The US steers steady course regarding Cuba, which may help deal with Iran
At the end of May, the United States formally removed Cuba from the list of states sponsori ng t errorism. This will greatly facilitate interchange between the two countries. In particular, significant banking restrictions will be lifted.
Especially in the years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Treasury and other agencies have aggressively used finance to track and cripple terrorist groups and their sponsors. There is now a current reminder that money can be a useful carrot as well as stick.
Slowly but also surely, the ruthless dictatorship which controls Cuba has been forced to face the reality of economic failure of communism. Fidel Castro began transition of power to younger brother Raul Castro in 2006. Four years later, Fidel suddenly reemerged in the media spotlight and proceeded dramatically to lament the shambles of the economy.
At the same time, the Cuban government announced layoffs of 500,000 workers, combined with a liberalization designed to encourage small business and foreign purchases of real estate. This was no small move for Cuba’s committed communist leaders.
In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama loosened very tight restrictions on travel and financial remittances. Additionally, telecommunications companies were allowed to pursue licensing agreements. Other changes have followed.
There has been increased business interest but no rush to Cuba. The Soviet Union, vital subsidy source, collapsed over two decades ago. Venezuela has provided limited aid.
Enemies as well as admirers agree Fidel Castro demonstrated remarkable leadership before age and illness led him to retire. After taking power in early 1959, Enforcer Raul handled bloody mass executions with efficient dispatch.
Fidel highlighted new alliance with the Soviet Union by joining Nikita Khrushchev in a raucous 1960 visit to the United Nations in New York. The Soviet premier was wildly disruptive at U. N. sessions, while the Cuban delegation provided a media sideshow, based at a Harlem hotel.
The Eisenhower administration began a clandestine effort to overthrow the increasingly radical regime. The successor Kennedy administration vastly escalated the campaign after the disastrous failed Bay of Pigs invasion, including recruiting violent mercenaries along with extreme anti-Castro zealots.
When Fidel stepped down, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a formal public statement endorsed the desirability of “peaceful, democratic change” in that nation and suggested that the “international community” work directly with the Cuban people.
The U.S. should encourage an expanding United Nations role in dealing with Cuba. Bringing the U.N., with a career bureaucracy generally committed to politics of the left, together with the problems of poverty and stagnation in this surviving “workers’ paradise” could be a productive experience for both sides.
We should emphasize cultural, educational and family exchanges with the island, along with trade and investment. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower used such programs to great benefit during the height of the Cold War.
Above all, we should reject efforts directly to undercut the Cuban regime. Previous aggressive interventions were highly counterproductive, and for many years have provided the Castro brothers with the benefit of blaming all problems on the Yankee superpower to the north.
In the past, Castro’s Cuba has been extremely important in U.S. presidential politics, and could be again. John Kennedy fanned the flames against Cuba in the 1960 contest with Richard Nixon. Current presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio is aggressively denouncing the rapprochement with Cuba.
Strategically, improving Cuba relations may benefit our dealings with Iran and North Korea. Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College in Wisconsin and author of “After the Cold War” (NYU Press and Palgrave/ Macmillan). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.