Some Questions for Those who Oppose an Opening with Cuba

A little round of Qs and As on US-Cuban policy.

Cuban American FlagsIf one’s goal is to change the Cuban regime, please answer the following questions:

1.  How well has the last 50ish years of US-Cuban relations lead to the realization of your goals?

2.  Has the embargo helped the Castro regime or damaged it (especially in the post Cold War era)?

3.  Will the US have more, or less, influence over Cuba if there are normalized relations?

My answers are (feel free to provide your own in the comments):

1.  Not very well.  If the stated goal of the policy was to foment regime change, it is hard to find a more egregious example of US foreign policy failure if one takes into account the amount of time that the policy has been in place.  I can accept an argument for the policy during the Cold War.  However, since the early 1990s the policy has been held in place by a combination of spite and electoral college math (and certainly not because of efficacy).  The fact that Helms Burton (which codified the embargo in to law) was passed in 1996 underscores the insanity of the situation given that Cuba was not a security risk in any sense of the word in 1996.

A certain, now clichéd, definition of insanity comes to mind when I listen to people who state that we need to keep doing the same thing (and it we just do it a little harder it will work this time!).  No doubt the same folks think that a little more cash will finally lead to victory in the war on drugs (the policy logic, at least, is pretty much the same).

2.  There is little doubt that those who study this issue will tell you that the embargo has been more of an aid to the Castros to this point than a hindrance.  Any evidence that the Cuban economy was struggling had an easy answer:  it’s the Yanqui’s fault.

3.  The notion that continued isolation will help this situation makes no sense.  More US investment, more interaction with people and products from the US, not to mention removal of the ability to blame the US for Cuba’s woes, will put pressure on the regime to change.

Bonus response:  normalizing relations with Cuba diminishes its reliance on Venezuela.

I know that none of this is original or brilliant analysis.  But, apparently, it needs to be said yet again because so many people still don’t get it.

The whole thing reminds of people who insist that we cannot talk to Iran about their nuclear program until they agree, as a condition of talking, to stop their nuclear program.  The notion that US influence is only useful if we isolate ourselves from those we wish to influence is rather peculiar (to put it mildly).

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Latin America, US Politics, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. stonetools says:

    I think, Professor, you miss the big reasons why conservatives oppose this:

    1. A conservative politician (Rubio) wants to shore up his standing among conservative voters after wandering off the reservation by actually trying to do something about immigration.

    2. Other conservative politicians are following his lead on this, instead of thinking logically about the issue.

    3. Opposing the opening follows the long standing Republican policy of appealing to base voters by standing up to the “spear ch**cker in the White House who thinks he’s king.”

    I’m glad for your analysis, which brings together the arguments in favor of a opening. You didn’t include the argument that the logical outcome of the opponents’ arguments would be that we should embargo China and Saudi Arabia. My only criticism is that you should be addressing the REAL reasons why the opponents take this stance.

    FWIW, I think the reason why Obama will prevail on this is not because of logic , but:

    1. The Chamber of Commerce favors an opening, and they contribute $$$ to Republican politicians.
    2. The Cuban community narrowly favors an opening.

  2. JKB says:

    Let’s see this for what it really is. This opening will permit US oil companies to invest in the developing offshore oil production off Cuba. More importantly, it will free up rigs, boats, ships, helos, etc. of foreign oil corporations that travel to Cuba to re-enter the US rather than be banned for for 6 months or a year (forget how long). It’s costly to the oil companies to not be able use assets in the GOMEX oil fields in Cuba then move them to Mexico or elsewhere for months before they can return to the US.

  3. John425 says:

    We shouldn’t deal with nutjobs, that’s why. Need you to be reminded of the fact that Fidel wanted launch authority for the Russian nukes and even they wouldn’t let that moron have it for fear he would use it.
    I wonder what he and his brother will do once we help them get their economy out of the toilet.
    Rapprochement with Putin’s new USSR or perhaps buddy up to the Iranians like Venezuela did?

  4. gVOR08 says:

    Fidel Castro retired for health reasons and turned it over to his brother after becoming the longest serving head of state in the world. The goal was regime change and it failed spectacularly.

    In the thread under Doug’s Rand Paul post Davod references an Andy McCarthy piece on Pajamas Media that seems to say: the policy was intended to produce change, no change, therefore success. I think what he really meant was that the goal was to punish Cuba, and we did. I guess by that standard the policy was a success.

  5. @John425:

    Need you to be reminded of the fact that Fidel wanted launch authority for the Russian nukes and even they wouldn’t let that moron have it for fear he would use it.

