Historically, American military engagements are seen as much as a symbolic act of principle as an assertive demonstration of superiority and force. There’s a “why” behind the rationale to engage in certain conflicts that theoretically justify the destruction and loss of life involved. Certain world actors represent such a stain on the American vision of what is absolutely right that it would be more morally egregious to let them continue and thus give tacit consent to their behavior than to risk the health and wealth of the nation in destroying them.
This rationale, though, is an extreme, and one that clashes with the idea of personal sovereignty, which is very much the cornerstone of America’s moral foundation. Yet, is difficult to find any common ground between competing views of morality when they are viewed through the lens of absolutism.
This does not mean the United States should apologize for its strong vision. To the contrary, it must pursue its moral ideology in all the actions it does, because to do otherwise would be to reveal a hollowness in American government that is damaging to political efficacy at home and abroad. To retain its credibility as the pre-eminent world power, the United States must abide by a policy of moral rationalism; it must believe its course of action is moral, (otherwise why pursue it?) and prove this through a consistent application of principles in action regardless of whether the actor with whom it is dealing is a citizen, state government or foreign diplomat.
But this is not an excuse for browbeating other actors on the stage of international politics into submitting to its worldview. To the contrary, if American moralism is to do any good, other nations must come to either agree or disagree of their own volition. Thus, all actors become principled and global politics is strengthened. This, however, means relying on other methods than the use of force to advance an ideology.
This means upholding trade embargoes and refusing to enter into diplomatic relationships with regimes that violate U.S. principles. Such an approach allows the U.S. to maintain its moral superiority without violating the sovereignty of other actors whose outlook might be different.
It would, therefore, behoove Donald Trump, if he truly wishes to restore American greatness, to fulfill his campaign promise of reversing the Obama administration’s softening towards Cuba.
Former President Obama, along with other world leaders, including Pope Francis, believed that appeasing the brutal dictatorial Cuban regime by treating it with a level of deference and respect other leading nations received would persuade the nation to abandon some of its barbaric policies. But the attention given to Cuba has only emboldened its atrocious behavior. It taught the government that its gross human rights abuses can go unpunished; the death of Fidel Castro saw yet another episode of the nation cracking down on dissidents.
On the campaign trail, Trump noted that Obama’s Cuba policy was done through executive action, meaning it could be undone in the same manner.
If he really wants to prove to the world his seriousness and mettle as a leader, Trump should act as soon as possible to undo the disgraceful actions of Obama. And he should not re-implement economic sanctions in phases, as his administration has suggested it might do, in order to protect trade interests.
The president has had no qualms about threatening Western nations such as Canada and Germany over what he terms “unfair” trade practices; to show any hesitancy on the grounds of damaging economic relations between the U.S. and Cuba is not only hypocritical but morally repugnant.