In This Review

A Strategic Flip-Flop in the Caribbean: Lift the Embargo on Cuba
A Strategic Flip-Flop in the Caribbean: Lift the Embargo on Cuba
By William E. Ratliff and Roger W. Fontaine
Hoover Institution Press, 2000, 77 pp.

The divisions over Cuba policy have never been as simple as is often portrayed. Not all who oppose the embargo are left-wing Castro apologists, and not all who favor strengthening it are right-wing ideologues. In fact, the sharpest recent criticism of Cuba has come from liberal human-rights organizations. Now the conservative Hoover Institution has published a policy essay making a powerful case for a unilateral lifting of the embargo. The authors, veteran Latin America watchers and staunch conservatives, maintain that the Elián González case demonstrates the inevitable consequences of a Cuba policy that is both needlessly confrontational and wholly ineffective. The embargo made sense during the Cold War, but it has now been reduced to a personal vendetta against Castro. Hence U.S. policy remains hostage to both Castro and the "inordinate political clout" of the militant Cuban community in Miami. Rather than following piecemeal gradualism, the authors argue, the United States should lift the embargo immediately and drop Castro from America's "Most Wanted" to its "Least Relevant" list. This may not necessarily bring democracy to Cuba, but it remains preferable to an embargo that has brought neither democracy nor improved human rights to the island. Ratliff and Fontaine conclude by accusing this year's presidential candidates of parroting "varying versions of the current failed policy" -- and they remind the reader that politicians, not the Cuban-American lobby, are most responsible for failing to forge a new post-Cold War agenda.