U.S. Engagement With Cuba Is Worth the Risk
Ted Henken, an associate professor of sociology and Latin American
studies at Baruch College, is a co-editor of “Cuba in Focus” and a
co-author of “Entrepreneurial Cuba: The Changing Policy Landscape.” He
is on Twitter.
OCTOBER 12, 2014
In March 2013, the Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez told me she was impressed
with President Obama’s support for the rights of Cubans to determine
their future and his expansion of family visits and “people-to-people”
travel to the island. Then, she half jokingly compared Obama’s hints at
“changing” U.S.-Cuba policy to Raúl Castro’s recent efforts at
“reforming” the economic workings of Cuban socialism. Like Raúl’s
reforms, she said, Obama’s measures are so far not deep or audacious
enough to get us where we need to go.
Indeed, given Cuba’s dismal human rights record and the difficulty of
changing a foreign policy entrenched and intermingled with U.S. domestic
politics, Obama’s bold intentions on U.S.-Cuba policy have proved easier
said than done. However, a simple decision-making lesson I learned
recently in prenatal class could help U.S. policymakers confront the
Cuban policy conundrum: When contemplating a major decision, use your
B.R.A.I.N. and consider the Benefits, Risks and Alternatives, while
trusting our Intuition and what would happen if we did Nothing.
One key benefit of greater engagement with Cuba is that it would allow
the U.S. to increase the economic prosperity and autonomy of the
emerging class of Cuban entrepreneurs.
One key benefit of greater engagement with Cuba during a time of
expanding economic opportunity on the island is that it would allow us
to increase the economic prosperity and autonomy of the emerging class
of Cuban entrepreneurs. Admittedly, there is an inherent risk that
engaging with Cuba could strengthen the Castro regime at the expense of
the people. But my intuition says it’s better to empower the people and
accept some collateral benefit for the government than to continue our
current do-nothing policy that seeks to undermine the government while
accepting the collateral damage it inflicts on the people.
Policy change is not an all-or-nothing game. Given Obama’s comment last
year that the U.S. should be “creative” in its approach to Cuba, he is
certainly well aware that there are multiple alternatives to either
repealing the embargo or doubling down. These alternatives include a
host of potential bilateral confidence-building measures, such as
environmental, migratory and medical cooperation; a further expansion of
family travel and educational and cultural exchange; and new
opportunities in telecom, financing and support of Cuba’s fledgling
Exploring these alternatives would make it easier to address more
contentious issues like the continued imprisonment of Alan Gross in Cuba
and three Cuban agents in U.S., Cuban human rights abuses and the U.S.
Recent developments on the island, as well as surveys of
Cuban-Americans, indicate that a growing majority believes that their
deeply held principles are better represented by political pragmatism
and engagement. Neither passionate rhetoric nor outdated ideology serve
Washington’s interests or help empower the Cuban people.
Thus, with the approaching summit in Panama, the U.S. has an opportunity
use its B.R.A.I.N. and begin to deploy a policy of pragmatism and
principled engagement with Cuba’s changing reality that would both serve
American interests and empower the Cuban people to more easily be the
authors of their destiny.
Source: U.S. Engagement With Cuba Is Worth the Risk – NYTimes.com –