Morality and Foreign Policy

MORALITY AND FOREIGN POLICY….Tacitus, commenting on Howard Dean’s policy changes, says that maintaining the American embargo on Cuba is a “moral litmus test of American foreign policy.” I’ve got a couple of questions about that.

First, which regime would you consider more odious, Cuba’s or China’s? Cuba’s or Saudi Arabia’s? Cuba’s or Vietnam’s? Should we have trade embargoes with all those other countries, or just with Cuba? Why?

Second, does the actual effect of a policy make any difference at all? Not only has the embargo against Cuba been rather obviously unsuccessful, there’s considerable evidence that it’s actually helped Castro stay in power.

Foreign policy should have a moral component. Unfortunately, post-9/11 conservatives have developed the idea that U.S. foreign policy should be based solely on a moral component, with the result, I suppose, that eventually our entire foreign policy will be as dysfunctional and contrary to American interests as our Cuba policy is today.

Even JFK admitted that the rest of the world found our Cuba obsession “slightly demented,” and the rest of the world was right. The world does not exist on a unidimensional moral line, and after 40+ years it’s time to try something different, something that might actually work and might actually improve the lives of Cubans. That’s the moral thing to do.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation