11/09/2006 07:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Wipe Out: UN Vote on US-Cuba Embargo

It was a wipe out.

Not the 2006 election, although that was quite a "thumping" (just ask Don Rumsfeld).

It was the vote on the U.S. embargo at the United Nations on Wednesday. By a 184-4 margin, the United Nations General Assembly condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba and urged that it be ended as soon as possible.

Sure three stalwart allies - Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Israel - voted with us. But we lost everyone else. Our allies in NATO and the European Union voted against us. Africa, led by South Africa, voted against us. China and India and Indonesia voted and spoke against us. We even lost our hemisphere, two to one, with Canada and Mexico supporting Cuba and opposing us.

This is the fifteenth consecutive year the United Nations has rebuked our country for the embargo, and it is a rather strong reminder that our policy of isolating Cuba, economically and diplomatically, is both a failure and a farce.

The embargo is an attack on core American liberties, like our freedom to travel and to associate with whom we want. It damages U.S economic interests by preventing our manufacturers, workers, and services from finding customers on the island. As the U.N. vote makes clear, it harms our image internationally (at precisely the time we need more friends, not less). And it leaves America isolated, especially now, when there is a transition occurring in Cuba as the island prepares for life after Fidel Castro.

Call it "pulling a Rumsfeld." After a lopsided loss like this, we need to fire the embargo and try something else.

The new Congress should transform how we engage with Cuba from isolation to engagement. Americans should be free to travel legally to Cuba, to expand U.S. trade with Cuba, and to serve as goodwill ambassadors for our nation's ideas and ideals.

These changes will help us get a fresh start in Cuba and get a better hearing around the world. Both are long overdue.

Sarah Stephens is Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas which runs the Freedom to Travel Campaign.