President Obama today took a bold and surprising step toward ending the futile 50 year US embargo of Cuba. The president announced he would begin normalizing relations, including upgrading the diplomatic mission in Havana to embassy status. The president also said he was taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information between the US and Cuba.
President Obama said that the half-century US embargo of Cuba was an “outdated approach” that “failed to advance our interests.” He rightly noted that decades of US sanctions have “had little effect.”
He noted, as I have often pointed out, that the US has had economic and diplomatic relations with communist China for 35 years and has even established productive relations with a Vietnam, where the US fought a brutal war just over four decades ago.
I was delighted to see the president make such a dramatic foreign policy move that will result in more freedom and liberty for Americans. I have always believed that the US embargo of Cuba was primarily an anti-American policy, as the US government has no business telling Americans with whom they can trade or visit. Of course the average Cuban suffered greatly under the inhuman US embargo of their country, and I hope this policy shift may result in better lives for them as well.
What is particularly encouraging about this move is that the 50 year freeze in US/Cuba relations was thawed by a simple telephone call between President Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro. I have opposed the isolationist policies of sanctions and embargoes and have encouraged US presidents to simply use diplomacy – even a simple telephone call – to clear up differences. There is a lesson in this for similarly tense US relations with Iran, Russia, Syria, and others.
I am optimistic about this policy shift by the US government but I am also very cautious.