Some people define insanity as the act of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That basically sums up the attitude of the U.S. toward Cuba since the Castro regime took over in the 1950s.
Please don’t misunderstand me: there is no question that a government like Castro’s Cuba is a dictatorship. I know well what this means: I grew up under Communist rule in Hungary in the 1950s and ’60s. However, we have dealt with many dictatorships in the past and continue to do so today. Just to list a few: Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the old Soviet Union and now the re-packaged Russian Federation, several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and last, but not least, China. That last country, China, has one of the most repressive dictatorships, but that doesn’t seem to stop us from importing their lead- and melamine-contaminated cheap junk at the expense of American jobs. Our rationale (and it’s a rationalization based on avarice) is that opening trade and flow of ideas will eventually lead to political freedom.
If so, why have we singled out this little country of Cuba for special punishment all these years? Obviously, our embargoes and punitive policies did not cause the fall of the Cuban government. It only made the lives of ordinary Cubans more miserable. Despite these hardships, Cuba has achieved remarkable success in many areas, including education. Try to compare the lives of average Cubans with that of the population of, say, Haiti, just around the corner and the discrepancy becomes painfully obvious.
I applaud President Obama for trying a different approach. Of course, those miserable and disingenuous Republican politicians, who know as much about foreign affairs as my little dogs, will try to make hay out of this, too. But then, again, what’s new?
History will judge whether the easing of tensions between Cuba and the U.S. will result in meaningful change for the island. But history has already shown what the lives of Cubans were under the pre-Castro Battista dictatorship and the subsequent to the take-over by the Communists. Freedom and opportunity – yes. Failed punishing attitudes toward the people of Cuba –no.