Cuba is not a policy success.
The only leverage the US had here was riding the failure of Cuba’s traditional sponsors Russia and Venezuela. Cuba was a workers paradise because it had these sponsors. Pressure to deliver economic improvements would have mounted on the Castros and/or their successors even from within with the easy revenue drying up. Now they can look forward to more easy money, this time thanks to Barack Obama’s sponsorship.
To assume that an influx of dollars would change the system when such has not moved China (which had an influx of trillions) is naive. It may happen but it more likely will cement the regime in place. A policy success must be contingent upon a kind of change in the Soviet style apparatus that runs Cuba and imprisons thousands of government opponents each year. Europe has been trying to change Cuba by prodding it with pillows for decades to no avail.
Obama threw away the only leverage he had.
If he wants to secure a “decent legacy as a foreign policy president” he must undo 14 years of foreign policy failure that started almost the moment his predecessor assumed office. Almost all of us expected Obama to be capable of doing far more than just closing Guantanamo, do more than deliver fine speeches. We were waiting in Europe for a true reset and a re-engagement with our chief ally. We were all waiting for a courtship that never came. What did come is a president who thought it was OK for him to listen into Angela’s conversations and who had a prime minister of a teeny tiny country of 6 million slap him around in public.
What we need is an America that sets limits, not just talks about them. That has and demonstrates faith in its mission and beneficial nature, that trusts its allies and the very institutions it helped found.
I understand that the FT will protect the US presidency for as long as it lasts, it being the least terrible of all available global options. But give us some tough love as well. Just how likely is it that these next two years are going to be a success? Without significant change in the group that advises the president and in the NSC its just going to be more of the same.
What it indeed does show is a zero-sum mindset: Cuba is a move versus Venezuela, versus Putin, as an example to Iran, as a way to divide the Republican party. But it has nothing to do with Cuba proper where the new source of dollars and the increased subsidies from expats will bring a sweetness to ole Castro’s last few months or years on earth. Americans can even again poison themselves with Cuba’s finest export. A victory to cherish. For Fidel.