A vote in the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday cast light on how the rest of the world views President Barack Obama's curious Cuba policy.
Based on some positions he took during his campaign, some actions during his presidency and a general belief that he was going to right some old policy wrongs - including the U.S. government's 50-year-old, monolithic approach to Cuba - there were hopes of change. We previously noted the visit last month of a senior State Department official to Cuba for what looked like promising discussions.
Nonetheless, Mr. Obama renewed for another year U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba, at the core of the problems in America's relationship with one of Latin America's poorest countries. That led to a non-binding resolution at the U.N. this week condemning the sanctions. The vote was 187-3, with two abstentions, against the U.S. Voting with the United States were Israel and Palau (population 21,000); abstaining were the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.
It is clear that the sanctions would be one of the primary issues on the table in the comprehensive discussions that need to take place if U.S.-Cuban relations are to be straightened out.
What the Obama administration is up to in taking an erratic approach to improving those relations isn't clear. Is it trying to win credit with South Florida's Cuban-American population? Is the administration unable to shake the paranoiac view that Cuba somehow poses a threat to the United States? If it is worried about Cuba's relationship with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, is it not clear that the surest way to counteract that is to improve America's own relations with Cuba?
At the moment, the lack of coherence in the Obama approach brings only embarrassment in forums like the U.N. and the Organization of American States. It is a problem for the United States, but it shouldn't be.