Jimmy Carter is an exemplary ex-president. He beats the rest of his counterparts hands down. He is in a "league of his own."
The most recent confirmation of this fact was his March 28-31 visit to Cuba where he called for lifting the nearly 51-year-old blockade against Cuba (along with freedom for the Cuban 5 - more about that in another column). I hope that the Obama administration and a majority in Congress will heed his advice.
The blockade, put in place in October 1960, never should have been imposed on the young socialist state in the first place. There was no good reason then and there is even less reason now. A half-century has passed and regime change is still a fool's errand; the Cold War has wound down; and relations with other socialist states like China and Vietnam have been normalized.
Moreover, there is no widespread hue and cry among the American people to continue the blockade. To be sure, sections of the Cuban American community and other right-wing elements are rabid in their support of it, but is their opposition enough to sustain a 50-year economic embargo? I don't think so.
The explanation must lie in support for the blockade by sections of the ruling class and foreign policy establishment. Evidently some in these circles still can't stomach the fact that the Cuban people led by Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and other Cuban patriots had the temerity to make a socialist revolution that is still unfolding 90 miles from our shores.
Some in U.S. corporate and foreign policy circles still consider Cuba and the rest of Latin America "our backyard."
The election of Barack Obama and his expressed desire to reconfigure U.S.-Latin America relations offered hope that a change in our policy towards Cuba was in the making. But it hasn't yet occurred. Some initiatives have been taken by the administration, but they have been minor.
There has been no hint of any major overhaul of U.S.-Cuba relations, including the lifting of the blockade.
And, I'm afraid, that will remain the case as long as this administration, like earlier ones, insists on internal political changes in Cuba as the price that the Cuban government has to pay for the blockade to be lifted and relations normalized.
If this hasn't worked for 50 years why would anyone think that it will work now or in the future? Don't our policymakers know from experience that the Cubans won't yield to pressure, won't bargain away their independence and choice of social systems?
The Cubans make no such demands on us and we should make no such demands on them.
The Cuban people and their compatriots in the global South want a new political and economic order - free from U.S. dominance, blockades, sanctions and boycotts. They insist, rightly so, on equality and normalized relations. The sooner the foreign policy establishment and the Obama administration understand this and act accordingly, the sooner export trade (which equals jobs), the sale of farm products, and other forms of interaction between the two countries can begin.
In the spirit of Jimmy Carter - Lift the blockade! Normalize relations with Cuba!