If You Give a Mouse a Cookie may be a children’s story, but despite its nature, it captures the problems with some of the greatest national policy issues today. This past December, President Barack Obama announced that the US will defreeze relations with Cuba, opening diplomacy with the island country for the first time in over 40 years.
Unfortunately, in the case of the Communist country 90 miles off of the US coast, the moral of this children’s story rings true. The US has given the despotic Castro regime a “cookie” in the form of multiple concessions, and, as with the mouse, no good will come from the policy.
The “Cuban Thaw,” an effort to reopen relations for the first time since 1961, was initiated by President Obama during the final months of 2014. At press time, travel restrictions have been lifted and US banks have been granted access to the Cuban economy.
According to a Dec. 17 press release, President Obama, simply enough, claimed that “Isolation has not worked… It’s time for a new approach.”
Unfortunately, this policy of concession is not “new,” and it has simply not worked in the past. Every time the Cuban government has been opened to any American aid, such as with tourism on the island, the aid has been advantageous only to the despotic Castro regime.
According to an Oct. 2013 Telegraph article, Cuban tourism, most notably consisting of trips by celebrities such as Jay-Z and Beyoncé, is run by the state and, up until two years ago, funneled American dollars to the communist government through a dual-currency system. Furthermore, the lucky few who visit the island are restricted to certain areas to shield their eyes from the extensive poverty which pervades Cuba.
This poverty is not only the result of failed Communist policy. The embargo, which diplomats from both countries are seeking to terminate, is at its very heart.
According to a Dec. 18 BBC News article, Cuban president Raul Castro said that sanctions have “caused enormous human and economic damage.” Contrary to the president’s claims, the embargo places the US into a position of power to push for meaningful reforms in Cuba. An end to this policy, the biggest cookie for the dictators, is a devastating loss to human rights efforts.
According to Mark Falcoff, resident scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, the reopening of diplomatic relations comes at the exact time when the Cuban regime was most in need, by nature of their own struggling economy as well as that of their closest ally, Venezuela. It will only prolong the Castros’ 56 year reign over an unfree Cuba.
Through the promotion of human rights, political and economic, is the stated goal of both proponents and detractors of the new policy, one must wonder how strengthening the Cuban dictators who perpetuate human rights abuses will accomplish this goal.
Foreign policy is, by definition, foreign to many of us. However, the debate over Cuba is relevant not only because of its connections to the various CHS students and staff of Cuban descent or the negotiation’s ranking US diplomat, Roberta Jacobson, who is a mother of a CHS senior, but also because of the young people much like us who hang in the balance.
The young people of Cuba have never known freedom of expression or the modern technology that we enjoy today. As students, we should not simply sympathize; it should inspire us to defend those whose freedoms and rights are being denied. Our country’s founders fought to secure these rights for all men and women, not just for the select few who reside within its borders.
At this point, an important distinction must be drawn between the Cuban government and the Cuban people, for only one has any power. The former is a state sponsor of terrorism and a military ally of both North Korea and Iran. The latter are treated as subjects by their government and are yearning for a chance at democracy they have been denied for over 50 years.
Criticizing the embargo for preventing the spread of technology entirely misrepresents Cuba’s problem; only the government has Internet access because the government has prevented its private use. Only government workers drive cars made after the 1970’s because only those affiliated with the government are allowed to afford these cars, as Cuba operates under a command economy. No amount of US aid could change that because whatever flows into the country is distributed however its government sees fit.
Proponents of the diplomatic normalization with Cuba will point to China and Vietnam, communist states with which we enjoy both diplomatic and trade relations and ask what the difference is.
In his admittedly idealistic inaugural address, President Reagan asserted that “No weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”
Our duty as young men and women who enjoy such freedom is to protect, support and defend it at home and abroad. Ninety miles off of Key West, on an island home to millions for whom independence and self-determination are but dreams, is as good a place as any to start. However, before any of this can occur, America must stop giving the mouse “the cookie.”