Cuba Libre

I’m far from an expert on Cuba policy, but it does not take an expert to understand that our longstanding unilateral embargo is just stupid, stupid policy.  In fact, before getting into it, I think the words of criticism from Republicans make the point enough:

“It’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established,” Rubio said on Fox News, one of multiple media appearances he made Wednesday…

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who announced this week that he is seriously exploring a 2016 run, weighed in later Wednesday, calling the plans for Cuba “the latest foreign policy misstep” by President Barack Obama and “another dramatic overreach of his executive authority.”

“It undermines America’s credibility and undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba,” he said in a statement that also welcomed Gross’ release.

The state’s current governor, Rick Scott, also blasted the Obama administration: “As long as Cuba chooses dictatorship over democracy, I will continue to support the embargo and sanctions against them,” he said in a statement.

Give me a self-serving, sanctimonious break.  Of course Cuba has been run by dictators, tyrants, and all around bad people.  Somehow, that has not stopped us from having diplomatic relations with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and a whole bunch of bad actors.  If an autocratic regime is the standard for an economic embargo and no diplomatic recognition, we need to bring home a lot of ambassadors.  This is all just driven by the politics of ethnic Cubans in Florida.  That’s it.  As for how dumb the policy is, I think Yglesias hits it nicely:

I remember about a year ago sitting at a dinner where the featured speaker was a senior US diplomat involved in Iran policy. In response to skeptical questions about the Obama administration’s approach to Iran, he laid out the case that economic sanctions could work. The Iran measures, he said, were textbook examples of effective sanctioning — they were broadly multilateral in terms of who was imposing them, they were targeted at things the regime especially cared about, and they were limited in their aspirations.

“So what about Cuba?” I asked.

It was a bit of a jerk question. The diplomat in question simply wasn’t in a position to admit the obvious corollary. But the Cuba embargo is wholly unilateral, meaning no other country joins us in imposing it. It’s also completely untargeted, hitting essentially all sectors of the Cuban economy. And most of all, it’s utopian in its goals targeted not at specific aspects of Cuban policy but at the very existence of the Cuban regime.

In essence, America’s Cuba policy is a textbook case of an embargo that makes both the United States and the target country somewhat poorer without any realistic hope of accomplishing its goals. [emphasis mine]

I have no expectation whatsoever that Obama’s policy change is going to put Cuba on the path to a free and open society.  But the existing policy sure as hell wasn’t doing it and came with costs that the new policy does not.  This whole “coddling dictators” stuff is risible in it’s puerile and demonstrably inconsistent worldview.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Cuba Libre

  1. rgbact says:

    Yep, you aren’t an expert. I think alot of the “coddling dictators” is driven by the swap of an aid worker for 3 spies. Go read Bob Menendez’s statement. He’s no conservative.

    Now I’ll agree that we’re inconsistent on sanctioning dictatorships. That said, if we can’t even sanction the two bit ones, we have no hope for ones with alot of oil. I suspect some fatcat Miami liberal businessmen called in a favor to Obama.

    • Steve Greene says:

      No, but Menendez is a Cuban-American. It’s like offering up a coal-state Democrat to complain about carbon taxes. As far as sanctions goes, it’s *never* going to work unilaterally, so no we can’t sanction the two bit ones if we think we can do it by ourselves.

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