We witnessed history last week when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Cuba- the first time a sitting president had visited in 90 years. This trip marked a new era in U.S. relations with not only Cuba, but the region. Despite resistance from Republicans, the current administration has proved that through effective diplomacy, our country can reach a better future in Latin America.
The American people must not underestimate how this historic move has strengthened our foreign policy. The U.S. needs to continue normalizing relations in order to best represent our American values abroad. As a combat veteran, I witnessed first hand how diplomacy works in the Middle East. Effective diplomacy helped build a coalition with more than fifty countries against ISIS and reached a historic Nuclear Deal with Iran that prevented further destabilization. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for the next President to continue U.S. engagement with Cuba.
Outdated foreign policy approaches are no longer securing our national security interests nor do they reflect our values as a country. We must realize that continuing a closed relationship with Cuba is counterproductive and contradictory to our foreign policy. If we can be allied with so many countries around the world, we can definitely invest our time in normalizing relations with our neighbor, Cuba.
An open relationship with Cuba will economically help both Americans and Cubans. It will help Havana participate in free markets, boost tourism, expand small businesses and encourage Cuba to modernize its technology. In order to keep up the momentum with Cuba, the next administration must continue to support the lifting of the economic embargo and prove to Congress that removing the embargo will expand better opportunities in trade, tourism, agricultural, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications. Also, this will increase people to people contact, which will enhance the flow of information and will lead to better relationships between Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States.
In terms of U.S. national security, a better relationship between both countries only makes the American people safer. The current administration is not looking to Americanize Cuba, but rather coexist peacefully and work together to cohesively address regional threats. Cuba, already under review to be taken off of the state sponsored list can help facilitate our fight against global threats like ISIS. More engagement with Cubans will help prevent potential recruitment of foreign fighters and sympathizers.
A relationship with Cuba could also better assist our country with public health in post natural disasters zones. Cuba has one of the best public health care systems in the region. Our medical research can now be improved through the possibility of medical exchanges with Cuban health practitioners. Additionally, a normalized relationship between our two countries can prevent issues like what happened after Hurricane Katrina when Cuba offered medical assistance free of charge, but the Bush administration rejected the assistance due to the lack of diplomatic relations.
Our choice during the 2016 U.S Presidential election is vital to continuing this relationship. Our country needs a candidate that deeply understands the importance of a policy of engagement with Cuba and stands firm for a strong forward thinking policy with our neighbor. We cannot continue a failed disengagement policy with Cuba that has achieved nothing overtime.
I believe Secretary Hillary Clinton is the best suited to do the job. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton supported the restoration of relations with Cuba and mentioned to President Obama that the 54 year old old trade embargo had achieved nothing. On the campaign trail, Secretary Clinton has laid out a thorough plan to move forward with Cuba. During her speech at the 2015 National Urban League Conference in Florida, Secretary Clinton was the first Presidential candidate to express her support for lifting the trade embargo. She also said that if Congress failed to act, she would use her executive authority to lift the embargo if she became President. Our country needs a 45th President who will continue advocating for open relations with Cuba and Hillary Clinton is the person to do that. This why she has my vote for U.S. President.
Asha C. Castleberry is a U.S. National Security expert & U.S. Army Veteran. She is a global fellow at the Project on the Study of the 21st Century and defense council member at the Truman National Security Project.
Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own