An Ethical Musings' reader solicited my thoughts about the relaxation of restrictions on travel to Cuba.
US restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba represent a failed policy. Those sanctions, and others, mostly date from the early 1960s. The US imposed the restrictions in an effort to undermine the Castro regime and to appease politically active Cuban émigrés.
The Castro regime has survived for more than fifty years. In the meantime, the political influence of Cuban-American émigrés has peaked and is now on the decline. Punishing the Castro regime, now led by Fidel's brother Raul, is much less important to second-generation émigrés, many of whom would prefer to be able to visit relatives in Cuba. Economic and diplomatic sanctions, and associated travel restrictions, against Cuba have appeased Cuban-American interests at the expense of what is good for Cuba and for most US citizens.
Easing the travel restrictions is a step in the right direction but the change did not go far enough. The US should fully normalize relations with Cuba:
- Communism is globally recognized as a failed economic and political system. Even countries, such as China, that retain a nominally communist economic and political system are changing, slowly in the case of political structures and more rapidly for economic structures. Communism does not constitute a threat to the US; sanctions of any kind against Cuba no longer serve a valid national security function.
- US sanctions have enriched the US at Cuba's expense, i.e., the continuing exodus of energetic, entrepreneurial people from Cuba to the US have bolstered the US economy (visit Florida if you doubt this) at the expense of depriving Cuba of these individuals' industry and initiative.
- The best hope for the US contributing to improved political and economic fairness in Cuba lies in maximizing interaction between the two states. Political envy among Cuban citizens will corrode already fragile support for the Castro regime more effectively than any other available action. Government incompetence in Cuba has already sounded the death knell of Cuban communism, an inevitable outcome once Soviet economic lifelines were cut when the Iron Curtain fell. Private enterprise is beginning to boom and ending all US sanctions will expedite that process.
The roots of the Castro revolution lie deep in the colonialism with which the US treated its Caribbean neighbors in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Ending all sanctions and restrictions should come with two stipulations:
- The US should respect Cuban sovereignty. For example, the Navy base at Guantánamo Bay no longer serves a national defense function. The US should take the initiative, unilaterally end its lease, and return the land to Cuba. The prison at Guantánamo is an international embarrassment that the US should have never opened. As I have previously argued in Ethical Musings (e.g., cf. Bring this terrorist to the U.S. - NOW!) the US should bring prisoners held there to the US for trial in federal court or release them.
- The US should stay out of internal Cuban politics. We do not want other nations interfering in internal US political matters and should treat others with the respect that we desire.