The Insane Idea of Attacking Cuba

There is no pretense here that the United States would be defending itself, so it would be out-and-out aggression against a small, neighboring country.

Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami, just casually suggested military action against Cuba today:

“Are you suggesting air strikes in Cuba?” MacCallum interrupted.

“What I’m suggesting is that that option is one that has to be explored and cannot be just simply discarded as an option that is not on the table,” Suarez responded.

Suarez is a politician in Miami, so he is probably just pandering to hard-liners there, but it is important to understand why military action against Cuba is absolutely not an option that “has to be explored.” It would be insane, immoral, and illegal.

It would be an act of illegal aggression against another state. There is no pretense here that the United States would be defending itself, so it would be out-and-out aggression against a small, neighboring country. This is the very sort of act that the U.N. Charter’s prohibition on the use of force was meant to discourage. Article 2 (4) of the Charter states, “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Initiating hostilities against a weaker country because you want to exploit its internal political upheaval is not noble or admirable. It is criminal.

Attacking Cuba would be gratuitous and unjust. Whatever else the Cuban government has done, it has not attacked or threatened the U.S. or U.S. forces. Our government has no legal or moral right to use force against them. As a practical matter, a bombing campaign would be a huge propaganda gift to the Cuban government, and it would allow them to shut down all protests in the name of security. Launching attacks on Cuba just as Cubans are coming out in large numbers to protest would pull the rug out from under the protesters and likely cause most of the population to rally to the government’s side in defense of their country. Creating a real security threat to the country would make it much easier for the government there to tamp down on speech and assembly. If one wanted the protesters to be heard and to have their grievances addressed, calling for military action is the last thing one would do.

Launching airstrikes also runs the real risk of killing Cuban civilians. Suarez mentions the Kosovo war as a precedent for what he is proposing, so it is worth remembering that the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia included quite a few strikes that killed civilians and damaged or destroyed buildings that were supposedly struck by accident. Airstrikes never have toppled a government and they aren’t going to topple a government here, but they are a good way to cause a lot of damage to infrastructure and make a country that is already struggling during a pandemic much worse off.

I doubt that Biden would consider launching an attack on Cuba, much less ordering one, but everyone needs to understand just how wrong it would be to do this.