Cuba: Next Stop on Obama's Global Apology Tour

Time to get rid of an embargo that hasn't worked.

In 1959, Elvis was the King of Rock 'n Roll, American teens drove huge-finned cars and rebuilt 1930's hot rods to sock-hop dances, and Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower, the hero general of D-Day, oversaw a happy and contented America from the Oval Office.

Less happily for mankind, two brothers, Fidel and Raul Castro, overthrew the government of General Batista in Cuba, quickly establishing a Communist dictatorship.

A lot has changed in the United States since those halcyon days of a half-century ago.  Presidents adored and reviled have come and gone.  Attempts to remove Castro by force and guile have been tried and failed; attempts by "guile" led to JFK's assassination.  For most of the time from that day to this, the United States has enforced an embargo on U.S. trade with Cuba; while this has had the interesting result of keeping Havana populated mostly with cars from the Eisenhower era, it has had no effect whatsoever in terms of undermining the tyranny of the Castros.

We've often pointed out that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.  The embargo was put in place to overthrow Castro; it's fair to say it hasn't worked.

In fact, throughout history we've tried embargos all over the world as a path to change regimes or their behavior; that hasn't worked anywhere.  Tojo's Japan in the 1930s?  Qadaffi's Libya in the 1990s?  Saddam Hussein's Iraq for the past two decades?  Newly Soviet Russia after the First World War?  The history of embargoes is a history of failure, nothing more, nothing less, with perhaps the notable and unique exception of South Africa.

Far from hurting Castro, our embargo may actually have helped him tighten the clamps.  If there were steady commerce between our countries, it would be a lot easier for his citizens to escape his rule; when there aren't any authorized boats or planes going between Miami and Havana, the one that ought not to be there sticks out like a sore thumb.  Compare Castro's success in imprisoning activists with America's failures to successfully stop illicit drug traffic.

What's worse, the embargo gives Cuba's dictator an ironclad excuse for Communist poverty: if your huge neighbor won't allow any trade, of course you're going to be poor.  It's all the fault of the "Yanquis!," a word which is used to mean "Great Satan" in Spanish.

Those of us in the free world know that state control of everything leads to poverty wherever it's applied, from the Soviet Union to North Korea; but Cubans don't have the same access to the Internet.  Even that is our fault: the embargo has prevented the installation new, modern undersea telecommunications cables to Cuba.  Castro couldn't allow his people full Internet access even if he wanted to.

We are now seeing reports that Barack Obama wants to lift the embargo, or at least take steps in that direction.  In absolute terms, it seems pretty clear that this is a good idea: the embargo surely hasn't worked, and East German exposure to the wealth of West Germany was a major factor in the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Let once the Cuban people get some idea of the truth and understand what they've been missing all these years, and their situation surely will and must change.

The only problem is that if Obama unilaterally lifts the embargo, particularly after the Congressional Black Caucus' fawning and worshipful pilgramage to the feet of El Jefe, it will be seen by the world as what Fidel wants it seen as: a total victory for the forces of La Revolucion over those wicked imperialists of "El Norte," another Spanish synonym for "Great Satan."  But let's be realistic: given the rampant anti-American and pro-socialist bias found in media outlets the world around, that would almost certainly happen anyway regardless of the time, manner, and true nature of the change.

Which leads the cynic in us to see a rare opportunity of making some serious lemonade from Obamaniac lemons.  If Mr. Obama does indeed lift the embargo, it will almost certainly result in a better life for the Cuban people, as well as give hope for urgently needed future changes in that unlucky and oppressed little island.

At one and the same time, his actions will become nothing more than yet another stop on the great Obama World Apology Tour, worthy of no special note.  Fidel may crow over his great victory, but nobody will be able to hear his aged voice over the exulting Turks, Iranians, Russians, and pretty much every other American adversary doing the same thing, joyfully clutching their gold-plated Presidential Apology.

Who knows?  Maybe he'll even get round to apologizing to the American people for destroying our economy in the name of an outdated ideology.  Or would that be too much to ask?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
"Yanquis" does not at all mean "great Satan." It simply means "Yankees."
April 20, 2009 6:39 AM
Of course it does, just like "el Norte" literally means "The North." You kind of missed the analogy, I'm afraid.
April 20, 2009 7:42 AM
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