Obama's Self-inflicted Isolation

For an Administration that entered office boasting that it would repair the damage done to America's international reputation by cowboy unilateralism, the UN vote against the embargo was at least embarrassing. 

Both last year and this the US found itself even more isolated than in the Bush Administration.  In 2008 the vote was 185 to 3; under Obama  in 2009, 187 to 3; and in 2010, 187 to 2.  Our only supporter now is Israel, a bit hypocritically as its citizens freely holiday, invest and work in Cuba.

Cuba’s case on the illegitimacy of the embargo is supported by virtually unanimous international opinion.  A comparison of premises in General Assembly speeches is instructive:

 "The U.S. economic relationship with Cuba is a bilateral issue and part of a broader set of relations meant to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”  

 Amb. Ronald Godard, US Senior Area Advisor for Western  Hemisphere Affairs   ( Full text here)

"For the superpower, any process that is not conducive to the establishment of a regime subordinated to its interest will be insufficient."

      Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla  ( Full text here )

The fundamental disconnect between Washington and the world is not over Cuba's political and economic system.  That would provoke a split decision, depending on the weight a country gives to human rights, multi-party elections, market economics, universal health care, free public education, social equity and sovereignty. 

The difference, which US reporters, editorial writers and politicians seem unable to comprehend is that no other nation in the world believes the US has the right to tell Cubans how they should govern themselves and to use a unilateral extraterritorial embargo to enforce its views.

Obama's rhetoric of multilateralism and mutual respect rings hollow when applied closest to home. 

Perhaps the lower standing of the US representative who spoke in the debate suggests the Administration did not want to put the cabinet level prestige of Ambassador Susan Rice behind a totally and justifiably lost cause.

The question is whether the Obama Administration can finally summon the fortitude to use its ample executive authority to bring the US closer to showing “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” instead of opportunistically accommodating a tiny minority of exile driven politicians. 

John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development



Links and resources


Worth scanning here is the complete UN debate on the embargo, including the strong statements by countries with great importance to the US strategically and economically, not least Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Russia, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Indonesia, China, Vietnam and Belgium (for the European Union).