of Cuba from the point of view of all Cubans instead of from the class of Cubans that actually made Fidel Castro a necessity for many.