On November 13th, the U.N. General Assembly will vote on a resolution titled the “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
The General Assembly has voted against U.S. policy for twenty straight years. In 2011, the resolution passed by 186 in favor versus 2 against (Israel and the U.S.), with 3 abstentions (Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau).
We can guarantee you two things about next week’s vote: The resolution will pass in a landslide, and it will attract little notice in the U.S., which is a disgrace.
U.S. sanctions against Cuba are among the most restrictive our government imposes against any nation. With few exceptions (limited legal travel, some agriculture sales, and highly regulated medical trade) U.S. citizens and corporations are prevented by the embargo from buying or selling into the Cuban market.
The embargo is unilateral. No one willingly joins the U.S. in enforcing it. But our sanctions exert pressure on countries that trade with Cuba, foreign companies that do business in Cuba, the international financial system, and humanitarian agencies to try and stop the flow of money, commerce, aid, technology, spare parts, and the like to Cuba. In doing so, we are trying to run the foreign policies of every state in the world community and they resent it. That’s the point of the U.N. vote; they get to say so.
Next Tuesday, here’s just a brief list of who will line up to vote their scorn of U.S. policy: Australia, Brazil, China, the entire European Union, all the governments in Latin America and the Caribbean, India, Japan, Russia, and South Africa, even the Vatican.
Here, we must point out: when Pope Benedict the XVI visited Cuba this year, he didn’t have to apply to the U.S. Treasury Department for a license to travel before he went. Perhaps the Holy See regards U.S. sanctions as a moral issue.
It’s that, and more. U.S. policy is cruel to Cubans. It imposes arbitrary limits on our freedom to travel. It hurts U.S. industries that could do business on the island. It thwarts direct U.S. engagement with Cuba’s government on security and environmental issues. And, it’s failed to achieve what the Cold Warriors who designed it intended; namely, to replace Cuba’s political and economic system with parts designed in Washington and installed in Havana.
Finally, the embargo hurts us in Latin America and the world. So, after twenty years of getting a black eye at the U.N., isn’t it time to blink? Or think?
Carlos Iglesias, a U.S. Navy Commander and a candidate for a Master’s Degree at the Army War College, believes that the time has arrived. His thesis, submitted last month, said this about the “longstanding blowback” against the policy globally and concludes it isn’t worth the cost:
“…decades-long sanctions against the island have netted few if any national objectives, all the while depleting substantial national soft power. The cost-benefit analysis to U.S. national foreign policy will remain exceedingly unfavorable, if not outright counter-productive.”
We’re hopeful President Obama understands this intellectually. Now, he can take command politically. He’s been reelected to a second term. He won Florida, and scored an unprecedented victory winning a majority of the Cuban-American vote. There is no longer any justification for him to remain tethered to this failed policy.
He’s still stuck with much the same Congress, a lagging indicator, so often steps behind public opinion. But after his victory, the president is free – not to be a laggard but a leader. He can use his executive authority to start dismantling sanctions first imposed on Cuba before he was born and, by doing so, get our national interest and the international community into alignment.
That’s the right thing to do.
Who knows? Maybe Rep. Paul Ryan will return to his original pro-travel, pro-trade position that he adopted at the start of his career in Congress, since the campaign is behind him, too.