The Arizona congressman's Saturday op-ed—co-written* with Chuck Rangel!—deserves a little more attention.
The administration should begin by ending its insistence that it will respond only to Cuba's complete conversion to democracy and free markets. Cubans surely would welcome incremental reforms that improve living standards, not to mention economic and political freedom. The administration's all-or-nothing posture is divorced from the reality on which our approaches to North Korea, China, Vietnam and other communist countries are based. It is a formula for irrelevance.
We should unite around a principle that Democrats and Republicans have long embraced, a principle that aided the West's success in the Cold War: American openness is a source of strength, not a concession to dictatorships.
It is time to permit free travel to Cuba, as provided in legislation we have introduced. Open travel would create a "free flow of ideas" that "would promote democratization," as dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe wrote shortly after his release from prison in 2004. It would also bring humanitarian benefits to Cubans as family visits increase and travelers boost Cuba's small but vital entrepreneurial sector.
Flake and Rangel think Raul Castro is, to paraphrase Thatcher, a man we can do business with—he's less competent and authoritarian than Fidel, and will want to leave a legacy of his own. Just a theory, but a more pleasant one than Mitt Romney's: that the Castro brothers can only be killed with silver bullets.
Glenn Garvin reviewed the life of Fidel's American propagandist in the February issue of Reason.
*Yes, I know how congresspeople "write" things. Big up to communication directors.