Barak Obama has once again made history by daring to break the shackles that has ranged the world's sole super power against its puny island neighbour, which stood up as a sore thumb in America's backdoor.
By becoming the first US president to visit Cuba in 88-years, and establishing diplomatic ties with its neighbour, Obama had removed the deadweight of history which was an albatross around US diplomacy.
Obama may have belied the massive world-wide euphoria when he took over as the first African-American president of the US in 2008.
Expectations were so high when we took over that the Norwegian academy gave him the Nobel peace prize in 2009. The Nobel committee believed that Obama created a new climate of international politics by going back to multilateral diplomacy and emphasis of dialogue in resolving international conflict. He also recognised the importance of the
United Nations instead of running rough shod over it like his predecessor President George Bush. The weight of expectations, not just in America but across Europe and the rest of the world were perhaps too much for a hardnosed politician seeking a second term in office to achieve. His admirers world-wide were disappointed.
Candidate Obama was very different from President Obama.
But now with no election looming at the end of the term, Obama is trying to do what he so eloquently promised during his election campaign.
The nuclear deal with Iran is a case in point. Despite doubts from all sides of the political spectrum in the US, Obama persisted and the deal between Iran and P 5 +1 was clinched after tough negotiations on both sides. This has given a fillip to President Hassan Rouhani, who won this year¹s national elections riding on the deal. The nuclear
agreement has helped to give moderates in Tehran a chance to come back from its political isolation ravaged by years of international sanctions.
Shutting down the Guantanamo Bay prison is another of President Obama's wishes, which he may or may not be able to fulfill before his term ends. The decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba will remain a feather in Obama's cap.
No President before Obama dared to take this initiative, though the ideological battle between capitalism and communism has long been over.
The crumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has been a major victory for the US.
But the strong antipathy towards Cuba kept alive by Cuban immigrants in the US has persisted and stopped successive American presidents from renewing ties with the island nation. The White House has been working towards this for a long time, helped in no small measure by the Catholic Church in Havana. That the Church now plays an important role
in Cuba is also because the over the years the Communist party had loosened its grip and allowed people to practice their faith. Pope Francis himself played a significant behind the scenes role in getting the breakthrough.
President Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro, younger brother to revolutionary hero Fidel Castro, wants to start a new chapter in relations between the two countries, which has been weighed down by what happened 50 years ago during the Cuban Missile crisis. Since then America has turned its might against its puny neighbour. Though the US
was able to change dictators at whim in several countries and the CIA backed the military coup against Chile's Salvador Allende and for decades helped the dictator Augusta Pinochet. But despite the ease with which America dealt with the rest of the world, Cuba under Fidel Castro stood in steadfast opposition to the US. Cuba suffered because of the crippling sanctions that were in place, but managed to cock a snook at its powerful neighbour.
But America¹s persistent blockade of Cuba had done little to enhance America¹s image in the region. "The entire world is united in opposing the embargo. Even the Latin American right, for which the specter of a revolutionary domino effect was once sufficient grounds to perpetrate social cleansing, has come to see political isolation as a
counterproductive strategy, undermining the very reforms the US says it would like to see," Steven Cohen wrote in the New Republic ahead of the US President's visit.
Obama has won much goodwill for the US with this visit, but whether he can follow up remains a major question. Lifting the trade embargo against Cuba would be a major step in getting things started between the two countries. Whether Congress will allow Obama to have his way remains a major concern. With Democrats and Republican on warpath as it were, it may be a major challenge to get Congress to do what President Obama wants.
The first steps have been taken in restoring diplomatic ties. Obama followed it up with a personal visit along with his entire family.
Chances are that Obama will finally succeed. But for his effort to get America to shed its pettiness vise-a-vise-Cuba is being applauded by the world community. The decades of anger against Cuba has affected America¹s image much more than Cuba's.
First Published On : Mar 23, 2016 19:54 IST