It seems like nostalgic Washington is yearning for the 1960s all over again. Not only are the Democrats and neoconservatives looking to reignite the Cold War with Russia, President Donald Trump and the Republican are seeking to renew tensions and hostilities with communist Cuba.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration unveiled new commerce, financial and travel restrictions as part of the U.S. government’s new policy to isolate the island nation. The president has made it clear that he wants to prevent U.S. dollars from flowing into Cuba that could prop up the Havana leadership.
This is a complete reversal of Trump’s predecessor, who was successful in restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015. As Democrats and neocons participate in neo-McCarthyism, all that is missing from the current administration is a Bay of Pigs invasion 2.0!
Trump Adopts Tougher Cuba Stance
In addition to not bombing Iran, former President Barack Obama’s only other foreign policy success was Cuba. Although some of the measures the Obama administration implemented were merely designed to benefit financial institutions, the well-connected and the elite, it was still better than the status quo of the last 60 years.
Under President Trump’s new policy towards Cuba, the U.S. government has put together a blacklist of companies that have ties to the Cuban government’s intelligence, military and security services. U.S. citizens are prohibited from frequenting nearly 200 businesses, hotels, tour companies and stores. Moreover, Americans will be mandated to travel to Cuba through a heavily regulated tour group managed by U.S. firms.
The Associated Press notes that the latest policy is only a slight rollback of Obama’s revisions. For instance, direct commercial flights between countries will be allowed, and cruise ships can visit the country. Also, embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open.
According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the restrictions are meant to divert U.S. economic activity away from the communist government to help free the Cuban people. He said in a statement:
“We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people.”
Many former U.S. government officials and leaders in the private sector are not pleased by the change in Cuba policy.
Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said if relations were normalized then U.S. food exports to Cuba would total $1 billion. Jeff Nelson, of Strategic Staffing Solutions, was already prepared to help businesses establish a presence in Cuba. Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez called the move “a huge step backward” after making “so much progress”:
“Companies know where they stand now and there are definitely opportunities still.
Every day that goes by is just the missed opportunity where someone else is building a brand, someone else is building awareness among Cubans.”
Not everyone is unhappy with the adjustments.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said State Department bureaucrats are refusing “to fully implement” the president’s orders. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) echoed Rubio’s remarks, highlighting how the regulations don’t go far enough.
Is Isolation the Solution?
During the 2008 and 2012 Republican primaries, then-Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) was accused of being an isolationist because he championed a non-interventionist foreign policy. Dr. Paul regularly argued that the U.S. should mind its own business, talk, and trade with the world and not interfere in the internal affairs of foreign nations.
Simply put, Paul wanted improved relations with Cuba, even if it was a government the U.S. opposed.
Despite this logic, whether it was CNN or Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Paul was constantly labeled as an isolationist.
At the same time, most of the 2008 and 2012 GOP presidential candidates called for further isolationism of Cuba through the means of sanctions, which oftentimes achieve the opposite: help the dictators, hurt the people. Some of the contenders even called for regime change.
Obama will go down as one of the worst presidents in modern U.S. history, but he was right that the country was no longer at war with Cuba. Why would the U.S. prevent its citizens from traveling wherever they please, including to Cuba, home of cigars, Afro-Cuban jazz and poverty?
President Trump and Senator Rubio may have the right intentions, but the policies they advocate are deeply flawed. We have witnessed the destructive history of sanctions, invasions and regime changes. It has emboldened tyrants, destabilized regions and produced unintended consequences and blowback.
Isolationism is never the cure to remove a despotic regime. But don’t tell that to the politicians and special interests who are always on the lookout for conflicts and boogeymen.
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