Editorial: Restoring U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties long overdue
The Dallas Morning News
Baby boomers might still have vivid Cold War recollections of nuclear faceoffs and revolutionary fervor, but most Americans probably struggle to understand what all the fuss is about regarding modern-day Cuba. More than two-thirds of Americans hadn’t even been born when the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted in 1962. It’s time to bury the past and move forward.
Conservative criticism of President Barack Obama resounded Wednesday after he announced the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, ending a 54-year freeze. But Obama is correct: The 21st-century reality requires a softer, more pliable approach to relations with an island nation 90 miles off Florida’s coast.
Cuba is no longer the Communist menace once denounced as a totalitarian dictatorship working with its Soviet puppet masters to carry out a shared vision of world conquest. Cuba today is an impoverished island whose people are probably just as tired as we are of outdated Cold War dogma.
It is true that Cuba still has big problems upholding basic human rights, permitting free speech and embracing modern democratic values. But the records of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, among other allies, are far more egregious on that score. America’s embassies in those countries have remained open and fully functioning even in times of sharp disagreement.
The freeze with Cuba began after Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution toppled a U.S.-friendly dictator and, in 1961, the CIA backed the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Cuba invited the Soviet Union to install nuclear missile batteries on the island, which were later removed. In that era, shuttering the embassy and invoking a trade embargo were appropriate, measured responses.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Washington worried that Central and South American regimes would topple like dominoes because of Cuban-backed Communist insurgencies. So the freeze continued. But that was then, and an entirely different dynamic prevails today.
Consider America’s bloody, two-decade war against North Vietnam, which was based on that same domino justification. Today, a unified -and still Communist- Vietnam enjoys flourishing, full diplomatic relations and even military cooperation with the United States.
Obama’s decision to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Cuba is being lambasted by Republican presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, whose families fled Castro’s dictatorship. What those critics fail to note is that the unilateral U.S. embargo of Cuba has utterly failed.
With diplomatic relations restored, Congress should acknowledge that there are more effective ways to foment change, primarily by flooding Cuba with U.S. trade and tourism dollars instead of starving it.
In the broader global picture, Americans have far bigger worries than Cuba. It’s time to end the rancor and bury anachronistic enmities.
From freeze to thaw
1959: Fidel Castro leads revolutionary guerrillas into Havana, toppling the military dictator and seizing U.S. businesses.
1961: U.S. breaks off diplomatic relations; CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion fails.
1962: Cuba allows the Soviet Union to install nuclear missile batteries on the island.
1980: An estimated 125,000 Cubans flee by boat to the U.S.
1991: The collapse of the Soviet Union cuts a major source of backing for Cuba.
2008: Castro steps down; his brother Raul takes over as president, announcing reforms.
2015: Washington and Havana agree to restore full diplomatic ties.
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