Let’s tip our hats to the oft-infuriating Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky: At least he’s intellectually consistent. He is a true, government-keep-your-mitts-off Libertarian. Thus he supports re-opening US relations with Cuba, which pits him against many in his party and stirred a social media war with Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Some snippets from his Time op-ed: “Even the supporters of the embargo agree that it has not worked. A policy of isolationism with Cuba and engagement with China and Vietnam does not make any sense. Communism can’t survive the captivating allure of capitalism. Let’s overwhelm the Castro regime with iPhones, iPads, American cars, and American ingenuity.” … “The supporters of the embargo against Cuba speak with heated passion but fall strangely silent when asked how trade with Cuba is so different than trade with Russia or China or Vietnam” … “Those who love freedom and want to see a free Cuba should continue to demand nothing less than a democratic republic that defends the rights of the individual. After 50 years of embargo and no evidence of tyranny losing its grip, maybe it’s time for a new approach.”
Paul’s argument may surprise many with a Tea Party image of Libertarians, but he actually lines up with his tribe’s heritage. Libertarianism stands closer to anarchism (Merriam Webster’s: “a belief that government and laws are not necessary”) than to traditional conservativism (a “belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society”). They’ve been pro-choice on abortion and against any regulation of pornography, drugs, prostitution, worker safety and rights, and pollution.
Evangelical Christians, beware.
This makes for strange bedfellows. Paul stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Catholic Church hierarchy on Cuba, which — contrary to popular belief — is progressive on economic and international issues. Popes have been pushing the two nations together for years. The Senator is far more attuned to practical reality than the editors of the Washington Post, who decried the recent policy change. Their opening paragraph:
The Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regime everything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide Havana with a fresh source of desperately needed hard currency and eliminate U.S. leverage for political reforms.
Much can be said in reply (like, haven’t we heard this for fifty years?), but maybe we should leave it to Luke Brinker of Salon:
… a lack of human rights hasn’t hindered the U.S. from maintaining ties with such regimes as those in China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Would the Post have the U.S. review its relations with those countries, too? Nor did egregious human rights violations stop the U.S. from propping up right-wing authoritarian regimes during the Cold War. Ah, but those murderous regimes were anti-Communist, which, for the Post’s purposes, merited U.S. support.
Take the Post editorial board’s reaction to the 2006 death of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, whose regime murdered or disappeared an estimated 3,216 people and subjected more than 38,000 political prisoners to confinement and torture. Sure, the Post acknowledged, Pinochet committed some “evil” deeds, but the paper lauded him for his pro-corporate policies. (Memo to the Post editorial board: iron rule combined with corporatism typically goes by the name “fascism.”)
“To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle,” the Post gushed.
The Post credited Pinochet’s free market policies for Chile’s eventual transformation into a democracy — which makes all the more puzzling the Post’s opposition to a policy that would more fully integrate Cuba into the global economy.
Of course, Cuba’s leaders have never helped thaw the ice between their country and the behemoth to the north. They take olive branches and use them as whips. Raul Castro seemed to perpetuate the tradition in his televised speech before Parliament: Obama’s new policy, he said, was the Cuban Revolution’s victory. Observers said he was reassuring Communist hard-liners, which is understandable. Still, we long to toss the penalty flag: “Don’t dance in the end zone! You’ll only aid the behemoth’s hardliners!”
And that Cold War rhetoric is so … twentieth century!
Meanwhile, America can help itself by keeping its eye on the prize. Remember China. While that behemoth’s human rights record is hardly stellar, it has still come far from Mao and his disastrous Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. The snail pace of progress only began when American relations were re-established.
So the nearly-anarchist Paul is right. This time.