Freedom to Roam

In the immense legacy of unsolved difficulties that the Kennedy Administration has inherited from its predecessor, none seems more hopeless or more maliciously bequeathed than the tangle of Cuba. Much could be and was said of the State Department's mismanagement of its relations with the Castro government, and particularly of the embargo on Cuban sugar. But the Eisenhower Administration's incompetence with respect to Cuba attained new heights when, in its waning days, it no longer had to live with the consequences of its actions, it broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Then, in its last week in office, it followed this up with a ban on travel by American citizens in Cuba.

Nothing can be done now to re-establish diplomatic relations, without giving Castro a propaganda victory that he has done nothing to earn. This fact, of course, is precisely what was wrong with Eisenhower's action: if the United States is to live with Castro (and it must), it must take steps to restore some amount of mutual trust. The break leaves open no small steps, only the major one of re-establishing relations. Castro has made no concessions to warrant so great a display of confidence, and all Kennedy can do is to say that he won't rule out re-establishing relations at some future date. The Eisenhower Administration effectively tied the new President's hands.

If the break in diplomatic relations was ill-considered policy, the ban on travel to Cuba is unwarranted imposition on American citizens' liberty. A travel ban is a necessary evil at best imposed for considerations of safety when an area is deemed hazardous for Americans to enter; it should not be a device for using individual citizens as instruments of State Department policy. Whatever may be wrong with Castro and Cuba, American citizens, traveling as tourists or for personal business, are scarcely in any physical danger there. And when the State Department says it will allow some Americans to go to Cuba, if their trips are in the interest of American foreign policy, it is clear that the purpose of the ban is not to ensure prospective travelers' safety.

Lifting the travel ban is one "small step" open to Kennedy in restoring a civil relationship between the United States and Cuba. It is a step that ought to be taken, for reasons of citizens' liberty as well as for reasons of foreign policy.