Blessed are the peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, it says in Scripture - and the peacemakers seem to converging in Havana.

This Friday, the leaders of Roman Catholicism and the Russian Orthodox Church, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill I, will meet in Cuba to try and advance the healing process between Eastern and Western Christianity, churches which have been in schism since 1054.

In coming to Cuba to seek peace, they are not alone.

After two years of a tightly held negotiation, the United States and Cuba ended six decades of hostilities, and the diplomatic effort to normalize relations rolls forward in both capitals.

Since 2014, Cuba and the European Union have been negotiating a new Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement to update the EU's policy toward the island. The talks, alternating between Brussels and Havana, resume in Cuba later this year.

Most of all, negotiations to end the fifty-year civil war between Colombia and its FARC guerrilla movement, a conflict that has claimed more than a quarter-million dead are, as the analyst Ginny Bouvier wrote "Heading toward the Finish Line in Cuba."

While the Colombian and FARC delegations deserve the lion's share of the credit - they've been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize - Cuba's role hosting the negotiations continues to win praise.

As President Obama said at a White House ceremony with Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos at his side, "I want to thank all of the parties for their efforts, including the government of Cuba for hosting the talks. We all know that it's easier to start wars than to end them."

President Santos replied in part by saying, "Thank you, Mr. President, for your audacity in reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba."

The President was audacious, indeed, for restoring the diplomacy with Cuba that has produced resumed relations, reopened embassies, prisoner releases, policy reforms and more. After sitting at the center of our Cold War conflict for half the twentieth century, it's hard not to enjoy the emergence of Cuba as a 21st Century staging point for reconciliation.

Not everyone feels this way; consider, for example, the editorial writers at the Washington Post.

On December 17th, 2014, the day President Obama announced the diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba -The Post called it "an undeserved bailout" of the Castro regime.

After just six months, the Post denounced the deal as "one-sided," and took pleasure in the fact that Congress was stopping the appointment of a U.S. Ambassador to Havana. In September, it accused Pope Francis of appeasement for helping to bring America and Cuba together. In October, they slammed the overhaul of U.S. policy for being "one-sided." And last Sunday, they roared again.

Their editorial, Failure in Cuba, declared the opening to Cuba was "failing to live up to its declared goals." After concluding that nothing positive has materialized, "the president's only response," they say, "has been more unilateral concessions."

In the Post's parallel universe, diplomacy has accomplished nothing. To be sure, Cuba has not unilaterally dismantled its system in the last year, just as it didn't for more than fifty years under the old policy. But that's the wrong metric.

In his well-argued piece, Inconsistent Impatience on Cuba, Paul Pillar pillages the Post for its way-stale argument giving the administration a single year to do what decades of the failed policy could not.

"Evidently half a century," Pillar writes, "through ten different U.S. administrations, is deemed insufficient time to judge whether the policy of isolation can ever achieve any useful results. But the editorial criticizes President Obama's opening for not bringing about a 'sea change in Cuba' during the brief time it has been in effect."

Short of a sea-change, the policy is helping Cubans in visible ways. For example, as Engage Cuba pointed out last week, "Before December 17, 2014...there were zero Wi-Fi hotspots outside of hotels and zero in the homes of Cubans. At the end of 2015, there were 65 Wi-Fi hotspots, and the Cuban government has announced it will add 80 more during 2016.

It's not just hotspots, but also progress propelled by painstaking diplomacy - on commerce, criminal justice and fugitives, migration and fraud - with more left to be done.

Rather than rolling the policy back, as several prominent candidates for the U.S. presidency would have us do, or stand and wait until a new Congress is elected capable of dealing with Cuba policy legislation (talk about a parallel universe), we enjoy the elan of President Francois Hollande, who recently called for President Obama to "go all the way (how French)," and end the embargo himself.

Now, the President's authority probably doesn't really extend that far. But, as Bill LeoGrande explained in Foreign Policy last week, there's much that he can do with the power he's got within the time he's got left in his term. LeoGrande proposed presidential actions to lift bans on U.S. investments, allow Cuban imports into the U.S., free individuals to make non-tourist trips to Cuba, and change the enforcement of existing regulations so U.S. banks embrace the idea of commerce with Cuba, rather than thwarting it in fear of being fined.

The choice seems pretty clear; rather than returning the policy to the Post's parallel universe, join the Pope, the Patriarch, President Santos and the FARC on the more promising path toward progress and peace.