Thursday, March 29, 2018

U.S. Policy Toward Cuba After Castro

Marguerite Jimenez has an article in Foreign Affairs explaining who Miguel Diaz-Canel is and how the United States should respond to his ascension to power in Cuba. The upshot:

Although no one can predict exactly how Díaz-Canel will respond to these challenges, there is no denying that change is on the horizon. The United States and other outside actors will not determine the nature or the timing of these changes. They can, however, create a climate in which reform is easier. Strategies of U.S. engagement that recognize Cuban sovereignty and resist calling for regime change will reduce the risks to Díaz-Canel of undertaking more significant changes.

This is sensible. Six years ago I published an article in Military Review with Erin Fiorey, who at the time was an M.A. student in Latin American Studies here at UNC Charlotte. We wrote the following:

There is a fine line between caution and passivity, but this line is one the United States must successfully walk. There will be strong resistance to a foreign presence, and the possibility of blowback is very real. The United States can and must play a role in Cuban democratization, but it cannot create it.
 The policy of the United States toward Cuba has been remarkably consistent for decades, but has never achieved its stated goals, namely regime change and democratization. There is no way to predict when a political opening will occur, and it is highly unlikely the United States will be the motor of change, but we have laid out the optimal ways of addressing regime change when it occurs. The most effective responses will be constructive, measured, and multilateral, but active. These are not terms usually associated with U.S. policy toward Cuba, but they are central to a new post-Castro relationship.

The United States government is terrible at learning from past foreign policy mistakes. Our policy toward Cuba has almost always been an abject failure, not only not achieving its goals but actually making us worse off and even harming our own national security. Forgive the cliche, but this is literally an historic moment in Cuban politics and we seem poised to screw it up, perhaps even via tweets.


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