A Change in Cuba Policy?

Newsweek has a piece out titled "For America's New Kennedy, A Détente With the Castros" which suggests the ways in which President Obama might change US relations with our neighbor to the south. And it's not by much, frankly.

Latin America experts anticipate that Obama will quickly make good on his campaign promise to "immediately" revoke the restrictions imposed by George W. Bush in 2004 that severely limit Cuban-American travel and remittances home. Obama has also vowed to shut the Guantánamo Bay prison, long a gringo thumb in the eye to Cubans (and all Latin Americans).
I'd say that's the bare minimum Obama could do without pissing off his supporters who want to change Cuba policy--I'd say that, but the reality is that the number of people for whom ending the embargo is a top priority is small. Most of the people who want to close Gitmo want to do it because it harms our national standing and represents a Bush administration that looked for every possible loophole in the law in order to be able to torture prisoners and get away with it, not because of any desire to make nice with Cuba.

Personally, I'd like to see full and open relations with the Castro regime, not because I think either Castro is a great guy--they're both dirtbags and the world would be better off without them in power--but because the embargo obviously hasn't worked and isn't going to any time soon. Maybe it's time to try something different. (Note to Cuban hardliners--more of the same, only douche-ier, isn't something different.)

The only people who are truly committed to continuing the embargo are the hardliners in the Cuban community. Nationally, they're a fraction of a percent, especially since the end of the Cold War. Even in Congress, there are only 6 Cuban-Americans who really push the embargo line, and while they have some strong allies (Joe Lieberman among them, by the way), that's not really a lot of power, especially now that they're in the minority party.

They're successful because of the earnestness they bring to their cause. All they require, in order to provide votes for a candidate, is fealty to their cause. The Cuba debate is interesting because, as we saw during the Elian Gonzales situation, most of the nation couldn't care less about how we deal with Cuba, as long as they don't have nukes. Down here, it was pure insanity every day, but in the rest of the country, it was a case of "what's wrong with those people down there? Send the kid back to his dad." But down here, anyone who spoke against the hardliners was ostracized, with many people being physically threatened and their property vandalized.

When you have two sides in a debate, and one side is willing to go full nutbar insane while the other barely has it register on their radar scope, the nutbar side will win amost every time. That's the real reason why, other than the remittance issue and Guantanamo Bay, I think we won't see much change in Cuba policy--there's no political capital to be gained by challenging the hardliners.

Newer Post Older Post Home