The Cuba Embargo Does Not Give US Leverage -- It Harms American Interests
Later in the day, I plan to grade the various public statements from leading American politicians below. But one criteria I will use is whether they evince any humility at all about the fact that America's many decades old embargo failed to alter the political path of the Cuban government.
I will grade on the basis of whether these politicians are seeing and responding to reality or blinded by a perversion dictated by ideology and calculations that they think will help them with the vote in Miami but undermine US national interests.
Lexington Institute Senior Fellow Anya Landau French -- a former senior staff member on the Senate Finance Committee -- has this great article out today on the Washington Post's site, "Castro's Departure Means the US Failed".
I have one big quibble with it -- but the piece is excellent overall. Here's the lead in:
Fidel Castro leaving office on his own terms is not the kind of change that successive American presidents envisioned for Cuba. In fact, it's a sign that U.S. efforts to isolate that country and bring down its socialist government have failed. It's a sign that those efforts should be revisited.
Despite a 46-year U.S. embargo, Cuba today is anything but a pariah state. Canada, China and Spain have made major investments in the country over the last decade, particularly in tourism, nickel and energy. Venezuela continues to trade cut-rate oil for Cuban doctors. And the island remains a popular destination for vacationers from around the world.
These relationships have helped the Cuban economy grow -- 7 percent last year, according to CIA estimates. Moreover, they helped prevent the frustration-fueled overthrow that U.S. leaders long hoped would end Castro's regime. In effect, treating Cuba as an all-or-nothing proposition netted the United States nothing. Our interests have gone unserved and our ideals unmet.
But while Castro's departure is playing out differently from expectations, it still provides an opportunity. And the U.S. can either continue a policy rooted in ineffective sanctions or tailor its policy to the new possibilities of post-Fidel Cuba.
Some countries friendly to the United States are already moving ahead. Spain has initiated a human rights dialogue with Cuba. Brazil's President Lula da Silva, who recently offered Cuba a $1-billion line of credit, provides the island an alternative to its dependence on Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
There are many steps the next U.S. president could take, short of offering economic aid or normalizing trade relations, that could increase our influence in Cuba without giving up leverage associated with the embargo.
My quibble is with the last line above: without giving up leverage associated with the embargo.
I think that one of the realities that needs to be confronted is that when I was in Havana, I met some Israelis involved with managing Cuban citrus groves. I saw a Benetton store in the new Havana. I saw Chinese selling major port infrastructure loading equipment to Cuba. British Petroleum was having a cocktail party on the roof of my hotel. Tourism is high.
There is always a sense of leverage that the US thinks it has -- but that leverage is now mostly fictional -- as Cuba has found other thoroughfares for growth.
We need to stop thinking that we have "leverage." The whole point of Anya Landau French's article is that US policy failed and that the embargo has failed -- so let's drop the fiction about the US having leverage in the embargo.
The only leverage America has on lifting or maintaining the embargo is with an aging, Castro-obsessed, reactionary population in Miami that thankfully is being taken over by a more rational contingent of Cuban-Americans who have either rethought their views or who just don't carry the same views as their elders in their younger portfolios of experience.
-- Steve Clemons