    Need I remind that the Cuban Missile Crisis was in 1962? (That was, by my calculations, a rather long time ago).

    Need I also remind you that Fidel is no longer in power? (and is 88 years old).

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @JKB: All true. What’s your point?

  7. DC Loser says:

    Rand Paul is the skunk in the GOP Cuba embargo garden party. There will be enough sane republicans to make this just noise. In the end, it’s the pictures of $$$$ in the eyes of the big GOP donors that will carry the day.

  8. John425 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: So? The Ayatollahs took over in Iran how long ago? Kim Jong Un is the 3rd iteration of murderous “Dear Leaders” whose family predates Castro, I think. Brother Raul is Fidel’s clone. What leads you to believe they don’t think alike?

  9. Davebo says:

    @JKB:

    You’re joking right?

    US Oil Companies are free to invest in offshore production in Cuba just as they have invested in other “badlands”.

    Just as they did in Lyba ten years ago when it was till a no no.

    You do realize that the concept of “US Oil Companies” is a myth right?

  10. Paul Hooson says:

    After the revolution, Castro had promised free elections in six months. Originally he had much support from many American liberals, but then he started jailing his opponents and nationalizing American business assets. Children were encouraged to turn in their parents to the government for antiCastro talk at home and other outrageous acts instead of Castro behaving like an
    “agrarian land reformer” as many liberals had believed. Later he sought to have missile silos dug in the San Crystalbal area, where the Russians were going to put nuclear missiles 90 miles from the American shores instead of Castro acting as a pragmatic nonaligned leader much more like General Tito of Yugoslavia.

  11. markm says:

    The reactions to this policy change surprised me. There seems to be some bipartisan opposition to it (opposition or political opportunism..who knows) but seeing the split in the Cuban community is interesting.

    The reaction of the younger people seems to be along the lines of “cool”.
    The older people seem vehemently against the policy.

    If one’s goal is to change the Cuban regime, please answer the following questions:

    1. How well has the last 50ish years of US-Cuban relations lead to the realization of your goals?

    It would have been interesting to see what would have happened in six months to a year just based on their partners and the plummeting oil prices.

  12. stonetools says:

    Two very good pieces by Greg Sargent on the issue. The first discusses Rubio’s game: which is while it looks like he is trying to turn the clock back on the 21st century, it’s good Presidential politics, given the Foxverse:

    But here’s an alternate possibility: There may be no downside for Rubio here, particularly given what he needs to accomplish in the short term if he is running for president. After all, if Obama’s move does produce some successes in “accelerating change and democracy” in Cuba or in any other ways, it seems unlikely that they will be even acknowledged at all inside the Conservative Entertainment Complex or among the GOP primary voters Rubio is apparently trying to reach. So where’s the gamble in getting this wrong?

    That’s the big advantage for conservative politicians: their voters live in a Fox-created alternative universe, where they don’t have to face the logical arguments that the Professor advances. It’s the biggest problem our democracy faces today, IMO. It’s why Rubio’s position makes sense politically, even if it’s objectively nonsense.

  13. rodney dill says:

    The first rule of Cuba Embargo Club, is nobody talks about Cuba Embargo Club.

  14. anjin-san says:

    @gVOR08:

    the longest serving head of state in the world. The goal was regime change and it failed spectacularly.

    A key point. Conservatives keep talking about how Obama “let Castro win.” In reality, he won a long time ago, and we have kept a failed policy in place out of bone headed stubbornness.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    If we’re delving into history, maybe we should extend it back beyond 1960. That’s 54 years, but if we’re going back that far, why not roll the clock back another 60 years to when we stabbed Cuban freedom fighters in the back because we discovered some of them were black, and instead of the independence we’d promised them, delivered instead a quasi-colonial status culminating eventually in the massively corrupt and somewhat brutal Batista regime.

    Had we kept our promises to Cuba we might have had a free and democratic Cuba down there for the last 115 years. No way to know, obviously, but our blatant betrayal of Cuban freedom fighters who had suffered terribly under Spain, is to a great extent responsible for what followed.

    So, it kind of seems to me that we are on very shaky ground going on about the 60’s. I think we should agree to set our history and theirs aside and deal with reality as it now presents itself.

  16. anjin-san says:

    @John425:

    I wonder what he and his brother will do once we help them get their economy out of the toilet.

    Buy some Depends? Fidel is 88, Raoul is 82. Why are conservatives quaking in terror before these old men? Cuba is about as much threat to America as a cocker spaniel.

