The critics do have a point. Cuba got something today: recognition that the socialist government in office in Havana since 1959 is in fact the governing authority in Cuba.
One wonders how Fidel Castro feels about it.
He reacted to the December 17, 2014 announcements with the grumpiness to which his age entitles him, saying he is not against peaceful solutions even though he does not trust the United States. Nonetheless, he huffed, “The President of Cuba has taken the pertinent steps according to the prerogatives and powers granted him by the National Assembly and the Communist Party of Cuba.”
I also wonder if he thinks back to his April 1961 speech, when he couldn’t envision that “the imperialists” could ever change their spots:
“Because what the imperialists cannot forgive us is that we are here, what they cannot forgive us is the dignity, the integrity, the bravery, the ideological strength, the spirit of sacrifice and the revolutionary spirit of the Cuban people. That is what they cannot forgive us, that we are right under their nose and we made a socialist revolution right under the nose of the United States!”
I don’t know about forgiveness, but there they are, still right under our nose, and they have been recognized. So there.
But did we lose anything?
For those who think that the past policies were successful or productive, or the only morally correct posture toward our socialist neighbor, we have lost a great deal. Pass the smelling salts, please.
For the rest of us, it’s a rational path, it has nothing to do with approval, and it’s no more radical than Nixon’s relations with China or Reagan’s with the Soviet Union.
And let’s be clear that for decades, our policies have been tantamount to formal recognition anyway.
We have had a diplomatic mission in Havana since 1977, housed in our old embassy building. We, the imperialists, have more diplomats accredited there than any other country. We negotiated agreements on migration and other matters. We have collaborated on drug enforcement, search and rescue, transfers of prisoners, and other matters, with our diplomats dealing directly with each other.
This relationship carried on even during the George W. Bush Administration, and has long amounted to de facto recognition of the Cuban government.
Today it changes to full legal recognition. What matters more than that legal formality is the opportunity before us, and what both nations make of it.