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Unless and until the day comes when liberty is secured for all, the steps in that direction will not be cost-free -- and we shouldn't be reluctant to ask how we can pick up the check.
Cuba has just experienced its largest demonstrations in decades as seemingly spontaneous, organic protests spread across the country in expression of anger over a hobbled economy and a poor response to Covid-19.
■ The news has gotten the attention of many Americans, certainly in no small part because of the large and vocal Cuban-American population in Florida, where people took to the streets in solidarity with the Cuban protesters. Florida Senator Marco Rubio took up the cause in a Senate speech. The State Department is "considering an array of options" to support the people of Cuba.
■ Deep down, most people seem to have an instinctive understanding that liberty is better than tyranny, so these expressions of support are a good sign. But we often run the risk of thinking of the cause of basic human liberty as something that other people fight to secure in other places, in a way that is cost-free to us as we cheer from the sidelines (or, perhaps it's more fair to say from the luxury suite).
■ But the cause of human liberty isn't one for "over there", nor is it for "them". The interconnectedness of our world means that it is a cause fought everywhere (including here) and it requires an investment from everyone (including us). The situation in Cuba is hard to ignore because it's happening 90 miles from Florida. Our history is complicated and interconnected -- not least because the US occupied Cuba until 1902.
■ We shouldn't just cheer when it seems convenient and cost-free. We need to be humble about what we can achieve -- despite America's vast military and economic might, we're not going to topple an authoritarian regime like the Communist Party of China just by threatening to invade if they don't step down. But we can use our tangible power and our less-tangible influence to put some real muscle behind the platitudes of freedom.
■ So when China curtails freedoms in Hong Kong, we can welcome those who seek asylum. But we can also act to reassure our peaceful neighbors in the region, including by conducting freedom of navigation drills in places where China's government isn't acting in good faith. And our private sector shouldn't be hesitant to walk away from commercial deals that might be lucrative but make them complicit in harming the cause of freedom. These actions come with costs, and we should openly acknowledge those costs while being happy to pay them. They are the price of universal human liberty.
■ The same goes elsewhere, whether it's against Communism in Cuba or totalitarianism in North Korea or even the repugnant and repressive behavior of some of our nominal "allies" in the Middle East. Doing the right thing isn't often cost-free, but it is a price worth paying.
■ There is, everywhere, a longing for human liberty. We can see it right before our eyes just as much as we can feel it in our own souls. It is a human birthright, but for now many are deprived of it. Unless and until the day comes when liberty is secured for all, the steps in that direction will not be cost-free -- and we shouldn't be reluctant to ask how we can pick up the check.