  17. stonetools says:

    The other piece discusses the opening in the context ogf the 2016 elections:

    Republicans like to say all of this unilateral action defies the will of the people as expressed in the last election. If that is so, then Republicans will surely be glad to hear that much of what Obama is setting in motion may be litigated in another electoral contest — the 2016 presidential race…..
    As Shear’s piece notes, all these actions appear geared to “the sensibilities of younger people.” But it goes beyond this. They are geared to the priorities of many of the voter groups that are increasingly key to Democratic victories in national elections: millennials, nonwhite voters, and college educated whites, especially women. The Cuba shift may appeal to young voters, particularly younger Cubans in the key swing state of Florida. The move on deportations could sharpen the contrast between the parties in ways that enhance the Democratic advantage among Latinos. The moves on climate could appeal to millennials and socially liberal upscale whites.
    The common thread uniting all of these is a Democratic gamble that such groups will be swayed by an agenda that is forward-looking and more accepting of evolving demographic, international and scientific realities, and will see the GOP as increasingly trapped in the past.

    This issue does really position the Democrats as the party of the future and the Republicans as the party of the past. JKB’s reference to the Cuban missile crisis was amazing here. Seriously? He had to reach back 52 years to make the argument that the Cuban embargo remains necessary?
    But again, if you live in the Foxverse, maybe it makes sense.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    I think this is premature…that policy was just this far from working!!!

  19. Will says:

    I’m all for rapprochement with Cuba but I have issues with the strategy. IF Russia & Venezuela have truly cut them off financially, then I don’t understand the urgency in throwing them a lifeline. It sounds to me like the US also could have made a much better deal. It’s more the timing of this deal that bothers me.

    I’d also like to know how this deal will affect Cuba’s relationship with Russia.
    http://theaviationist.com/2014/04/17/russian-tug-off-us/

    From FP, “The glibness of the entire effort is betrayed by the fact that the Castro regime made no concession, no major reciprocal announcement, no recognition of U.S. concerns on democracy and human rights that have divided the two countries for 50 years, to warrant the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and a host of modifications to travel and economic ties to the island. (The full embargo is off the table, since it can only be lifted by an act of Congress. Forget about the happening anytime soon.)

  20. anjin-san says:

    @Will:

    It’s more the timing of this deal that bothers me.

    We have been hearing that a lot on Fox. Should we wait another 50 years?

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @anjin-san:

    “It’s the timing,” translates as, “We hate Obama and can’t bear to agree with him no matter how overwhelming the logic.”

  22. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:
    Wait…he’ll watch Fox some more and get back to you with their answer.

  23. JKB says:

    @Davebo:

    You really should look up the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. You’d be surprised.

    Along with that, due to poor attention to detail, it is a violation of the Export Administration Regulations to give a Cuban a life jacket. I doubt they’d prosecute but because some Ivy Leaguer staffer couldn’t remember buoyancy compensator, they listed life jackets as needing an export license. Of course, if Obama/Kerry remove Cuba from the list of state sponsor of terrorism, then…

    Now, if we get free movement of tourists between the nations, Walmart will be the biggest sight for the Cubans to see. And we should point out there is another one just down the road, just as packed with goods for sale to even the poorest in the nation.

  24. JKB says:

    @stonetools:

    Cuban missile crisis? Nope, that wasn’t me. I can relate a story about a Cuban gunboat and a research ship from way back then. But the Cubans forgot about radio and just as it was about to go to guns, two fighters out of Key West dropped out of the sun on top of them. Speculation is they had to drag their underwear on a trolling line on the way back to Havana. In either case, they lost their keenness to board a US ship in the Straits of Florida.

    My opinion is that Obama’s timing as always works against US interests, but someone had to change things with Cuba, might as well be Obama.

  25. Stonetools says:

    @Will:

    I think now could be a good time, before Russia and Venezuela recover economically and restore their ties. “There is a tide in the affairs of men, when taken at the full, leads to success” ( or something like that).
    At this point Cuba is looking to deal. The U.S. is signaling , “We’re willing to make a deal and here’s our good will gesture.”
    Also too , we opened to China and Vietnam without demanding that major political reforms be made upfront. Why should this be any different?

  26. Fausta says:

    Let’s pose a question for you all,

    Cuba has had millions of dollars in US goods, millions of euros from EU tourism, and hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists over the decades. The regime has not changed. What makes you think it will now? Raul Castro’s own daughter explicitly said it won’t https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTT1UmLmXsE

    The long-term outcome of any opening to Cuba is, as the WaPo put it, “The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely.”

