One of the most oft-repeated anecdotes about the Castro regime in Cuba is that it has outlasted 10 U.S. presidential administrations. It’s within President Barack Obama’s power to ensure that it doesn’t become 11, but only if he resists the advice he’s getting from Democrats like Jose Serrano and Republicans like Richard Lugar. In fact, the quickest way to bring about the peaceful transition to a democratic Cuba — a goal that almost everyone claims to want — is to take the exact opposite approach to the suggestions he’s receiving. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, some context.
The Castro brothers have been able to remain in power for five decades for two primary reasons:
1. They have been able to control the Cuban population through a series of strategies that include spying, harassment, jailing, torture, execution, and exile.
2.They have had the support of a vast majority of the countries on earth, most of which are motivated by latent or blatant anti-Americanism. The Castros have proven to be masters of shaping public opinion in their favor across the globe.
For those five decades it has been the official U.S. policy to isolate Cuba in a bid to force the desired change. It’s obvious that this hasn’t worked, and on that everyone agrees. But the question that is never asked is: why hasn’t it worked? Opponents of U.S. policy toward Cuba claim rather simplistically that such policies are always doomed to fail and give the Castros the excuse they need to perpetuate their rule. I submit for your consideration that the isolation strategy hasn’t worked because one country simply cannot isolate another country when there are more than 150 other nations that aren’t trying to do the same. There’s a huge difference between these two points of view. Depending on which one Obama adopts, his actions will vary dramatically.
It is a well-known fact that no American president has talked more about Cuba, spent more money on the Cuba issue, and been as preoccupied with Cuba’s liberty than George W. Bush. It’s also a well-known fact that George W. Bush was probably the president who was most hated internationally. Unfortunately, that created a scenario in which all of the truths George W. Bush made about Cuba were dismissed by the media and international community.
Enter President Obama. He comes into office with great popularity, not just at home but abroad. It is this popularity and his image as a thoughtful leader from the intellectual center-left that gives him an enormous amount of credibility among people who want to see a humbler United States of America. This rubs some Americans the wrong way, and I totally understand it. But a fact is a fact. When it comes to Cuba, this fact could be most useful if Obama plays his cards right.