I have a special relationship with Cuba.
If you have been reading these essays for very long, you will know I seriously considered retiring to Cuba to work with the Salvation Army (lawyer, doctor, indian chief). Once in Mexico, I periodically considered making mission trips to the island (a cuba sugar). All of that was initiated by a 2001 trip to Havana with my law school alumni association (spies in the cupboard).
There are plenty of reasons I should have some reaction to President Obama's announcement of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. I suppose my reaction is similar to Clarice Starling's in Silence of the Lambs when her boss tells her that a man who had just assaulted her has been murdered.
Clarice: I'm here, sir. I just -- I don't know how to feel about it.I have strong feelings about the Castro boys. They run a brutal fascist police state sadly disguised as a worker's communist paradise. The Cubans themselves deserve far better than what has been their lot since The Bearded One took power from a kindred tin-pot dictator.
Crawford: You don't have to feel any way about it. Lecter did it to amuse himself.
When I went to Cuba in 2001, I was agnostic about the American sanctions that had been imposed on the island for 40 years. After talking with several dissidents that were working for a democratic Cuba, I signed back on to the attempts to squeeze the Castros out.
Somewhere along the line, I changed my mind. The sanctions against Cuba were no more effective than the war on drugs. A prime conservative principle (one that I have retained as a libertarian) is that if a governmental program is not meeting its stated goals, it should be jettisoned.
I long ago announced my opposition to the war on drugs from a purely utilitarian position. My position on Cuban sanctions was a bit more closeted.
Unfortunately, President Obama's announcement does not end the sanctions against Cuba. The sanctions are established by statute, and the president wisely chose not to pretend that he had the power to change them through an executive order.
But he could do what the Constitution allows him to do -- to act as the representative of The States in dealing with foreign nations. Establishing diplomatic relations falls within his delegated powers.
My only question is why did he act this week? The Cuban government has been acting very badly recently with the arrest and mis-treatment of internal dissidents. This action will not make life easier for them.
Of course, the timing has nothing to do with concerns over human rights -- at least, in the sort term. The ability to obtain the release of an American official held in Cuba for the past five years was obviously a catalyst. And another unnamed "intelligence agent."
The White House is undoubtedly hoping that it does not have another
Bowe Bergdahl incident brewing. I suspect the chances of a reprise are small.
But the timing was all about politics. This president (and his party) are free from punishment by voters for two long years. An announcement before last month's elections would undoubtedly have cost the Democrats a greater drubbing.
And acting in the waning days of the Democrat-led Senate gives the President a bit of cover before power shifts next month.
The President's speech was filled with optimism about the future for America and Cuba. "Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future –- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world."
That, of course, is political eye wash. The rest of the world has had full relations with Cuba during the American sanction regime. And Cuba remained a fascist totalitarian state with its people under the full control of its government.
Even though I know Cuba is going to continue sputtering along until the Castros release their death grip on its throat, I am still interested in heading there. I have little interest in politics. But I would like to work with the Salvation Army in doing its part to make a small difference on that sad island.
That day may be arriving sooner than I thought.