We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has not superfluous parts; which exactly answers its ends.
- Emerson, American Poet and Essayist (1803-1882)
In March of last year, well-aware that in a few months, another Republican sweep in the upcoming mid-season elections was more than likely, president Obama said this about having secured a small-scale agreement to station military forces in the Philippines:
That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles; you hit doubles. Every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.
The president got a lot of flack for the comment, which fit in with the narrative of the Obamian strategy for America “leading from behind.”
I must admit, as soon as you invoke Obama and baseball, certain videos of presidential first pitches spring immediately to mind. I’ll edit my first thought here because after we saw Mo’ne Davis rock the Little League World Series, I vowed never again to use the phrase “throws like a girl.” Lets just say then that our current president has thrown the most awkward-looking first pitches in presidential history.
But in pitching his foreign policy strategy for his final two years, let me also say this – President Obama’s baseball analogy is right on the money.
Normalizing relations with Cuba is a solid single. Maybe in hindsight, history will say he stretched it out for two.
When we speak of the U.S. embargo of the Castro communist dictators, we’re speaking of a policy that was never even second-guessed by presidents of either party, from Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon to Ford to Carter to Reagan with two Bushes and a Clinton to boot.
Fifty years later, what’s the greatest thing the American embargo has accomplished? It’s made the wealthier parts of Cuba look like a classic car show. On the one hand, we won, Cuba’s economy sucks, if a Cuban wants a nice car, they’re going to have to rely on those American cars that came over pre-revolution, but on the other hand, I bet you there’s no one in the world who knows how to keep the American classic cars running better than the mechanics of Cuba.
I know Obama doesn’t believe this, but all the aforementioned presidents really did see America as this bright, shining beacon of freedom for the rest of the world to see. In each of their minds, to not embargo the ruthless despotic Castros would have been a slap in the face to every political dissident who ever was raped, tortured or imprisoned by the communist authoritarian regime.
Under the threat of imprisonment and torture, how much would a person have to hate the communist regime to work for years to turn one of those cars into a sea worthy vessel that could make the 90 miles from Cuba to American freedom? Check this car boat out, can you imagine being so sick of the oppression that you would be willing to work for years in complete and total secrecy to make a car into a sea-worthy vessel?
But fifty years is long enough. The time has come and it’s time to engage and as the Castro brothers croak, the best way to engage with our neighboring island paradise 90 miles south is to open the doors and let them have a full taste of what life can be like when you join the ranks of the Capitalist West.
It’s unfortunate because on the one hand, it’s like you are giving a stamp of legitimacy to the same evil kooks who lock up anyone who dare speak out against the regime, but on the other hand, it’s time to switch strategies and show the Cubans first hand how rich the capitalist system has made our tourists and yes, you can have this standard of living yourselves if you unshackle yourselves from the dictators who became your island’s overlords.