Afghanistan, Cuba, China, Venezuela and President Biden

Photo by Stacey Gabrielle Koenitz Rozells on

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.

Afghanistan. Now Cuba

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Mr Biden, you got us out of Afghanistan. It took courage and determination but you got it done.

Thank you. And you are right. History will show you made the right decision.

It is very hard to make smooth transitions under any circumstances, and Afghanistan was a rough one from the start.

Critics of your choice abounded, and they relished what they saw as a chance to diminish you but in the end diminished themselves.

So we now turn that page and open this next one, Cuba.

We can’t rely on the old tactic of the embargo. That won’t do. It hasn’t worked.

Whereas in Afghanistan there were many calculations to make, Cuba is markedly different.

What we need is to lift the embargo. That is it.

Will lifting the embargo prolong the life of the dictatorial elite? Maybe. But lifting the embargo will more likely be a greater bonus for the people of Cuba, who will then be better prepared to eventually do away with that cruel and oppressive regime.

The Cuban system is destined to crumble from within, not from externally imposed sanctions.

No protest in Cuba has a chance to overthrow the regime because it stands well armed by China or Russia or both, and will not hesitate to fire upon fellow Cubans to crush whatever menace is on the rise.

Lifting the embargo, on the other hand, offers the chance of broadening and deepening the productive capacity and initiative of the Cuban people, and then they will come up with the ideas and the timing to oust the government.

Please think of the image you will be projecting to the rest of South America and the world. ‘We will not stand in the way of men and women seeking their freedom.’

Holding on to the embargo has only brought misery to the people.

You have the unique chance of following the success of Afghanistan with the opportunity to enlarge the lives of all Cubans and by extension the lives of other men and women in the world.

Yesterday, I read that Mikhail Gorbachev is now 90 years old. A play has opened in Moscow to celebrate his life. It’s a two person play, Gorbachev and his wife Raisa. I had the great pleasure of seeing him and even asking him a question at a forum in downtown Los Angeles shortly after being replaced by Boris Yeltsin in 1991.

Recently, he attended a rehearsal of the play in his honor and at the end stood up to an ovation. The article said he had nothing to add to the play. The only thing he said was, ‘It’s all about freedom.’

To Gorbachev alone belongs the enormous distinction of having broken up the Soviet Union.

Cuba, Mr Biden, offers you a wonderful opportunity to enlighten the minds of men and women throughout the world.

In the same way that you freed us from the onerous burden of Afghanistan, you have the unique opportunity to say to the Cuban people, ‘Let not an embargo stand in your way, take from free markets what you must, find your strength in the power of ideas, and fight to gain your freedom. We Americans will be rooting for you.’

Oscar Valdes.