Posted by Adam @ 5:29 pm on February 27th 2007

Flake. Cuba. Sanity

Via RCP, an article by Pierre Atlas. Conservative GOP representative Jeff Flake has co-sponsored a bill with New York City blowhard Democrat representative Charlie Rangel that would effectively end the embargo on Americans travelling to Cuba. The reason that this can happen now, Atlas claims, is that the Democrats control congress and can put Bush in the position of having to decide whether to veto the bill. Now, where I am not certain is whether vetoing it is a popular thing for Bush to do; Atlas claims that two thirds of Americans favour re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba and takes this to imply that the travel ban should go as a result. That might be a stretch, it seems to me.

I personally do favour the end of the travel ban. I think that it’s pretty clear that the general trade, travel and diplomatic embargo just hasn’t worked in bringing down the regime there. Castro looks set to die, finally, of natural causes, with the regime he created fully intact. Doubtless Jesse Helms would plan, were he able, to declare victory when Castro finally pops his clogs, but the fact is that it’s been a failing strategy insofar as bringing down the Castro regime has been concerned. Time to reconsider.

Flake makes three points with which I agree. Firstly, he points out that it is a freedom issue; why should Americans be forbidden to travel to Cuba in the first place? Why restrict the freedoms of Americans over an issue that isn’t a matter of American national security? In addition to that, I have heard it suggested (but cannot testify that it’s true) that if the Cuban emigre community hadn’t ended up in the biggest swing state, this would have been abandoned long ago; why should a minority of one state direct foreign policy for the nation? In particular, why should their interests be able to restrict the travel of all Americans?

Secondly, Flake asserts that communism doesn’t thrive through contact with capitalism, that it is in fact the Cuban regime who have more to fear from visiting Americans with their money and their ideals; I agree with this. Now, I think that it would be foolish to expect a sudden change; non-Americans have been travelling and holidaying there for some time and the regime still stands. The potential for very large numbers of Americans visiting, though, is considerable; there may be no casinos and the fleshpots may lack their former allure, but there is still plenty to attract certain sorts of tourists.

Finally, Flake makes the point that isolating Cuba allows for nucleation of anti-American sentiment. Cuba sends medical doctors to Chavez’s oil-rich Venezuala and so the potential for American power over both countries is further reduced. Castro is the posterchild for opposition to America; despite all they’ve thrown at him, assassination attempts, sponsored invasion, embargos and broadcasts, he’s weathered it all. In the current situation, where the limitations of American power are a live issue, it’s time to stop the pretence that the Cuba policy is working. No one believes it anyway.

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