I rarely agree with anything Barack Obama does, and I do not appreciate his “Wag the Dog” strategies to deflect attention from his abysmal failures as president. That being said, the end of the Cuban fiction of an idyllic communist state can only bode well for its citizens and the entire world.
The “hard” Communism depicted in Orwell’s 1984 and championed by Fidel Castro is no longer a real threat in our contemporary world. Far darker and more insidious is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World as instantiated to a limited degree in America and more profoundly in the “soft” socialism of western Europe. The nanny state is the “kinder, gentler” form of Marxism, which slowly envelops its children in a web of benefits that suffocates their ingenuity, creativity and healthy ambition.
No longer are Marx’s offspring terrorized into loving Big Brother; now they are lulled into the dreamy dependence of loving their Magnanimous, if overbearing Mother.
And so the end of an old, tired embargo that no longer stood for anything other than holding to principle for principle’s sake is indeed a positive development, if for no other reason than that it allows us to focus on the real enemies of free society.
Yes, we would have loved to see Raúl Castro fall on his knees, renounce the sins of communism and embrace open democracy. Yes, we would have loved to vindicate the enormous sacrifices of countless Cubans who risked their very lives to resist an evil empire that arrogantly trampled its people’s rights. Yes, we would have loved to wait until Cuba decided on its own accord to abandon the last vestiges of the silly ideology that caused the suffering and destruction of so many.
But this was not the case. We had long ago fallen into a status quo that lacked not only virility, but even the grand gesture that braces others in their fight for freedom and democracy. The Cold War is over, and has been for quite some time. Communism—as horrendous as it was—is no longer the enemy, not because it is any less wrong, but because it is no longer relevant.
In point of fact, for many young Americans today Cuba is a curiosity, known more for its desirable yet almost unobtainable cigars than for its political pertinence.
If we truly believe what we say we believe—that we care above all for the suffering people under totalitarian regimes—then the choice was obvious. We have seen how time and time again the greatest enemy of totalitarianism is free trade and exposure to democracy. We believe—because we have witnessed it—that such tyranny can only survive where people are isolated and kept in ignorance of how the rest of the world lives and thinks.
Yes, Cuba continues to behave in ignominious ways, and openly violates many basic human rights of its citizens, but then again, so does China (and many other countries), and yet Washington continues to do business with Beijing, having beheld the colossal cultural strides made possible by a policy of openness and interaction. Where would China be on the human rights front had the US closed its doors to Beijing until it got its own Marxist house in order?
And under which scenario would the US have the greater leverage to nudge Cuba in the direction of a free and just society—an embargo that forbad contact between the two societies or diplomatic relations that enabled reciprocal influence and dialogue?
I understand my friends for whom any victory for Obama is a defeat for sanity. I get the principled supporters of Radio Martí, who have fought heroically for decades against the Castro dictatorship in Havana. I know that it can look like weakness to bend where we could just as easily stand firm. But it isn’t.
The ability to hold to principle despite the sacrifices it entails is a worthy and indeed an admirable quality. Yet when these sacrifices are endured by the very people that our principle seeks to defend, it is time to review our policies and adjust our actions to the deeper ideals that make everything else worthwhile.