The North Koreans (NorKs) and Iran continue to be snarky and we continue hitting them with more and more sanctions and seeking to isolate them at greater levels. It didn’t work with Cuba 50 years ago, and it’s not going to work now. The key is engagement – draw them in, get their people exposed to what’s out there in the rest of the world. Make them hungry for it. Sure, the current regimes will claim victory and responsibility for bringing the 21st century to their people, but so what? The people are who matter, and once they see what’s out there, it’s the people who will make the change. Not immediately, but even if it takes a generation change will come. Americans just need to take a more strategic, longer view of the world.
To that end, I believe we should be engaging with these countries and every other country we’re seeking to influence. We should be funding – overtly or covertly – internet access and cafes at every opportunity, because we’ve seen what it leads to. Look at China – they “cracked” the door on the internet for their people just a wee bit, and then were unable to hold it closed, and now China has a burgeoning middle class and more democracy than they’ve ever had before. Is it American democracy? No, but it doesn’t need to be. They’re making their own style, and I feel it will continue to evolve as the average Chinese gets more access and the younger generations age and replace the older ones.
So for Cuba, lift the sanctions; let everyone vacation there. Cuba will get hard foreign currency, but more importantly, Cubans will all these Americans; how they act, how they live, and they’ll want it. Lift the sanctions on the condition of building telecommunications links and contracts with US companies and get the internet in there. For the NorKs, same thing: give them the food they need to keep their people from starving. If necessary, route it through Venezuela or some other nation they deem friendly, but tie it to establishing greater communications with the outside world: student exchanges and internet access. It will take years, but change will happen. It will likely be more of a Chinese-flavor or emergence than American, but so what? All we need is some flavor of democracy, since historically (and admittedly, “so far”), democracies don’t attack each other.