The historical hatchet between the United States and Cuba has been at last buried with President Barack Obama’s poignant and thoughtful statement on Washington’s new Cuba policy. It’s a landmark development, naturally, in international relations not just between these two hitherto sworn enemies, but also at a wider level, ushering in an era of American pragmatism, and may be, just may be, putting the two-and-a-half-century-long period of American exceptionalism to rest.
Eighteen months of backchannel diplomacy between President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, egged on by the clever Argentine Pope Francis, culminated when after a 45-minute telephonic conversation, Obama addressed the USA proclaiming the new dawn in Washington-Havana relationship. As the fifty-three years of embargo began to crumble, and as opinion pages of American media alternately cheer-led and lampooned Obama’s gumption, questions came tumbling out of the foreign policy closet. In the face of it, this is a watershed in US-Cuba relationship, with trade and travel restriction now lifted. Surely, that would propel Cuba to greater economic prosperity, with a number of American companies, particularly the technology giants, looking forward to invest in the island country and ‘bring it out of 20th century’. In addition, Cuba will become a veritable holiday destination for many Americans, hitherto forbidden from visiting the country, even though some of them have their parent families in the neighbouring isle.
The end of isolationism vis-à-vis Cuba, however, is a part of a wider net of rebooting relations with erstwhile countries that the US had dubbed ‘rogue states.’ Nuclear talks with Iran are an indication towards this new middle-of-the-road thrust in American foreign policy. However, with the US House of Congress coming fully under Republican grasp from January 2015 onwards, and the House of Senate running low on Democrats’ viability quotient, only ruckus and obstructionism will be the order of the day. With Republican Senator and a prominent presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, himself a Cuban American, bluntly vowing to block the move in US legislatures, President Obama cannot expect to have an easy ride. Is this a coup de grace that Obama has struck himself with for a finer shot at history?