Friday, April 04, 2008


While I have no love for the Cuban regime, I have also long thought that the US policy towards the island has been, well, stupid. It was an absolutely reasonable strategy to try after the revolution, and perhaps for another 10 years, but after 20, 30, 40 years, it should have been clear that it simply wasn't working. It seems to me that we've dogmatically held on to our policy of isolating Cuba not because it achieves our objectives (it hasn't met any that I can tell), but because it gives the illusion of doing something useful. In other words, I think it's more about satisfying Miami voters and feeling good about not supporting the regime than it is about actually making life better for the Cuban people.

But an interesting thing is happening in Cuba right now: the government is opening up a bit, removing many of the arbitrary and cruel restrictions it has kept on its people with regard to consumer electronics.

So now that ordinary Cubans who happen to have enough money to buy a DVD player (which, I suppose, includes no "ordinary" Cubans), all is well with Cuba, right? Well, no, of course not, not even close. Cuba is still ruled by an oppressive abusive dictatorship, and there is still no political freedom and the economy is still a disaster.

But the opening up on consumer electronics - however minor - is highly significant for two reasons. The first reason is that I have never seen a government open up just a little; small freedoms inevitably are followed by bigger freedoms - trickles become floods. Two examples I offer here are China and East Germany.

The second reason I think it is significant is that after 50 years of an ineffectual policy towards Cuba, the ball is suddenly in our court - there is suddenly a change on the island. It's not due to our policies, but it's a change nevertheless. How will our policy towards Cuba change in response? Will it change, to encourage further liberalization? Or will we continue to cling to the blind dogmatic policies of the past?

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