As I write this post, President Obama is in Cuba, meeting with Raul Castro. Many Americans, including many Cuban immigrants, oppose this political and cultural engagement, arguing that it lends support to a dictatorship, stifles dissent and gives credence to a corrupt system of government.
Many of us, however, applaud the President's initiative, believing that engagement is vital to fostering change in Cuba. A prolonged course of sanctions has produced no effect; hopefully, increasing commerce will offer opportunities for the Cuban people (without destroying their culture) and, most importantly, shine a light on the oppression and corruption that will surely persist. Over time, open communication and economic pressure will fuel a transition to democracy.
One hopes that a similar approach might be utilized in dealing with other oppressive regimes across the globe, including some (e.g. North Korea) that currently seem unreachable. Simply put, our choice is political and economic engagement or military intervention. The latter has already demonstrated its risks and limitations.