The House of Cards ‘End the Cuban Embargo’ argument

Over the years, I have participated in more discussions with detractors of U.S. sanctions on Cuba than I care to mention. Some of those discussions were spirited, some were surprisingly amicable, while others were downright contentious. However, all of the arguments in favor of lifting sanctions offered to me over the years have all failed miserably, falling prey to the test of simple logic. The reason for this is not that I am a great debater, but because the arguments proffered in favor of lifting the embargo are tragically flawed and weak when presented with all the facts regarding the matter.

Building an argument is like building a house, and that argument will only be as strong as the materials you use to build it and how carefully and skillfully you put them together. If the strongest building material you have to build your argument are fabrications, half-truths, wild assumptions, and the omission of facts, regardless of how skillfully they are put together, you have in effect built a house of cards. And we all know what happens to a house of cards the moment it is confronted with the slightest breeze.

Enter three academics: Daniel Hanson, Dayne Batten, and Harrison Ealey. In an editorial published in Forbes, they put forth what I am sure they believe to be a strong argument for lifting sanctions against the brutal Castro dictatorship in Cuba. However, these academics must rely on faulty and missing information in order to prove their point. Therefore, it only takes two short, back-to-back paragraphs early in their commentary (paragraphs 2 and 3) to completely dissolve their argument:

Paragraph 2:

The Cuban embargo was inaugurated by a Kennedy administration executive order in 1960 as a response to the confiscation of American property in Cuba under the newly installed Castro regime.  The current incarnation of the embargo – codified primarily in the Helms-Burton Act – aims at producing free markets and representative democracy in Cuba through economic sanctions, travel restrictions, and international legal penalties.

The Cuban embargo was inaugurated by the Eisenhower administration, not the Kennedy administration. Perhaps some may see this as splitting hairs, but if these academics did not bother to research just what administration initiated the embargo on Cuba, what else did they not bother to research? This simple yet important error calls into question every other claim made in their argument.

Paragraph 3:

Since Fidel Castro abdicated power to his brother Raul in 2008, the government has undertaken more than 300 economic reforms designed to encourage enterprise, and restrictions have been lifted on property use, travel, farming, municipal governance, electronics access, and more.  Cuba is still a place of oppression and gross human rights abuse, but recent events would indicate the 11 million person nation is moving in the right direction.

Not only is it disingenuous to ignore the massive wave of repression that swept over the island in 2012, this paragraph describing the direction Cuba is moving in can be fairly construed as academic malpractice. While touting the “reforms” of the repressive dictatorship, the writers give short shrift to the record-breaking number of politically motivated arrests on the island and the suspicious deaths of several dissidents last year. The vague reference to repression they make is there apparently to serve only as a jumping off point to tout the positive changes taking place in Cuba.

You can read the rest of their editorial and argument if you like, but as far as I am concerned, their house of cards began tumbling in the second paragraph and was completely gone by the end of the third paragraph.



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