American Unilateral Foreign Policy towards Cuba

AmericanUnilateral Foreign Policy towards Cuba


Theunilateral foreign policy adopted by the United States towards thestate of Cuba was necessitated by Cuba’s support for terrorism,totalitarianism, and violation of human rights. Although theseperceptions were perceived during the Cold War, the United Statesstill believe that Cuba is a totalitarian state, a greater supporterof terrorism, and a violator of human rights. This is the majorreason for the extension of the embargo during the leadership ofPresident George W. Bush. The government of the United States blamesthe prison and legal system used by the government of Cuba to oppresscitizens and political prisoners. Although the United States, beingpart of the international community, had the responsibility to helpCuba adopt a democratic leadership style, the use of preemptivemeasures (such as strict embargoes) depicts America as a neo-imperialstate. Therefore, the U.S. has valid reasons to uphold the unilateralforeign policy, it has been using the wrong approach to help Cubaadopt democracy, respect human rights, and eschew terrorism.

Keywords: Unilateral foreign policy, international community, preemptivemeasures, totalitarianism.

AmericanUnilateral Foreign Policy towards Cuba

Foreignpolicy is a significant tool that nations use to determine andexpress their relationship with other countries. Similarly, the U.S.foreign policy towards the island of Cuba gives more informationabout how the United States views Cuba and its leadership. Therelationship between the two countries deteriorated following theCuban revolution of 1959 and confrontations continued even after theCold War (Ryan &amp Glarum, 2011). Over the years, the United Stateshave been accusing the leadership of Cuba of failing to facilitatedemocratic transition, establishment of the legal system that protecthuman rights, and supporting terrorist groups. The foreign policyadopted by President George W. Bush gives a clear illustration of theunilateral relationship between Cuba and the United States. Bushadvocated for unilateralism and the use pre-emptive measures to forcethe leadership of Cuba to facilitate the transition towardsdemocratic governance. This paper will focus on a critical analysisof factors that contributed towards the establishment of the U.S.unilateral foreign policy towards Cuba and the impact of foreignpolicy measures adopted by President George W. Bush on relationshipbetween the two nations. Although the use of preemptive measures,imposition of an embargo, and the use of force to bring democracy inCuba were calculated measures, they depicted the United States as arevisionist and a neo-imperial state.

Factorsthat contributed towards the unilateral foreign policy towards Cuba

Cuba’ssupport for terrorism and terror groups

TheUnited States have held and strongly believe that Cuba is among themajor supporters of terrorism in the world for several decades. Thisperception was first conceived during the Cold War, and some peoplein the U.S. (including the top leaders) still believe that Cuba hasremained a pro-terror country, even after the end of the Cold War.For example, the Police Department in Miami accused the Cuban exilesof the fifty bombings that occurred in the city during the Cold War(Morley, 2001). This implies that, although some Cubans weredissatisfied with the economic, as well as the political conditionsin their home country, they still held the support of Fidel Castroand were willing to support the regime inside and outside theirhomeland.

Americans’perception that Cuba was in partnership with the terrorist groupscontinued even under the leadership of President Bush. In early 2000,the United States accused the president of Cuba, Castro ofcollaborating with Iraq’s President, Saddam Hussein, in developingbiological weapons. For example, the U.S. government was stronglyconvinced that Cuba had assisted Saddam in developing a new strain ofthe lethal virus known as the West Nile that resulted in a uniqueoutbreak in New York starting from the year 2000 (Ryan &amp Glarum,2011). The West Nile virus was identified as Saddam’s last weaponthat had been developed in laboratories located outside Iraq. Thereare two major factors that made President George W. Bush and hispreceding President suspect that the virus was developed in Cuba anduse this perception to foster a unilateral foreign policy between theU.S. and Cuba. First, Cuba was the only country located close toAmerican and had a negative perception towards the American foreignpolicy (Betancourt, 2014). Secondly, Cuba had established genetic andbioengineering industries that were not subject to the U.N.inspection. Therefore, it has been reasonable to believe that Cuba isa significant threat to the security of the United States.

