Just before Christmas, in what was undoubtedly a very slow time for the president, members of his cabinet, and the media (although not particularly slow for Iraq nor even Al Qaeda), the Secretary of State chaired a meeting of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. While it is gratifying to know that the Bush administration isn't intent on bringing democracy only to Muslims, it strikes one as rather bizarre that after over forty years of Fidel Castro's rule, our government still believes that Cuba might fall into our laps at any moment. The State Department issued a press release today outlining what the commission is charged with: coming up with a strategic plan that "will cover the period from when the President determines that a genuine transition government is in place to the date when free and fair elections are held in Cuba. The plan will establish the U.S. Government's goal and objectives for supporting Cuba's transition to democracy, and identify the required assistance, resources, and lead U.S. Government implementing agencies and international partners. The inter-agency working groups will focus on the following areas: democracy and governance; humanitarian assistance; economic growth and infrastructure; and security and the rule of law. The Commission will also develop additional recommendations for helping the Cuban people hasten the day when they will be free."
I hate to rain on Mr. Bush's democracy parade, but I'm afraid this president will not likely be in office to see the day that he will be able to "determine that a genuine transition government is in place" in Cuba. Unless the media has completely ignored a nascent revolution in Havana, I don't recall hearing about any real challenges to Mr. Castro's power. If anything, the popularity of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and the election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia (given a red carpet welcome by Fidel), the ongoing embarrassment that is Guantanamo Bay, and the general loathing of American foreign policy world wide have energized Fidel Castro (and with Venezuela supplying him with oil, kept his economy alive) more than any time since Soviet patronage.
The president could do much better than fantasize about the day he'll be able to proclaim "Mission Accomplished: Havana Edition". If he really wants to see democracy in Cuba, he could end the embargo, for starters. Having failed in its purpose since the days of JFK, no one can argue that lifting it would be any worse for America than leaving it in place. We may not know what changes might happen if the U.S. ended the embargo, but we do know that the current state of affairs is leading nowhere, particularly for the Cuban people.
Of course there is that pesky little detail of Jeb Bush and the Cuban-American vote (and money) in 2008.