Getting out of Afghanistan was a hard choice to make. It was painful.
Twenty years we stayed there and many relationships were formed. But we had to pull out. It was time to redirect our efforts elsewhere, including doing much needed work here at home.
The pain will take time to heal.
A parade of critics have decried president Biden’s decision, complaining bitterly as the pullout took place and then after. And yes, it was messy, but that was hard to avoid. Meanwhile, the president will continue to do whatever he can to assist those left behind and wanting to get out.
We made mistakes in Afghanistan. For one, our effort there was steadily undermined by Pakistan who did not hesitate to give shelter to the Taliban while calling themselves our allies.
And then, we did not make it a high priority to insist with the Afghans themselves, from the outset, that we had not gone to their land to stay. We did not make it a high priority to insist that, sooner or later, we would be leaving, and it would be up to them to put up the fight to defend their land.
That’s not to say that there are not thousands of courageous and talented Afghans, men and women, who did the best they could to stand up for their country against the Taliban.
The struggle for the soul of Afghanistan continues but, for now, the Taliban have gained the upper hand.
Turning to our hemisphere and immediately south of us, there is Cuba. For the longest time we have avoided making an important decision there as well. It is time we did so.
We have had an economic embargo on Cuba for 60 years. Has it worked?
I suppose some can say, ‘we won, just look at how impoverished Cuba is?’ But I ask you, What kind of victory is that, to help run a country into poverty?
The poverty they sank into is not directly our fault because the government they have tolerated strangled personal freedom and private economic initiative, but the embargo didn’t help either.
But what was it about Cuba that made us be so inflexible? I mean, to stick to a policy that has not worked for 60 years is simply atrocious political thinking.
Was it because Cuba is so physically close to us, or because there are Cuban refugees in Florida with outsized influence in our foreign policy? Not that such influence has ever helped a democratic administration. Florida gave the presidency to Bush over Al Gore in 2000 and the likelihood is that, under a Gore presidency, 9/11 may not have happened, and even if it had, Gore would not have made the horrible decision to invade Iraq in 2003 claiming they had weapons of mass destruction, a choice made with insufficient evidence and defying reality. How could it be that a third world country like Iraq, would have weapons of mass destruction capable of threatening us? It is not that we didn’t have satellite imagery to monitor them. And yet we ignored the most basic facts. The poor judgement was plain to a multitude of Americans. I remember standing in a park with a lit candle in my hand as I joined in protest of the anticipated invasion. And demonstrations as such sprang up all over the nation. But the war mongers prevailed. Imagine all the lives spared if we had been more prudent?
So, no, the state of Florida has contributed nothing to elect democratic administrations and the likelihood is that, even if Pope Francis, Mr Biden’s friend, were to recommend him for sainthood, Florida would still vote Republican this next election and the next 10 subsequent ones also. Just like Texas with their love of guns and anti abortion sentiment and restrictive voting laws.
So, Mr Biden, never mind the votes, what’s important here is to do the right thing, just like you did in Afghanistan.
We embraced China, didn’t we? We said, let’s do business and let’s see how we both benefit. And we have. Even if now that country is choosing to further strangle political freedoms for their citizens while challenging us politically on the global stage.
But the Chinese have risen out of poverty.
Cuba, meantime, is stuck in it.
And just south of it, in Venezuela, a bankrupt political system under heavy Cuban influence is spreading misery everywhere.
Venezuela used to be a powerhouse in the oil industry. But their leaders managed to destroy that, too.
Cuba’s leadership has played a heavy hand in all those failed decisions.
But if you chose to lift the embargo on Cuba, Mr Biden, is it not possible that economic improvements would follow, in both nations?
Never mind political success. Leave that to the Cubans and Venezuelans.
Focus only on the economic benefits.
If you were to lift the embargo, Cubans, and then Venezuelans, would see their standard of living rise because they would likely be freer to take the initiative to do business and improve their lives.
And if they chose to stay communist or socialist, who cares, but they wouldn’t be poor and their suffering would be lessened.
We’re all well aware that people and nations can only be influenced up to a point.
Take the Chinese. Even after their outstanding economic success, they are still willing to let Xi Jinping run their lives, now even telling them how many hours of video games a week their children should play.
We keep hoping that one day the Chinese people will tell chairman Xi Jinping to go to hell, but in the meantime, the irrefutable fact is that they are becoming richer and richer.
Wouldn’t it be well worth it, Mr Biden, to give a chance to Cubans and Venezuelans to do the same by lifting the embargo?
You’re a risk taker.
You took a chance in Afghanistan.
Now it is Cuba’s turn.
Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net