Theexistence of the totalitarian leadership

TheUnited States has been a pace setter in the aspect of democraticgovernance, which makes it difficult for the country to establishbilateral or multilateral foreign policies with regimes that suppressdemocracy. In this regard, the relationship between Cuba and theUnited States has remained unilateral given the fact that Cuba is acommunist country that is governed by a totalitarian regime.President George W. Bush labeled Cuba as a totalitarian state thatwas dominated by one person (Morley, 2001). This denied the citizenof Cuba an opportunity to elect their leaders to represent them inthe government and the right to be protected and secured by the law.In essence, the United States’ government held that the Cuba’sleadership had failed all measures of democracy and establishing astrong relationship with such a country would be mockery of democracyand a betrayal of the oppressed people of Cuba. Although dictatorshipin Cuba was worth the criticism, the obsessive campaign against Cubahad become an issue of concern to the rest of the world, given thatthe United States had failed to devote similar attention to itscomparable abusive friends (Morley, 2001). This explains why the U.S.anti-Cuba campaign has been a source of friction between Washing andthe rest of the world.

Abuseof human rights

Theideas of human rights as well as human rights movements originated inthe United States, which tags the United States as the world classdemocracy that respects the rights of all people. In this regard, therelationship between the United States and governments that has noregard to human rights have been sour. This is the case with therelationship between the Cuba and the United States, where the twocountries have a unilateral association with each other. According toMorley (2001) the presidency of Bush had labeled Cuba as thetotalitarian state where the freedom of assembly, free speech,association, and movement was in existence. The U.S. allegations werelater supported by the Human Rights Watch organization. Thisorganization cleared the world perception the United States hadexaggerated, baseless, and unsubstantiated allegations to brand Cubaas one of the states that uses its resources and governmentstructures to violate human rights against its own citizens (Morley,2001). The support of the U.S. allegations about the repression ofhuman rights in Cuba propagated the single-minded war against theleadership of Cuba, which weakened the relationship between the twocountries in the post-Cold War period.

Thedeteriorating record of Cuba’s human rights record has been a majorpolitical target for the United States. The legal system establishedby Castro’s government repressed the rights of politicians whoopposed the views of the totalitarian president, while the prisonsystem was used a tool to punish political prisoners (Morley, 2001).In addition, the government of the U.S. accused the Castro leadershipof creating a limiting political space that could not allow the humanright movements to flourish. Therefore, failure on the part of theCuban government to observe the rights of its own people has been amajor factor contributing towards the existence of the unilateralrelationship with the United States.

BushII foreign policy and its impact on Cuba-U.S. relationship

Preemptivemeasures: Tightening of the embargo

PresidentW. Bush is one of the U.S. presidents who opposed the use ofcontainment and defensive measures to fight terrorism andtotalitarian regimes in the world. Bush advocated for the use ofpreemptive measures that would result in a direct attack of theenemies of democracy and human rights. According to Gurtov (2006)President Bush declared quite often that the world must take the warclose to the enemy and confront their plans before they materialize.This type of doctrine can be associated the Bush’s decision toadvocate for tighter restrictions, in addition to an embargo that hadbeen put in place by former presidents. The issue of tightrestrictions was an effective tool that Bush used to force thegovernment of Cuba to reevaluate its conduct. Part of Bush’ foreignpolicy was to cut the links between the United States and Cubacompletely through travel restriction that could deter not only theCuba citizens, but also the American citizens from visiting theisland (Perez, 2006). In addition, Bush established inter-agencygroups that would monitor Cuba and formulate policy procedures thatwould result in the installation of a collective leadership in Cuba.

Theprimary intention of the embargo was to suppress the Cuba’s economyby reducing her business transactions with the United States, whichwould in turn force the government to heed to the U.S. pressure forthe establishment of a democratic leadership. Although the use of theembargo was a calculated measure, it increased tension and worsenedthe relationship between Cuba and the United States. This is becauseCuba sought to establish stronger ties with the Arab world that hasbeen a major suspect of terrorism sponsorship for many years (Ryan &ampGlarum, 2011).

Unilateralismand Bush’s vision for a democratic transition in Cuba

Althoughthere are many totalitarian regimes in the world, President Bushforeign policy had a keen focus on Cuba compared to other countries.This is attributed to Bush’s vision for regime change in Cuba,which is one of the totalitarian states located close to the UnitedStates. Consequently, the administration of Bush has been accused ofgetting Fidel Castro out of power (Gurtov, 2006). The direct invasionof a foreign country and initiate the change of regime through theuse of force a clear depiction of what unilateralism can do in themodern world. This resulted in the labeling of Bush’s leadership ashis foreign policy as neo-imperial and revisionist (Gurtov, 2006).Bush’s commitment to force transition in Cuba is confirmed by thedecision to establish institutions (such as the Commission for a FreeCuba) and allocation of funds 80 million dollars to ensure thattotalitarian leadership would not continue following the death ofCastro (Snow, 2006). In essence, the U.S. foreign policy for Cubaduring the Bush presidency was based on the idea that the U.S. viewof democracy was a standard of comparison for other nations. Althoughdemocracy is critical for any free state, the U.S. should havefacilitated, instead of forcing transition in Cuba.