  27. The Cuban economy would do fine if the Castro Brothers cared about the economy. They get paid for allowing their doctors to help in Africa.
    There is a MAXIMUM wage in Cuba, the Cuban government keeps the rest.
    Simply waiting until the Castros are DEAD is reason enough, they WILL benefit from this more than the Cuban people. If all other countries in the world are trading with Cuba, why do they need US? Answer: To make the Castros richer.

  28. Davebo says:

    @JKB:

    I’m sure you were trying to make a point there but honestly I can’t see what it was supposed to be.

    Now, if we get free movement of tourists between the nations

    That could be done tomorrow with the stroke of a pen. Not that it’s much of a problem for Americans to vacation in Cuba now.

  29. Will says:

    @anjin-san:

    Here we go again huh.. I make a comment and you and Cliffy jump in with your Fox news bullshit. I don’t watch Fox, but I guess you just admitted that you do. How about MSNBC? What are your talking pointstoday from Rachel Maddow, Sharpton, and Farrow on this?

    @michael reynolds:

    Spewing more hate today Michael? I Don’t know why you are so angry lately.

    @Stonetools:

    I honestly do not care about the human rights issues in Cuba. I’m a realist and understand that most countries in the world that we consider allies do not have the same rights and values as the US. If Cuba is really has a dire financial system, I would have insisted in them severing ties with Russia. Russia just reopened a major base in Cuba a few months ago whose sole purpose is to Spy on the US. why not get the cubans to dismantle the base?

  30. al-Ameda says:

    @Will:

    It’s more the timing of this deal that bothers me.

    Three things:
    (1) Do you mean that he should have announced this before the 2014 mid-terms?
    (2) Do you mean that he should have announced this once the new Republican Congress was sworn in, in 2015?
    (3) Do you mean that there is never a good time to abandon a policy that failed for 50 years to achieve the goal of regime change?

  31. anjin-san says:

    @Will:

    Fox news bullshit.

    Perhaps if you come up with some comments that smack of original thinking, or at least parroting more thoughtful analysis, people will start giving you a bit more credit. I am not holding my breath.

    That you are “questioning the timing” of turning away from a half century old failed policy shows that you are not to be taken very seriously.

  32. anjin-san says:

    @Will:

    How about MSNBC? What are your talking pointstoday from Rachel Maddow, Sharpton, and Farrow on this?

    The last time I watched MSNBC was in 2012, and that was perhaps a few hours of viewing over the course of the presidential campaign. On the other hand, I tuned into Fox two days ago. They were “questioning the timing”, just like all the conservatives who claim to not watch Fox (nor listen to Limbaugh)

  33. anjin-san says:

    @Will:

    I would have insisted in them severing ties with Russia.

    Hey, the dumbest comment of the day! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

  34. David M says:

    Exactly what is the embargo currently accomplishing? I mean besides making the USA look petty and vindictive.

  35. Dave Schuler says:

    The economic effect of liberalizing trade with Cuba will probably be minor as far as the U. S. is concerned. We’ll be able to buy Cuban cigars (I’m looking at you, Michael) and rum. Not earth-shattering.

    The economic effects on Cuba, however, will be huge. The comparable model could be China after 1979. Standards of living will rise. The country will probably industrialize (or re-industrialize depending on how you look at it).

    Biggest losers in the deal: Venezuela and Spain.

    I wouldn’t expect political liberalization following trade liberalization any more than occurred in China.

    Bottom line: it’s not that great a deal for us but it won’t do us much harm, either. It’s a great deal for Cuba.

  36. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    And there you go, regurgitating today’s Official Fox News Line Of The Day. “The timing.”

    What a load of utter bulls–it. The timing. Are you under the impression that makes you sound thoughtful?

    Why yes, I can see the logic in a change between us and Cuba but not now. Not now. Not while Obama is still president. In a couple years, sure, assuming a Republican wins, because then the identical policy would be bold and brave and brilliant.

    It’s like RomneyCare. It was a great, bold experiment, right up until it was renamed Obamacare, and then it became the worst thing ever in all of history and we’re all gonna be killed by death panels!

    You people are transparent as a sheet of glass and just as deep.

  37. Will says:

    @anjin-san:

    Please let me know when you say anything relevant or original?
    You are a parrot for the smart folks like Reynolds n gregwills
    Just because you agree with then does not mean you are intelligent.

    You and cliffs are always the first to jump on differing views.
    It just proves that liberals are truly the most intolerant folks on here

  38. Tyrell says:

    I have been in favor of a change for a while in the hopes that it would lead to a change in the government and leaders of Cuba. It is obvious that the Cuban economic system is a disaster.
    I certainly want the president to work with congressional leaders, business, finance, and commerce leaders in developing a policy on dealing with Cuba. If there are any agreements we need to read the fine print. And none of these phony agreements liked he went over there and signed with the Chinese concerning “climate change”: that agreement is a joke.
    Not one red cent of taxpayer money should go to Cuba without their agreement to major changes.

