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Flip Flopping on Cuba: Time To End Antiquated Cold War Embargo

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In politics, once you take a stand on an issue, you better have a good reason to change your mind.

Take the Cuban embargo, which was implemented during the early 1960s during the Cold War, which the West won by the end of the 1980s.

Florida politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, for years have supported without hesitation the embargo, and policies like wet foot, dry foot that allows Cubans who escape the island to be allowed to pursue residency a year after they set foot in the U.S. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now running for that office again, was certainly one of those pols.

So when he announced last week on "Real Time with Bill Maher" that he now believes, like most Floridians and even members of the South Florida Cuban community, that relations should be normalized, he was attacked by his opponents as hypocritical.
The Miami Herald headline read: "Charlie Crist flip-flops on U.S. embargo against Cuba."

He certainly has changed his tune on Cuba. In 2006, when running as a Republican against Democrat Jim Davis, he said: "I understand that it's important not to go to Cuba when she's under the dictatorship, but unfortunately the man I'm running against doesn't understand that,"

He said that while campaigning in Miami's Little Havana in October 2006. "But I know that you do."

When running for Senate in 2010, Crist also stated: "I think the current policy in place is responsible. I do support the embargo, and I think that what the current administration has done by allowing families to visit (Cuba) is compassionate."

Now, running as a Democrat, he told Maher, "I mean the embargo has been there -- what -- 50 years now? I don't think it worked. It is obvious to me that we need to move forward and I think get the embargo taken away. Really. I believe that."
On this issue, Crist is right -- and entitled to change his mind.

After more than 50 years, the U.S. continues to ban trade and not allow any goods or services to be imported or exported, except now for humanitarian purposes.

Despite decades of such economic pressure, the Castro regime remains in power.

Think about it. Iran stands as the greatest threat to U.S. national security interests in 2014 much like Cuba and the Soviet Union did in 1960, and the last few administrations never considered an embargo against a hostile nation that appears to be developing nuclear weapons. Instead, we have imposed lesser sanctions, and then negotiated them away rather easily.

China is a totalitarian government. Imagine if we treat China the way we do Cuba. Our economy would collapse.

What's also concerning is that China -- our biggest trading partner -- is making a threatening play for influence in Cuba, partly because we have so little leverage over an island 90 miles from Key West.

So Crist is not the hypocrite. What's hypocritical is a failed U.S. foreign policy that remains in place not because it is effective, but primarily because it placates a politically powerful community of exiles.

Now it's time for a change as younger Cuban-Americans express disdain for the policy.
Americans need to learn from our successes.

It was not only our military dominance, but Western culture - rock music, blue jeans, Hollywood, free speech -- that drove the Eastern Bloc away from Russian domination.
And to some extent, 30 years later we are succeeding in moving former Communist enemies like North Vietnam and even China toward a free market economy and democratic governance through similar cultural exchanges.

Charlie is right to change his mind. The time is right for flip-flop diplomacy with Cuba. Let's flood the island with Cuban exiles, Florida businesses and American tourists toting iPads, smart phones and lots of cash.

This article was published in Context Florida on February 19, 2014

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly's Kommentary (stevenkurlander.com) and writes for Context Florida and The Huffington Post and can be found on Twitter @Kurlykomments. He lives in Monticello, N.Y.