Alex Massie

Calling Walt, Mearsheimer: Time to look at the Cuba Lobby

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Although I'm rather suspicious of all the Obama-as-Messiah slavering one sees these days, it is true that in some policy areas he offers a better approach than Hillary Clinton. One obvious example is Cuba. Hillary, for reasons best known to herself but doubtless involving trimming and calculation and a determination to leave no opening any opponents - even the mad ones - could try and exploit, seems to think that current US policy towards the island is dandy.

Actually I suspect that Clinton must know that the current US approach to Cuba - which involves cracking down even on family travel to the island to the extent that, as others have suggested, Cubans must choose between attending their mother's funeral or their father's - is daft and just the latest counter-productive US policy towards Castro. If she doesn't know this she doesn't deserve her party's nomination, let alone the Presidency; if she does know it she's prepared to sacrifice decency, common sense and the future of the Cuban people themselves on an altar of vindictive, blind stupidity. Either way, her Cuban policy stinks.

As Steve Clemons says, Cuba is an easy foreign policy question. If you can't get that right, what can you get right? Hillary's support for the Bush administration's approach does rather send the signal that she will, as her detractors believe, calculate all the angles on every single policy question except the most important one of all, namely, what's the right thing to do?

By contrast, Obama seems more open to new ideas and a fresh approach. He hasn't gone as far as Chris Dodd, who has a blessedly sensible view of US-Cuba relations, but he is further down the road to sanity than Hillary. Earlier this year he wrote:

I will use aggressive and principled diplomacy to send an important message: If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change, the United States (the president working with Congress) is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades. That message coming from my administration in bilateral talks would be the best means of promoting Cuban freedom. To refuse to do so would substitute posturing for serious policy -- and we have seen too much of that in other areas over the past six years.

This isn't perfect or bold enough (why wait until Castro has gone to ease restrictions?) but it's better than Hillary's position that:

''She supports the embargo and our current policy toward Cuba, and until it is clear what type of political winds may come with a new government -- if there is a new government -- we cannot talk about changes to U.S. policy,'

I suspect  - OK, hope - much of the country is sick and tired of being held hostage by the ravings of a tiny number of Cuban exiles and would welcome a clear statement of intent from Obama that he'd change course on Cuba. Better by far to kill Castro with capitalism and kindness than continue with policies that help the old bugger remain in power.

For lots of sane Cuba commentary check out The Havana Note.

UPDATe: Daniel Larison reminds me that Ron Paul had advocated non-lunatic policies towards Cuba for years. In commendably dry fashion, Larison writes:

Cuba policy stands out as one of the more obvious examples of where Ron Paul favours engagement and Washington has preferred futile isolation.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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