The 21st century is wasting no time in letting the U.S. know we don't run things anymore, in case there is anyone left who thought we did. From Tunisia to Oman everyday people are rising up, in almost every case against governments with whom we were friendly or whom, in the case of Egypt, we heavily supported financially.
These lessons work both ways. We are about to get a really profound lesson from a government we have opposed for fifty years: Cuba. Future students of American history will be scratching their heads about this case for decades to come. Our embargo and refusal to normalize diplomatic relations has nothing to do with communism. Otherwise, we wouldn't have had diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War, with China since Nixon, and with Vietnam despite our bitter war there.
No, Cuba was pure politics. Though it started out to be a measure of an administration's resistance to Castro's politics, it very soon became a straight-jacket whereby first-generation Cuban-Americans wielded inordinate political power over both parties and constructed a veto over rational, mature diplomacy.
That is about to end. And wouldn't you know it is ending because of... oil. In an important report a few days ago, the Center for Democracy in the Americas documented major oil exploration and production plans off Cuba's northwest coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Guess who is helping develop this major project? China. It is building a state of the art drilling rig, according to Italian design and paid for by the Spanish state oil company (welcome to globalization), which will then be towed 10,000 miles to Cuban territorial waters.
Because of our Neanderthal policy toward Cuba, the U.S. will neither profit from the production nor will it be in a position to apply its post-BP experience to make the exploration environmentally safe -- though it is 50 miles from Florida's coastline. This is both sad and embarrassing.
Second generation Cuban-Americans are finally beginning to change their community's attitudes and make it clear they no longer are interested in holding the mighty U.S.'s foreign policy toward a tiny nearby country hostage to their parents' anger.
Everyday people in North Africa and the Middle East are taking control of their own destiny, largely without our help. Maybe this new generation of Cuban-Americans will do the same to straighten out one of the U.S.'s strangest foreign policy detours in its history.
Even so, why does it always have to be about oil?
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