  39. @stonetools: I understand why politicians such as Rubio are doing what they are doing. I am trying to speak to readers who might be persuadable (a man can dream).

  40. MikeSJ says:

    @anjin-san:
    anjin-san says:

    Friday, December 19, 2014 at 12:35

    @John425:

    I wonder what he and his brother will do once we help them get their economy out of the toilet.

    Buy some Depends? Fidel is 88, Raoul is 82. Why are conservatives quaking in terror before these old men? Cuba is about as much threat to America as a cocker spaniel.

    They can’t rationally explain what terrifies them so much about two old men running a banana republic commie country…just for some reason Castro makes their knees shake.

    I think the fault lies in reading too many comic books as children. The notion that super villains and people with nefarious powers exist gets buried in some peoples minds and just percolates away evan as adults.

    It explains a lot actually.

  41. Will says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Thanks for your effort. I think i found the answer I was looking for

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article4651707.html

  42. @Fausta: How long should we keep this policy up? This is the bottom line question.

    And I think that even the Vietnam scenario has better long-term implications than the current course. More travel, more investment, more exposure to the US will have effects on Cuba.

    For one thing: Cuba is rather closer, and could potentially have far greater ties with the US that the US has with Vietnam.

    Still, here’s the problem with the pro-status quo position: it ignores the failure of the policy and promised while all the while acting as if the continuation of the policy will eventually lead to an ideal outcome.

    This is nonsense.

    Reality is that the US policy towards Cuba has failed and that some amount increased influence is preferable for Cuba’s long-term prospects than is maintaining the status quo.

  43. @John425:

    Brother Raul is Fidel’s clone. What leads you to believe they don’t think alike?

    So, your argument is that Raul will behave as Fidel did 50 years ago?

  44. @Will: Yes–I think that is part of the situation (I noted this the other day, in fact). Although it is worth noting that talks started 18 months ago.

  45. @anjin-san:

    Conservatives keep talking about how Obama “let Castro win.” In reality, he won a long time ago, and we have kept a failed policy in place out of bone headed stubbornness.

    Indeed. I often ask in class for students to name all the Presidents who have been in power since the Revolution:

    Eisenhower
    Kennedy
    Johnson
    Nixon
    Ford
    Carter
    Reagan
    Bush
    Clinton
    Bush
    Obama

    And then I ask how successful the embargo has been.

    The only thing that truly surprises me about this move, which is an inevitable one: I thought it was going to take the death of both Castros.

  46. @michael reynolds: Most Americans are wholly unfamiliar with Cuban history and assume (as with Iran) that all one needs to know started with the Revolution (and never mind the US meddling prior to that event, or the degree to which the US was complicit in supporting the regime that was overthrown).

    Oddly enough, reality is more complicated that simple morality tales.

  47. grumpy realist says:

    totally OT, but I had to post this link.

    Dr. Evil is alive!

  48. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Why yes, I can see the logic in a change between us and Cuba but not now. Not now.

    What’s the big deal about people questioning the timing? You got a rule book that others didn’t get where it says questions about timing are not allowed?

    For me timing is waiting until the 88-year old bastard and his brother are dead. That way those who fled Cuba to Florida and elsewhere do not have to see the US in to those who murdered their kin.

    There was a Cuban in my college dorm back around 1964-65 who described the killings and especially the execution squads in witnessed in back in Cuba. The impression sort of stuck with me. So yes, this could have waited a few more years until after Fidel’s big death celebration.

    My gut feeling is that there is big money to be made here by someone. It may take some time until it becomes clear who the big winners are. Cuba would be a great place for a retirement home for a rich American. Also a great place for a casino which could pull from a clientele worldwide. I see lots of possibilities.

  49. wr says:

    @Original Pechanga: “There is a MAXIMUM wage in Cuba, the Cuban government keeps the rest.”

    Which is to say good ideas can come from anywhere. I say we institute the same thing here. We can scale it up a little — say $10 million.

  50. @Another Mike:

    What’s the big deal about people questioning the timing? You got a rule book that others didn’t get where it says questioned about timing are not allowed?

    As a generic proposition, I suppose the timing of any action can be questions. However, it often seems that opponents “question the timing” when there is not much else to say–it is a way to vaguely raise doubt and to let the audience ponder what timing issues might be worth pondering. It is usually a nonspecific way of raising doubt about an action.

