A Vietnam Model for Cuba?
In a commentary featured on CNN.com's Opinion and Analysis page today, fellow THN contributor Arturo Lopez Levy and I teamed up to ask the question, if Cuba is beginning to pursue what looks a lot like a Vietnam-style economic restructuring over the coming months, why not pursue a Vietnam-style policy toward the island nation?
"As Havana prepares for its first Communist Party Congress in 14 years in April, the United States should seize the opportunity to positively influence the economic blueprint the party is expected to approve.
The Party Congress, usually held every five years, is the ultimate conclave when Cuba's Communist leaders set the direction of the country for the next five years. A document released ahead of the congress shows that the Cuban leadership is considering ideas without precedent in the Cuban revolution's political debate. It essentially proposes moving away from Cuba's command economy and adopting an economic system closer to the ones in Vietnam and China."
CNN's publishing rules only allow me to excerpt that short introduction to the commentary, so I hope you'll visit the website to read the entire piece.
The piece reflects not only on the changes going on in Cuba and their similarity to steps taken in Vietnam, but also looks back at the U.S. approach to a country in which the American people lost significant blood and treasure, and yet our government has, with marked success, been willing to engage constructively. We're certainly not the first analysts to point to examples of American constructive engagement with countries with which we have profound differences.
But it bears repeating that, given the depth and breadth of discussions ongoing in Cuba right now, the United States has an absurdly excellent opportunity right now to exercise its influence - whether by helping the government directly pursue its reforms, or whether through more indirect means, such as working to reduce the extent to which a hostile U.S. policy remains a dominant domestic political factor in Cuba. The question on so many people's minds now is, "Where is the Obama Administration?"
Some will argue that the Administration has its hands full with the political fallout of the midterm elections, budgets to balance, government spending and expiring tax policies to haggle over, not to mention a brewing crisis on the Korean peninsula, and plenty other foreign hot spot headaches, all of which make dealing with Cuba policy right now - so far down the ladder - next to impossible.
But, when, really, is there going to be a good time? Administrations must attend to multiple issues in a given day or hour. What energies, really, does tweaking this low-priority (but high reward) issue - by, say, releasing new regulations on travel that have reportedly been waiting for final approval for months , really demand of the President and his top advisors? If Cuba is so unimportant, and I would argue, so short on risk, where's the worry?