Obama, use carrot and stick in Cuba
By Frank Calzon
November 23, 2008
The spoils of victory are fine; meeting the challenges that come with it
converts a winning candidacy into a successful presidency. Just like
Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor, all post-9-11 presidents must
make security, not recession or depression, the No. 1 priority. Faced
with a mortal threat to the American nation, they cannot do otherwise,
even if, inevitably, mistakes are made along the way.
Responding to Japanese aggression, President Roosevelt mobilized the
nation. He also took regrettable measures, including the internment of
In the aftermath of 9-11, the Bush administration also committed
outrages. But the debate triggered by the long detention of "enemy
combatants," and by the practice of "renditions," has been vigorous and
open. Indeed, Sen. John McCain led the congressional effort to ban the
use of torture. Fittingly, he was gracious in defeat, urging "all
Americans to join [him] in … find[ing] ways to come together."
They will: President-elect Obama already has sent the world a message of
American strength and resolve: "To those who would tear this world down
— we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security — we support
Terrorism brings to mind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the openly
menacing rulers of Iran and North Korea. Less attention is paid to the
subversive activities in Latin America sponsored by Caracas and Havana.
After 50 years of support for communist insurgencies, fomenting
anti-American violence around the world and providing safe haven to
terrorists, Cuba remains on the State Department's list of terrorist states.
Many American voters found it appealing when candidate Obama pledged to
talk to U.S. adversaries. The U.S. government and the Castro regime have
been talking for years, however. Change, to use a fashionable word,
depends on the willingness of the Cuban communists to renounce tyranny.
Trade and travel restrictions are among the few peaceful sanctions the
United States can use to influence Havana's behavior. Raul Castro,
Cuba's president, knows how to improve relations with Washington:
release political prisoners, halt repression, move toward the rule of
law and re-introduce a market-based economy. There has been no
indication that any such steps are even contemplated. Rather, there has
been an increase in political repression.
If restoring Cuban democracy is worth talking about, surely it is also
worth employing all of diplomacy's quid-pro-quo tools — including the
use of sanctions and incentives.
Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.