Friday, August 20, 2010

Still fighting the Cold War

Still fighting the Cold War

August 20, 2010

IF THE impoverishing, repressive regime of the Castro brothers in Cuba has degenerated into a sad mockery of its romantic-revolutionary origins, America’s embargo of Cuba has taken on the mindless rigidity of a tribal vendetta that continues to be pursued no matter how stultifying it may be to new generations. So reports that the Obama administration is preparing to loosen some restrictions on travel to Cuba for academic, cultural, and religious groups merit only tepid applause.

This adjustment to a counter-productive travel ban would merely undo restrictions that the George W. Bush administration added to Bill Clinton’s people-to-people liberalization of the draconian travel ban imposed in 1967. Obama, who has already made it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit the island, can extend the exception to academic and religious travelers without a need for congressional action.

He should exercise that presidential prerogative. But he should also push for congressional abolition of the more encompassing embargo on Cuba. At this point, the embargo only serves to prolong the material deprivation of Cubans, allowing Fidel Castro, 84, and his brother Raul, 79, to go on claiming that all Cuba’s miseries are caused by the yanqui embargo. If American tourists and US products were allowed to pour into Cuba, the economic effects would be positive for the Cuban people and American businesses, and a revolution of rising expectations could be set in motion.

There are no more Soviet missiles going to Cuba. Cuban troops are no longer fighting in Angola. The Cold War has long since vanished into the mists of history. America, no less than Cuba, needs to catch up with the 21st century.
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