Cuba: Criticism In Context

It’s come to my attention that I seemingly never miss an opportunity to go out of my way to work in some commentary about Cuban-American relations that is hardly in harmony with Bush Administration policy. Guilty as charged.

Here’s additional context.

It’s true that I rarely reference Cuba’s well-earned reputation for human rights violations. But the Castro government’s track record is not, alas, a worldwide anomaly. Would that it were – and would that Cuba were as bad as it gets.

Let’s just say it doesn’t deter us from doing business and having normalized relations with China or Russia or Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or Uzbekistan or Belarus or Turkey or myriad others.

Cuba is different, but not because we are so morally repulsed by that government’s contempt for human rights. Cuba is different because it’s personal.

And, frankly, if I were Cuban and had been forced to flee or been tortured or had friends and family members imprisoned or executed, I would not be in a forgiving mood. Not then; not now. Moreover, if I had lost anyone at Pearl Harbor or in the Tet Offensive, I wouldn’t necessarily be neutral on normalizing matters with Japan and Vietnam.

And that’s why those so viscerally close to tragic, life-altering events should not be in a position to influence foreign policy. What’s in the overall enlightened self-interest of the United States is more a matter for dispassionate diplomats and pragmatic leaders than emotionally-involved victims.

What I do find fault with, however, is every American Administration since Kennedy that has played the Cuban dictatorship card for domestic political spoils. President George W. Bush only upped the ante by appointing the overtly antagonistic James Cason as top U.S. diplomat in Havana and further tightening restrictions on travel and remittances.

It’s pandering at its worst – to the detriment of Cuban citizens who are saddled with the Castro regime, American business interests who forfeit markets and America’s geo-political standing in the world, which can ill afford any more erosion.

Nothing good comes of this Cold War relic of a policy that hurts all the wrong people – and treats Cuba as a less than sovereign entity.

But, to reiterate an earlier point. Until you’ve walked in someone’s shoes who has been personally impacted by what Fidel Castro has wrought, you can’t blindly and insensitively criticize. But you can – and should – hold accountable a blatantly dumb, inhumane and counterproductive policy, while showing respect for those who have been where you never were.

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