Well, a bipartisan group in Washington thinks so. This group recently proposed lifting travel restrictions for U.S. citizens as a first step towards the elimination of the embargo. The reasons cited for lifting the embargo are numerous, but the main reasons are that the embargo has not helped bring democracy to Cuba, the embargo has actually helped Castro retain power, and that opening up trade and travel with the island will actually help the democracy movement (through osmosis I suppose). The problem with these arguments are various and I can get into it at length, but I would rather show an example of how lifting the embargo will not only strengthen the dictatorship but actually may eventually become a threat to our national security. Here is a comparison of two different countries with similarly repressive regimes and vastly different relations with the United States: Cuba and Saudi Arabia. First off, Cuba and Saudi Arabia both: have authoritarian governments, have political prisoners in jail simply for expressing themselves or dissenting peacefully(Cuba, S.A.), engage in torture (Cuba, S.A.), are anti-American (in Cuba, according to their propaganda, mainly because of the embargo, in S.A. just because), are the source of international terrorism, etc. etc. Here is where U.S. relations with these two countries are different:
* Highly restricted travel
Result: repression still high
Result: high anti-Americanism present (officially)
* Embargo on all goods except medicine and agricultural products
Result: U.S. is Cuba’s fifth largest trade partner
Result: Economic/political marginalization in Latin America/world
* Zero U.S. arms sales
Result: aid to terrorist organizations (Colombian Marxist guerrillas FARC, ELN, etc.)
* Open travel
Result: repression still high
Result: high anti-Americanism present (unofficially)
* Little restriction on trade
Result: U.S. is SA’s first largest trade partner
Result: Largest economy in Middle East/North Africa region
* Billions in U.S. arms sales
Result: aid to terrorist organizations (officially and unofficially: PLO, Hamas, Al Qaeda, etc.)
So here we have two different approaches to these authoritarian regimes and one thing in common: repression continues. The differences (oil, proximity, ideology) between our approaches to these countries demonstrate more about U.S. interests than what an embargo can accomplish. One thing is for sure, the communist regime in Cuba has lasted more than 50 years while the modern Saudi state has lasted for more than 83 years. While the embargo has not caused the collapse of the communist government, it has seriously limited its ability to serve as an effective destabilizing force in Latin America. Alternately, Saudi Arabia became the breeding ground for Al Qaeda, which ultimately led to the terrible events of 9-11.
There are some that advocate for normalization of relations with Cuba because of our hypocrisy in having normal relations with Saudi Arabia and China (among others). I disagree with this view. The embargo has served the purpose of safeguarding the United States and while I do not necessarily advocate imposing an embargo on Saudi Arabia (too late now), I’m sure that if we had an embargo against them, multi-millionaire Osama bin Laden would have had a harder time financing his attacks on America. Just a thought. The embargo cannot lead to democracy in Cuba by itself because ultimately only the Cuban people’s will can effect lasting and stable regime change. Unfortunately, the totalitarian regime has systematically repressed the people and instead of receiving assistance from abroad, governments have only gone as far as paying lip service to the idea of Cuban freedom. The United States towers above all other countries in helping the Cuban people rid themselves of arbitrary imprisonment, arbitrary executions, and wholesale denial of human rights… but more direct assistance is needed. Instead of advocating a policy promoting the Cuban people’s empowerment, we have in Washington a political cadre advocating a policy promoting the Cuban government’s empowerment. The embargo is a tool against the regime and it needs to be supplemented with effective assistance to Cuban dissidents who toil day and night for the dream of a free Cuba.
With our current Obamaton nation goosestepping its way towards a form of socialism in this country, it is not an exercise in futility to remind America that the extreme example of socialism just 90 miles to the south is not the paradise that Cuba yearned for prior to Castro. They have “free” health care, “total” literacy, “free” elementary-to-university education, and they “spread the wealth” just like the Democrats want… the difference is that Democrats are increasing the U.S. national debt at an alarming rate which will lead to higher and higher taxes, while in Cuba they only asked the people to sacrifice one thing: freedom.