Liberal Foreign Policy
When the New York Times decides to run a banner headline in virtually every one of its domestic and international editions, it usually means something big has just gone down. This week, it was the administration’s announcement that the United States is reversing the policy of the last 50-plus years, re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and advocating an end of the economic embargo of the island nation.
I would like to say that this policy change has emerged because non-recognition and the embargo were both stupid and self-defeating policies. And that may be part of it. But the debate that has begun to emerge around the Cuba policy announcement this week actually seems to be going in another direction. Instead of simply ending a policy that was always unworkable, we are at risk of embarking on another misleading debate about American exceptionalism: that somehow U.S. policy, in some way, will lead to the political and economic order that we (not the Cubans) want to see in Cuba.
President Barack Obama correctly announced (recalling Einstein’s dictum about insanity): “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.” Non-recognition has not changed Cuba’s government; the embargo has only limited the island’s economic growth potential. So it’s time for a change in policy.
The goal of that new policy, according to the White House, is to “renew our leadership in the Americas, end our outdated approach on Cuba, and promote more effective change that supports the Cuban people and our national security interests.” It’s the “promote more effective change” part that plants a flag in the liberal exceptionalist camp. The justification for this policy is, in part, still rooted in the notion that the United States can effect the change it wants in another country, this one close to our shores.