With Cuba, Trump is suddenly all about human rights

Trump’s limited reversal of Obama’s opening to Cuba is political theater for domestic consumption. It will not achieve what U.S. sanctions against Cuba failed to achieve in the past five decades.

President Donald Trump is right in that the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba has failed to produce any human-rights or democratic changes on the island, but I’m afraid that Trump’s plan to partially reverse the current U.S. policy will make things worse.

Trump’s partial reversal of Obama’s opening to Cuba impacts U.S. companies doing business with companies affiliated with the Cuban military and U.S. tourism to the island. Trump will not close the U.S. embassy in Havana, which Obama re-established in 2015.

But the trouble with that hodgepodge of measures is that even if they don’t end up doing much economic damage to the Cuban dictatorship, they will give Cuba new ammunition to proclaim itself a victim of “U.S. aggression.” They will also give the Cuban regime a new excuse to postpone democratic changes even beyond the end of 86-year-old Cuban President Raul Castro’s term in February 2018.

Unfortunately, Obama’s opening to Cuba and Trump’s partial reversal of those policies were motivated by domestic politics.

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In Obama’s case, he was approaching the end of his two terms in office without any major foreign-policy victory. Despite his many domestic achievements, he had failed to bring peace to the Middle East and couldn’t stop the Russian invasion of Crimea nor the civil war in Syria. He needed a quick and easy foreign-policy victory.

Polls showed that most Americans — even many Miami exiles — agreed that the U.S. embargo on Cuba was outdated. It was a win-win for the former president: Like Richard Nixon opened China, Obama opened Cuba.

Trump’s case is no different. Almost everything he has done proves that he doesn’t give a damn…

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