Thenature of the unilateral relationship between U.S. and Cuba

TheU.S. unilateral policy towards Cuba has been motivated by the U.S.believes that imposing trade restrictions with Cuba can change thenature of its domestic leadership approach and other malpractices,such as terrorism. This implies that all decisions pertaining to theformulation of the U.S. Cuba policy are made without regarding thenegative effects they will have on the Cuban economy. For example,Bush’s decision to declare Cuba as the only remaining tyranny wasbased on unproven allegations (such as the production of bio-weaponsin Cuba) by the U.S. political leadership, but there was no othercountry that had made such allegations before (O’Rourke, 2005).This implies that the unilateralism is one-sided, where the U.S.determines the fate of the U.S. -Cuba relationship. This is furtherconfirmed by the fact that the United States did not consult with theCuban relationship, international organizations (such as the UN), orother countries when making significant decisions affecting itsrelationship with Cuba. For example, the U.S. government ignored theUN-resolution made in 2004 to lift the embargo (Kennedy, 2014), whichmeans that the U.S. was not willing to engage multiculturalism or theinternational community in determining its relationship with Cuba.

Indicationsof a multicultural approach

Althoughthe United Stated has expressed no signs of either the bilateral ormultilateral relationship with Cuba since 1959 to near the end ofBush’s the presidency, the resignation of Fidel Castro marked thebeginning of relaxed unilateralism. Although President Bush announcedthat the embargo would remain, the U.S. government expressed itswillingness to support the new Cuban leadership. For example, thedecision by the Bush’s administration to invest $ 85 million tofacilitating the democratic transition indicated the willingness ofthe United States to collaborate with Cuba on condition that theCuban regime embraced the necessary reforms (Snow, 2006). It isevident that Obama’s foreign policy towards Cuba has initiatedmeasures to mend the U.S. relationship with the Island of Cuba. Forexample, Havana Talks held by representatives from Cuba and theUnited States provided the basis for the two countries to establishthe bilateral relationship between them, which will pave way formulticulturalism (Trotta, 2015). Although multiculturalism has notmaterialized, the ongoing talks and the willingness of thegovernments suggest that the diplomatic barriers will be lifted soonand the sour relationship comes to an end.

WhyU.S. uses a different approach towards Cuba

Theworld has many totalitarian countries, but the united States havebeen using a different approach towards Cuba compared to othercountries. For example, the relationship between the U.S. and NorthKorea has only remained fragile, but there are no drastic measurestaken by the U.S. government against the North Korea (Kim, 2015).Instead, the U.S. government has engaged multiculturalism indiscussing the issue of nuclear tests by the government of NorthKorea. The U.S. government has used a different approach becausetowards Cuba because the government of Cuba supports communism asopposed to capitalism that dominated in the U.S. economy. Cubancommunism has had a direct impact on the U.S. economy in the past.For example, Fidel Castro nationalized the U.S. companies that costthe U.S. investors about $ 7 billion (Neyfakh, 2014). This confirmedthe U.S. fear about the potential impact of communism on its economy,thus motivating a unilateralism towards Cuba.


TheUnited States’ foreign policy towards Cuba was based on preemptivemeasures, the use of force to pressure the government of Cuba tofacilitate the transition towards democracy, and the imposition ofthe embargo. Although these measures were intended to help Cubaimplement democratic policies and protect the rights of Cubans, theirimplementation of during the presidency of George W. Bush portrayedthe United States as neo-imperial state. The U.S. raised allegationsthat the government of Cuba was collaborating with terrorist inproduction of bio-weapons (such as the Western virus), violated humanrights, and propagated the totalitarian leaderships. These weresufficient reasons for the U.S. government to adopt a unilateralforeign policy towards the state of Cuba, but the approach that BushII used gave the United States the wrong image. It is important forthe United States, being the world-class democratic state, to helpCuba to adopt democracy. However, the role of the internationalcommunity (including the United States) is to facilitate, but not toforce a transition.


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Gurtov,M. (2006). Superpoweron crusade: the Bush Doctrine in U.S. Foreign Policy.Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

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Perez,A. (2006). Cuba:Between Reform and Revolution (Latin America Histories).Oxford University Press.

Ryan,J. &amp Glarum, J. (2011). Bio-securityand bioterrorism: Containing and preventing biological threats.Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Snow,A. (2006). Cubavows communist succession post-Castro.San Francisco: CBS Interactive Incorporation.