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Cuba is irrelevant

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By John Barnhart

    President Barack Obama has already taken all the reasonable steps he could to be nice to Cuba.

    President Obama reached out to the Cuban government by lifting the Bush administration restrictions on the ability Americans, with relatives in Cuba, to send money to family members there and visit them. He also opened the door for American telecommunications companies to do business there. This, of course, depends on the Cuban government allowing it.

    It was then up to the Cuban government to respond and, at first, it appeared that the response would be positive. Raúl Castro, Fidel’s brother, stated a willingness to discuss everything, including human rights, political prisoners and freedom of the press. That didn’t last long. Shortly after, Fidel Castro wrote a rant in which he showed little brother who is still boss and rebuffed President Obama’s friendly gesture.

    Fidel Castro is why our trade embargo on Cuba exists. It started with a reduction in import quotas for Cuban sugar in 1960. This was imposed by President Dwight Eisenhower in response to Castro’s expropriation of American owned property. The quota reduction didn’t take place until two years after Castro came to power.

    The trade embargo was imposed by President John Kennedy, and with good reason. His response to the actions of Castro’s government was not a case of exploiting fear of Communism for his own purposes. I’m sure a number of you recall the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Castro chose to host Soviet intermediate range ballistic missiles aimed at us. I was in elementary school at the time and old enough to pay attention to the news.

    Today, Cuba’s government remains one of the most repressive governments in the world. It’s the  Marxist policies of the Cuban government, not the trade embargo, that stifles Cuba’s economy, so lifting the  embargo will be of little benefit to the average Cuban. Furthermore, normal relations with the Castro brother’s nasty little government has little to offer us beyond cigars and sugar. President Obama need not waste any political capital trying to lift the embargo. Eventually, Fidel will die and go to .... well, eventually Fidel will die and, then, our president can look into a new relationship with Cuba.

    Right now, President Obama has a full plate piled high with foreign policy issues that are highly relevant. For example, Pakistan continues to make a resolution of the Taliban problem in Afghanistan impossible by harboring these fun-loving fellows in its mountainous border with Afghanistan.

    An armed force holed up in mountainous terrain and willing to fight to the death can present a severe challenge to an attacking force. The attackers will have a very difficult time driving them out, even if the attackers are vastly superior in both numbers and armament.

    Pakistan’s military has not done well against  the Taliban, although this is not necessarily a testimony to the Taliban’s toughness or the willingness of most of its fighters to be martyrs for Allah. A lack of competence on the part of Pakistan’s armed forces may be a factor. Another factor may be that Pakistan’s armed forces aren’t particularly interested in fighting them. The leaders of Pakistan’s armed forces seem more worried about India — 80 percent of Pakistan’s army is on their border with that country — than the real menace that armed Islamic extremists pose.

    The situation in Afghanistan, North Korea’s nukes, Iran’s drive to acquire nukes, and our relations with Russia and China are the foreign policy issues that are truly meaningful to us today. These are the areas that require President Obama’s attention.

    The Castro brothers’ regime is simply an ugly little relic from a bygone era. Cuba, today, is irrelevant.