    I, for one, have no idea why this week would be a suspicious time for the announcement (especially since talks have been ongoing for 18 months).

  51. stonetools says:

    @Will:

    If Cuba is really has a dire financial system, I would have insisted in them severing ties with Russia

    Because ordering leaders of sovereign nations around as if they were naughty children isn’t likely to work?
    It’s better to nip any rapprochement with Russia in the bud by offering a deal with Cuba. We can offer Cuba lot more than Russia can, and with time, we can woo them away from renewing closer ties with Russia and Venezuela.
    Remember the story about Chou en-lai? When he was asked about whether the French Revolution would succeede, he said, “Too early to tell.” Now that story was probably apocryphal, but we should be looking to take a subtle and more long term approach.

  52. stonetools says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Bottom line: it’s not that great a deal for us but it won’t do us much harm, either. It’s a great deal for Cuba.

    Actually, it will be a great deal for Cuban people. Just about every time this has happened, people’s living standards went up. Even if political reform does not follow, the Cuban people will benefit.
    From a realpolitik point of view, it binds Cuba closer to the US, draws Cuba away from future rapprochement with Russia and Venezuela, and removes a major irritant in our relations with the rest of Latin America. It seems a good deal for the everyone all round-except for some octogenarians in Miami.

  53. Will says:

    @stonetools:

    I understand that it might be an aggressive approach, but it seems like we have a lot of leverage in this situation. If Cuba truly has no other options and there is a significant oil factor to this, it does not seem so unreasonable to me to get them to dismantle a Russian listening base. You have to assume that Russia’s relationship with Cuba is one of the reasons for this deal.

    http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-cuba-us-russia-20141218-story.html

  54. anjin-san says:

    @Another Mike:

    So yes, this could have waited a few more years until after Fidel’s big death celebration.

    Obama is the President now. In a few more years, he won’t be. We elected him to act in our national interest. If he feels an opening to Cuba

    I’m sorry there are Cubans here who have horrible memories of Cuba under Communism. I get it. My mother in law saw people beheaded during WW2, and she came home one day to find her grandfather bayoneted to death. Horrible stuff.

    That being said, foreign policy decision are made based on national interest, not on the sensibilities of individuals.

  55. anjin-san says:

    Sorry, incomplete post above:

    Obama is the President now. In a few more years, he won’t be. We elected him to act in our national interest. If he feels an opening to Cuba is in our interest, the time to do it is now.

  56. stonetools says:

    @Original Pechanga:

    Unlike most Americans, I am familiar with the history of Cuba. Pre-Castro Cuba was not a democratic land of sunshine and rainbows and happy people in the sun (contrary to exilado propaganda).

    Politically, it was a brutal, corrupt military regime, propped up by the USA as part of their anti-Communist foreign policy. Economically, a tiny white elite lorded it over a largely non-white majority. US companies ran the Cuban economy, in partnership with that elite and their chosen puppet ruler. The regimes were supported by the US government, which invaded Cuba five times in order to rescue their puppets and “restore order.”
    All of which is to say that we aren’t talking about instituting anything like a just, equitable or democratic regime in Cuba. There’s never been such a thing. What this opening can do is bring economic benefits to Cuba and a rise in living standards for the people, with the hope that down the road, there will be political reform (as happened with the USSR and eastern Europe). Such political reform isn’t inevitable (China and Vietnam are counter examples) but it is possible. What we do know is that what we have done hasn’t worked-for 50 years. That’s enough time. Let’s try something different. As for the Castros, they’ll be gone in a few years. In the long run, who cares what they do?

  57. @stonetools: Exactly.

  58. stonetools says:

    @Will:

    It may be that the Russian base is part of the deal. All of the deal isn’t -and most likely shouldn’t-be made public. I can see the USA saying we won’t press Cuba openly on this now, but saying that any future concessions will be contingent on Cuba not renewing the Russian lease. Diplomacy is a dance. It’s not just the USA openly issuing demands like some schoolyard bully.

  59. David M says:

    @Will:

    I understand that it might be an aggressive approach, but it seems like we have a lot of leverage in this situation. If Cuba truly has no other options and there is a significant oil factor to this, it does not seem so unreasonable to me to get them to dismantle a Russian listening base. You have to assume that Russia’s relationship with Cuba is one of the reasons for this deal.

    The framework and negotiations for this deal likely predate the oil price drop by quite some time, so why should a temporary drop in oil prices make any difference?

  60. michael reynolds says:

    “I question the timing” is effectively an admission that you got nothing. It’s an admission that there’s no actual, logical counter-argument at all, but you want to sound thoughtful and like you’re saying something.

