Let Go of Guantanamo Bay
The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay will go out of business by the year’s end. So what’s the point of the facility after that? The Cold War and the era of Fidel Castro are finished, and the Obama administration has been slowly signaling that a new relationship is possible through acts like ending the ban on travel to Cuba. In The Washington Post, Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations proposes we simply give the base back to Cuba — or, short of that, convert it into an “ideology free zone” to hold talks with Raul Castro’s government about the future of both the base and U.S.-Cuba relations.
Returning Guantanamo Bay to full Cuban sovereignty and control is a win for the United States: Aside from the boon to America’s credibility with the Cuban people and throughout Latin America, these first steps would probe the Cuban government’s apparent disposition to use the base as a point of contact with the United States — and gauge the regime’s willingness to move the ball forward even more.
There’s not a real military need for the base, either. It used to be a coaling station when the United States took it during the Spanish-American war. Indeed, when I visited Guantanamo Bay in 2005 and asked what the other purposes of the base were, my spirited public affairs guide replied, “Whores.” But even the whoring dried up — I’m not naive enough to believe it stopped — after the Cuban Revolution, and a 50 year wait to be tricking is a really poor national security argument. One mitigating argument I can think of against giving the base back: it temporarily housed thousands of Haitian refugees in the 1990s, but no one was particularly happy about that arrangement. So on balance, the arguments against giving Guantanamo Bay back to the Cubans are
a) We might need it as a legal netherworld for the indefinite detention of war-on-terror detainees
b) We can’t look weak in front of the Soviet-backed Fidel Castro
c) It’s a really beautiful place, especially for getting rip-roaring drunk on rum-based cocktails while the Carribean spray comes in off the cliffs at sunset.
Really only argument c) applies anymore, and there are lots of nice places to get loaded.