President Barack Obama used negotiations over a couple of imprisoned Americans to refashion the entire U.S.-Cuba relationship. He aims to reopen the embassy, relax trade and travel restrictions, and improve communication systems.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida charged the administration with appeasement because the president proposed to treat Cuba like the U.S. treats other repressive states. But President Obama only suggested that government officials talk to one another. And that peoples visit and trade with one another.
More than a half century ago Fidel Castro took power in Havana. In the midst of the Cold War the Kennedy administration feared that Cuba would serve as an advanced base for the Soviet Union. Having tried and failed to overthrow the regime militarily, Washington saw an economic embargo as the next best option.
But that didn’t work either. Even after the Soviet Union collapsed and Moscow ended subsidies for Cuba, sanctions achieved nothing.
Today Cuba’s Communist system continues to stagger along. The only certainty is that economic sanctions have failed.
Failed to bring down the regime. Failed to liberalize the system. Failed to free political prisoners. Failed to achieve much of anything useful.
After more than 50 years.
But that should surprise no one. Sanctions are most likely to work if they are universal and narrowly focused. For instance, the Institute for International Economics found that economic sanctions did best with limited objectives, such as “modest” policy change.