    Basically Roger Ailes (programmer of right-wing brains) knows this isn’t going anywhere, he knows Rubio is a silly little pup, he can read the polls that have even Republicans supporting an opening to Cuba in theory, he knows the Miami Cubans are already shifting to wondering how to profit from this, so it’s a Fox News place holder. It’s lorem ipsum for people who want to sound like they’ve thought it all through, but know absolutely nothing and have nothing to say. The one thing they do know: If Obama did it, it’s got to be wrong. So Ailes serves up a “timing” question to give the yahoos something to say until they can manage to bring themselves to cope with reality.

    Six years of this stupidity and at least two more to go. Jesus.

  61. Will says:

    @michael reynolds:

    So sad to see you this angry lately. i expect better from such a famous writer of kids books. I guess narcissism leads to this..

  62. Will says:

    @stonetools:

    That makes sense. You seem to have the best insight on this here.

  63. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, the timing on this is good in and of itself. Fidel is 88, Raul is 82, it’s extremely unlikely that either Castro will be in power 10 years from now, and more likely won’t last that long. Using US actuarial tables, Fidel’s pretty likely to be dead before 2019 – just three years into Hillary’s presidency.

    So, given the extremely high likelihood of both Castro’s smoking their final Montecristos, we want access and at least a little bit of sway there on the ground. As it is we have no multilateral leverage because everyone else thinks we’re crazy on the subject of Cuba. If we want to exert any pressure during a change of regime we need something we can take away, and we need other countries to follow our lead.

    So, yeah, even the timing on this is good.

  64. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The likely process of regime change is going to be considerably different from the dreams of Republicans or the exilados. The exilados imagine the Castros dying, the people rising in revolt, and the exilados riding in to save the day and to take over(with some US Navy help). Then their old sugar plantations and factories will be restored to them, and life will be sweet again, just like the old days, with everyone knowing their place.
    In reality, when the Castros go , their successors are almost certainly going to be people who now live on the island, who are probably now in the government and who don’t give a flying fig about the restoration fantasies of some viejos living in Miami.
    The Obama Administration should focus on getting to know and build relationships those successors and not curry favor with people who simply view him as some uppity mulato who wouldn’t have darkened the front door of their plantation house back in the old days.

  65. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The notion that US influence is only useful if we isolate ourselves from those we wish to influence is rather peculiar (to put it mildly).

    Thank you for this, Dr Taylor.

  66. John425 says:

    @anjin-san: Who said anything about being scared. Once again, you miss the salient point. Leopards don’t change their spots and the regime will not go gently into the good night.

  67. anjin-san says:

    @John425:

    Who said anything about being scared.

    You did

    I wonder what he and his brother will do once we help them get their economy out of the toilet.

    This implies that there is something to worry about if better relations between the US and Cuba improves their economy. As for

    the regime will not go gently into the good night.

    The Castro brothers will be gone soon enough. I would rather be positioned to try to influence events at that point instead of clinging to a proven failed policy out of spite, and then reacting to events as they take place.

  68. Andre Kenji says:

    The timing on this is that ALL countries in the American Continent, with the exception of the United States and Canada, thought that the embargo was ludicrous and that it should end. There was huge pressure on the United States coming from all corners of Latin America.

    The embargo was very unpopular in Brazil and Mexico, the two largest countries in Latin America.

  69. Andre Kenji says:

    Cuban doctors are very popular among Developing countries because they are extremely cheap(Brazil pays 5 thousand dollars per year for Cuba for a doctor). I don´t think that´s sustainable.

    The Castro regime simply cannot survive if they have to face capitalism.

  70. Robert in SF says:

    For some reason, this blog post reminds me of this from The West Wing, and trade relations with China when they have such bad human rights violations.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ2AKTHcb4o

  71. @Robert in SF: I will readily allow: it is all quite complicated.

  72. @John425:

    Leopards don’t change their spots and the regime will not go gently into the good night

    And therefore….?

  73. Tony W says:

    @C. Clavin: Fox News: “We decide, you concur”. Stolen from somebody long ago whom I can’t remember

  74. Grewgills says:

    @Another Mike:
    So continue a failed policy and let the people of Cuba suffer more than they need to for a few more years to assuage the feels of some bitter octogenarians?

  75. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Fausta: That theory seems to presume that if the population is plunged into further economic desperation and misery, totalitarianism there will disappear. Can anyone show me a modern example of that model–desperately poor people rising up to oust a totalitarian military state in order to replace it with a democracy?

