Sure, Why Shouldn’t Obama Normalize Relations With Cuba?

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Jay Nordlinger is worried:

Many years ago, I wrote a piece called “Who Cares about Cuba?” When I raised this issue with Jeane Kirkpatrick, she said that indifference to Cuba is “both a puzzling and a profoundly painful phenomenon of our times.”

Worse than indifference, of course, is support for the regime, or excuses for it.

President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles, as in his unilateral amnesty. “I just took an action to change the law,” he boasted. Some think that his next action will be the normalization of relations with the Castros’ dictatorship. Our Left is egging him on. He can do a lot of damage in his remaining two years, in multifarious ways. And, like Clinton, I believe, he will keep the pedal to the metal until noon on Inauguration Day.

This hadn’t even occurred to me, and I guess that “some think” isn’t exactly a compelling turn of phrase, is it? Still, I’d turn Nordlinger’s question around: Why shouldn’t we normalize relations with Cuba? It’s unquestionably an authoritarian state with plenty of unsavory practices, but that hardly makes it unique. Should we also cut off relations with Russia? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Zimbabwe? They’re all terrible countries in their own way—I’m pretty sure I’d rate them all worse than Cuba—and it’s unclear to me why Cuba alone among them should have diplomatic pariah status.

I’m being faux naive here, of course. I understand perfectly well why Cuba is unique. But it’s been more than half a century since we broke off relations, and let’s at least be honest about what happened: a bunch of big American companies got pissed off when a brutal leftist dictator displaced the brutal right-wing dictator they favored. President Eisenhower made an uncharacteristic mistake in response, and the rest is history. Not an especially attractive chapter of history, but history nonetheless.

But maybe it’s time to bring it to a close. Either normalize relations with Cuba or else cut off relations with every other country that’s equally bad. I’d opt for the former. Aside from the fact that it would anger a large voting bloc in an important swing state, I’ve never really heard a great argument for continuing our Cuba obsession.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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