After a sustained effort in clandestine diplomacy, the White House has recognized Cuba. Yet, the Obama administration has failed to explain convincingly why, for Christmas, it has decided to bless a Communist totalitarian dictatorship, second only in ruthlessness to the North Korean satrapy. Nonrecognition was a symbolic policy of our objection to the trampling of the island’s freedom. It was a powerful sign of our refusal to acquiesce in Cuba’s enslavement. True, we had no immediate plans to liberate the nation, but we morally condemned its Red slave masters.
The power of symbols in the policy of nonrecognition was palpable. Despite the fact that most of our allies, notably the EU and Canada, did business with Cuba, America stressed its exceptionalism for over half a century by refusing to treat the totalitarians as normal partners. Nonrecognition gave free Cubans at home and abroad hope that, first, the world’s leading power identified with their plight, and, second, that freedom was a universal norm that the United States would never compromise on. That policy is no more. The current administration has thus abandoned the moral high ground we occupied vis-à-vis the Castro regime following the betrayal of free Cubans at the Bay of Pigs by an earlier Democrat team in 1961.