  76. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Will: You’re absolutely right. Not all of our allies have the same values on human rights as we do. Some of them have better values. Case in point, just recently Forbes identified Denmark as the best nation for international business noting among other points the more generous unemployment benefits and employment retraining options that exist there.

    (Cue Will asking “what’s unemployment got to do with human rigbts?” in 5…4…3…)

  77. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: That’s not fair! Many sheets of glass, auto windshield glass for example, have much greater depth and substance than the Right’s position on Cuba normalization.

  78. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @stonetools: I see your point, but to play Devil’s Advocate for just a minute, what’s the point of being the strongest nation in the world if you can’t order people around like a schoolyard bully?

  79. jukeboxgrad says:

    John425:

    Who said anything about being scared.

    You did, when you decided to mention how “Fidel wanted launch authority for the Russian nukes.” Next time just say it this way:

    we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud

    I realize anjin-san already addressed this.

  80. Pharoah Narim says:

    Call me callous by frankly, I don’t give a damn about the political and economic systems of countries willing to trade with the US. Governments exist with the passive approval of their people. When those people desire change, they’ll trigger it. It’s not, in my view, our place to want it for them…alway assuming that our brand of democracy is a good fit for every culture. It’s not and that’s why it’s failed every time we’ve tried it. Democratic cultures are everywhere the conditions are right for them to exist.

  81. John425 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: And therefore, prudent men do not enter into a lovefest with them.

  82. @John425: You have a curious definition of “lovefest.”

  83. John425 says:

    @jukeboxgrad: What a butthead you are.

    From Wikipedia:
    Anastas Mikoyan was tasked with the negotiations with Castro over the missile transfer deal designed to prevent a breakdown in the relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union. While in Havana, Mikoyan witnessed the mood swings and paranoia of Castro, who was convinced that Moscow had made the agreement with the United States at the expense of Cuba’s defense. Mikoyan, on his own initiative, decided that Castro and his military not be given control of weapons with an explosive force equal to 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs under any circumstances

    Other reports noted that the Russians thought Castro was “bat-shit crazy”. As I noted above, prudent men exercise caution.

  84. @John425:

    a) Fidel is no longer in charge (yes, I know, Raul is a clone!)

    b) You are describing events from 50 years ago.

    c) You have created a totally false choice: we are not talking about whether to give FIdel Castro nuclear bombs. We are talking about whether we should normalize relations with Cuba.

  85. And really: making this into some choice between what is happening right now in 2014 and some alt history of the early 1960s is beyond ridiculous (and is a terrible argument).

  86. anjin-san says:

    @John425:

    So you are admitting that 88 year old Fidel Castro frightens you. What danger to America do you see coming from Cuba as a result of this thaw? Please be specific.

  87. jukeboxgrad says:

    John425:

    Mikoyan, on his own initiative, decided that Castro and his military not be given control of weapons with an explosive force equal to 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs

    You seem to be trying to explain why we should be afraid of this old man. A little earlier you said this:

    Who said anything about being scared.

    Here’s an idea: pick one story and stick with it.

    While in Havana, Mikoyan witnessed the mood swings and paranoia of Castro

    Hilarious, since the one showing signs of “mood swings and paranoia” is you.

  88. KM says:

    “letting Castro win.”

    For me timing is waiting until the 88-year old bastard and his brother are dead.

    Actually, should that be anyone involved is dead if the goal is to not reward horrible people who’ve done terrible things? Why the focus on these two – are you saying you’re OK with the lower levels to essentially get away with murder? See, this is the problem I have with this line of logic. It focuses all the negativity and finger-pointing on the figureheads, allowing a slide under the radar for everyone else. If your argument is that we are using the embargo to punish the regime as it was then, it will be going on for a while as its members are going to take some time to die – all of them. Isn’t that justice?

    Meanwhile, you get to look someone who’s suffered a great deal already in the eye and tell them they have to suffer a bit longer since your need for vengeance isn’t satisfied yet. This is why the younger crowd is pro while their elders rage – grandpa can’t let go of old hurts while the grandchildren just want this farce to end.

  89. John425 says:

    @jukeboxgrad: Jeez, your ass must be talking. Your mouth knows better. I didn’t suggest that Fidel is still anxious to go nuclear-only that he had an iitchy trigger finger. Do you have evidence that either he and his brother have lost their zeal? Any evidence that their underlings in that totalitarian power structure will suddenly become democratic? Get real. Take Logic 101.

  90. jukeboxgrad says:

    I didn’t suggest that Fidel is still anxious to go nuclear-only that he had an iitchy trigger finger.

    So it’s not that you’re afraid. It’s just that you’re afraid. Thanks for clearing that up.