Is Cuba an exemplar of U. S. foreign policy?


Official US visit to Cuba, Barack Obama, Raul Castro, 11 April 2015. PD-USGOV.


President Obama’s Cuban plan started the process of normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba. President Obama’s Cuban policy has components found in other of his administration’s foreign policy efforts: To fix the present by symbolic attempts to mend the past. They are marked by a recognition that: incremental and indirect change can be just as important as more obviously interventionist moves can be; change in other parts of the world is usually shaped more by internal efforts and perceptions than external; dialog with other countries is a vital part of exerting influence on change outside our borders.

The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson examines President Obama’s plan for normalized relations with Cuba and asks: Can it also transform that nation?

"Obama believes that Americans need to make a greater effort to acknowledge perceptions that exist outside the United States. 'We are a superpower, and we do not fully appreciate the degree to which, when we move, the world shakes,' he said. 'Our circumstances have allowed us to be ahistorical. But one of the striking things when you get outside the United States is - Faulkner's old saying, The past is never dead. It isn't even past. . . . People remember things that happened six hundred years ago. And they are alive and active in their politics.

And so the intention here is not, as the Republicans like to call it, engaging in apology tours. It is dignifying these countries' memories and their culture, and saying to them, 'We understand your experience and your culture, and that is valid.' And, once you do that, if people think, he sees me, even if they disagree with you, there is an openness to having a conversation.'

The work his Administration had done in Cuba, he suggested, was a preamble, but an essential one. 'It's not a cure-all. It's a start. And if U.S. policy then simply repeats some of the mistakes of the past, it has no force, then it just looks like cosmetics and manipulation. If, on the other hand, what we do seems to reflect examination of our own past and where we've been right and where we've been wrong, then the possibilities of more allies, more support, stronger pro-American sentiment are a whole lot greater. And one of the things that you can't always measure but I'm absolutely confident is true is that world opinion matters. It is a force multiplier.'"(Jon Lee Anderson, A New Cuba, The New Yorker, 10/3/2016) 

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