Geo-Political Irony

It was about as ironic as a geo-political week can get.

For the 16th straight year, the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of urging the U.S. to lift its four-decade-old embargo against Cuba. Once again the vote was one-sided: 184-4-1. Once again, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands voted with the U.S. Once again, Micronesia abstained.

Once again the U.S. was made to look petty, inhumane, arrogant – and counter-productively stupid in front of the rest of the world.

A few days later, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez led a trade mission to – Vietnam. He met with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and President Nguyen Minh Triet. He was accompanied by representatives of 23 U.S. companies, including, Ford, Dow Chemical, Northwest Airlines, Marriott and Alcoa.

Recall that the U.S. used to have a trade embargo against Vietnam. That ended in 1994. Recall that the following year diplomatic relations were normalized. And recall that both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have visited Vietnam.

And recall that the U.S. lost more than 58,000 troops in the Vietnam War.

But that was then — a tragic, misguided venture borne of Cold War delusions.

But Cuba is different. Cuba is close, and the enmity is personal. This Cold War relic remains the third rail of politics to too many feckless and intimidated American politicians and administrations who self-servingly hide behind the selective use of democratic mandates and criteria. Vietnam, si; China, si; Egypt, si; Saudi Arabia, si; Pakistan, si; Uzbekistan, si; Kazakhstan, si; Cuba, no.

And if blatant hypocrisy and cruel travel and remittance policies aren’t enough, there’s always this. At last count, the Cuban embargo was costing the U.S. an estimated $3 billion-$4 billion in lost exports per year, a huge chunk of it at Florida’s expense.

And at last count, no politician in Florida – from a populist governor to this state’s congressional delegation — has shown real moral courage or geo-political guts on Cuba.

It’s beyond deplorable. It’s bad for America at the worst possible time.

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