Later this month, the United States and Cuba will reopen embassies in each other's capitals for the first time since severing relations in 1961. This has been expected since President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December that they intended to restore diplomatic ties. As Obama has said, the U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba, a Soviet ally, might have made sense in the aftermath of the revolution, but it has proved to be ineffective over the subsequent half-century at forcing regime change, and ultimately has been damaging to both the people of Cuba and their relatives in the U.S., and to the standing of the United States in Latin America and around the world.
There has been some pushback to the thaw from unreconstructed cold warriors and those sympathetic to the bitterness Cuban emigres feel toward the Castro regime. Those emotions are understandable, but ultimately they are rooted in a lost battle; it is time for Cuba and the U.S. to move on.
It is important to recognize that restoring relations does not reflect an endorsement of Cuban policies. The United States has meaningful diplomatic relations with many nations with which it is at odds. And thorny issues remain with Cuba, from its atrocious human rights record and stifling of political dissent, to American fugitives sheltered by the Cuban government, to restitution demands by Americans for property seized by the regime. Those issues will be easier to resolve when the two sides actively engage with each other, rather than glowering across the Straits of Florida.
Obama, who has already used his administrative powers to remove some barriers to contact with Cuba, has rightfully urged Congress to drop the formal embargo. But he should move quickly to nominate an
ambassador, an appointment the Senate ought to consider quickly as well. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), both children of Cuban immigrants and seeking to succeed Obama, have vowed to block an appointment until the administration shows it has pushed Cuba to improve the lives and liberties of its people. We agree with the ends but not the means.
The best way to effect change in Cuba, and elsewhere, is through open engagement and the free flow of ideas and trade. The quicker that happens, the better for the United States as well as the Cuban people.