White House sets more mature policy on Cuba
Detroit Free Press Editorial
April 16, 2009
Nobody is leaping to any hasty conclusions, but it looks as though the Obama administration is ready to concede that Washington's trade embargo against Cuba, imposed half a century ago in an effort to force a young upstart named Fidel Castro from power, has been a spectacular bust.
In what those on both sides of the Florida Straits acknowledged as the most significant change in Cuban-American relations since the Kennedy administration, the White House this week relaxed restrictions on Cuban exiles' ability to visit and send money to family members on the island. Under a new executive order, Cuban Americans will be able to visit as often as they like and send as much money as they want to any Cuban who is not a senior government or Communist Party official.
The order disappointed Latin American leaders who would like the United States to normalize trade relations with Cuba and its leader, Raul Castro, but it also signals an unmistakable retreat from Cold War policies that likely did more to inhibit Cuba's democratic movement than Fidel Castro's Communist Party.
In an age when the United States enjoys robust commerce with China, Syria and Iran, among others, the Cuban trade embargo is a glaring anachronism. So is the travel ban that forbids Americans not born in Cuba from traveling to the island. The House and Senate are considering legislation that would end travel restrictions for all U.S. citizens, a welcome sign that Congress, too, is warming to a more grown-up strategy of engagement.
The impulse to isolate Cuba has always betrayed a curious and unwarranted lack of confidence in the power of example. There is every reason to believe that increasing Cuba's exposure to American products, American currency and Americans themselves would strengthen the island's democratic impulse, and no reason to fear that normalization would confer legitimacy on a regime that has been enjoying all the legitimacy it needs for five decades.
Now that President Barack Obama has finally nudged the door to normalized relations open, there's less than ever to be gained by lingering outside.