Yesterday President Obama said that the U.S. was prepared to change U.S. policies toward Cuba, including the U.S. embargo, if Cuba takes steps to open up to democracy and human rights and releases political prisoners.
This U.S. position is wrong.
First, the U.S. does not have any right to impose such pre-conditions on the mere willingness to begin discussions on addressing the many differences that have arisen between the two countries over the last half century. Moreover, in my opinion, it is contrary to the U.S. national interest to do so.
Second, the minor premise of this U.S. position is erroneous. Cuba in fact already is taking steps to make these changes.
Cuba, pursuant to an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church, has released many political prisoners over the last couple of years. Cuba also is taking steps to open up its economy to more private enterprise. These changes are not happening as fast as many people hope for, but as President Obama has discovered, change is not easy, it takes a lot of work.
Third, Cuba recently reiterated its desire and interest in having normal relations with the U.S. and mentioned specific problems on which the two countries should be able to work together fairly quickly. All the U.S. needs to do is to reciprocate with a stated willingness to start the necessary negotiations.
I have been, and continue to be, a strong supporter of President Obama. But his recent statements about our relations with Cuba are wrong. The U.S. needs to change its policies and approach toward Cuba.
 Reuters, Cuba Must Reform Before U.S. Eases Stance: Obama, N. Y. Times (Sept. 29, 2011); White House Blog, What you Missed: President Obama’s Open for Questions Roundtable (Sept. 28, 2011), http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/28/what-you-missed-president-obamas-open-questions-roundtable.
 See Post: The Ridiculous U.S. Designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor” of Terrorism” (May 20, 2011); Post: U.S. Repeats Its Ridiculous Designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor” of Terrorism” (Aug. 21, 2011); Post: The U.S. Should Pursue Reconciliation with Cuba (May 21, 2011); Post: Commutation and Release of Convicted “Spies”
(Sept. 24, 2011).
 Associated Press, Cuba Seeks Normalization With US, N.Y. Times (Sept. 26, 2011); Archibold, Cuban Minister Leaves a Door Open to American’s Release, N.Y. Times (Sept. 26, 2011); Post: Roots of Hope for U.S.-Cuba Relations (Sept. 27, 2011).