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All Carrots, No Sticks

Marc Thiessen writes of the Cuba trade embargo:

The dumbest thing we could do today would be to enact legislation unilaterally lifting the embargo. Set aside questions about the embargo’s efficacy. Like it or not, it is our only leverage, aside from our military, to affect the transition in Cuba. Why would we fritter away that leverage just as time prepares to do what the embargo could not — bring about the end of the Castro regime? Fidel was never going to negotiate a loosening of repression in Cuba in exchange for a lifting of the travel ban and other trade restrictions. But those who succeed him will, and the Castro brothers will soon be gone. The question is: When that happens, what power will the United States have to encourage a democratic transition on the island? Instead of strengthening Raúl by lifting the embargo now, we should keep our powder dry and use it to strengthen democracy and influence his successor. The embargo has been in place for 47 years — at this point, it would be foolish not to wait a little longer.

The argument is entirely logical, but utterly at odds with the modus operandi we have seen to date from the Obama team. They don’t much believe in acquiring or wielding leverage to gain a bargaining advantage with foes. They are the team that believes in grand gestures, chats with Dimitri Medvedev, and bows to Abdullah the Great. They think expressions of “respect” for the “Islamic Republic of Iran” will melt the mullahs’ hearts. And they don’t see why they shouldn’t scurry back to the six-party talks  with North Korea despite a missile stepping on the president’s lines. They flatter themselves that they can flatter their international opponents.

So they seem disposed to unilaterally give away what could be traded, and thereby make future discussions less likely to bear fruit. They equate strength with bullying and so try to appear as inoffensive as possible. Perhaps it will work. Although we’d be hard-pressed to come up with examples of it in the past.

Whatever you think of the Cuba embargo it is worth something. Even a  former Illinois Governor knows you don’t give something like that away for free.



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