Sunday, February 24, 2008

Our Failed Cuba Policy

Five decades of American failure remain living in its feeble state just off Florida. Fewer than 100 miles south, Cuba well illustrates our national irrationality and hypocrisy all too clearly.

We must wonder whether either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would have the leadership and courage to cut the crap and make the island nation into a democracy and ally. It will likely be an early test for the next President.

GOP and Dem administrations one after another failed the test of expanding democracy. Eisenhower chose to play golf rather than meet with new leader Fidel Castro, when we had the best chance to turn him our way. Kennedy played puerile mine-is-bigger-than-yours games. Clearly his wasn't.

Those and later Presidents aligned with or installed brutal anti-democracy right-wing dictators while leaving Cuba open for support from extreme lefties like the Soviet Union and now Venezuela. Our businesses, banks and organized criminals used to own pre-Castro Cuba. We could surely have owned it through our support, and earned likely a contentious but mutually beneficial relationship.

After WWII and the really never completed Korean War, we were gun-shy of anything that smacked of communism or even left-wing goals and verbiage. This became insurmountable for our Presidents in the face of the nationalization by Castro. I recall well a lunch over 30 years ago with the New York head of a gigantic German bank. He told me that the European headquarters of his and other banks understood that they lost all assets in Cuba, but he added that the American banks did not and never would accept that. They continued to demand full reparations...with interest...and lobbied Washington continually and particularly when any discussion of Cuba was likely to arise.

We have also failed practically and publicly. Kennedy started a trade embargo, which continues. While Cuba has gotten some funding from communist nations, it was small for a nation. Foreign trade in sugar, fruit and cigars has been key for base survival.

Yet despite repeated invasion attempts and tries to assassinate Castro, we have failed. We have not attempted democracy through peaceful means. Our financial and military brute-force efforts show us to be international incompetents and weaklings. We have been unable to best this tiny, poor nation.

The best we have done is shameful. We have starved Cuba's residents of food, medicine and other essentials. There likely can't be an accurate count of the resulting deaths. Moreover, our presence on the island, the Guantánamo naval base, is an international symbol of anti-democracy and cruelty. The matrix of Cuba, which is the brunt of constant calumnies from our shores, looks positively benign and gentle in contrast to Gitmo.

This is not a glorious contrast and legacy for G.W. Bush or the long line of gutless Presidents who came before him. Yet our pathetic current President has no sense of the gravity of the moment of Castro's retirement. Instead, as the Financial Times quotes him as saying this is the time to continue pushing for reform, not stability with the new leaders.

There will be some who say, "Let's promote stability." Of course, in the meantime, political prisoners will rot in prison and the human condition will remain pathetic in many cases. This transition ought to lead to free and fair elections - and I mean free and I mean fair, not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as being true democracy.

Yet, this is exactly the time to bolster Cuba and bring it under our influence. In fact, many large European countries, such as Spain, have been engaging Cuba and see this as the time for a real change. Punishing Cuba relentlessly not only is a WWII-generation construct, it is also a phenomenal failure.

Another FT piece has a clearer view of the possible — "...Brazil’s leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been advising Raúl Castro against the temptation to follow the 'Chinese model' of opening up the economy without releasing the ruling party’s grip on political life.Such reports show Fidel Castro’s claim that Cuban socialism is “irrevocable” to be an Ozymandian boast. As Cuba modernises, its economic model will be the first thing to go."

You don't have to possess extremely keen vision to see that. Yet long-standing American myopia on Cuba may blind the next President as well. Again, will Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton have the leadership and courage to cut the crap and make the island nation into a democracy and ally?

The chanted cliché of evil Cuber as Kennedy said taunts us in our personal failings not only to crush the island neighbor, but also while we are unable to feed and house Americans or to provide them all with jobs and medical care. The things we slam Cuba for all exist in our system, including the political prisoners and torture.

We have normalized all types of relations with former enemies, countries we fought and who actively murdered our soldiers. It is long past time to bring Cuba into our fold and be able to boast of how we brought democracy and freedom to a former foe.

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Mark D. Snyder said...

This language "make the island nation into a democracy" worries me. It is often used as codeword for let our big pharma, food, and big oil companies spread their imperialism and oppression - and rarely means actual democracy. We really brought freedom to Iraq didn't we?

I would also challenge you to list a few good reasons to be afraid of venezuela that are based on fact. Venezuela's elections are more fair and democratic than our own. Just ask the international organizations, including that of Jimmy Carter, who oversaw elections there. Chavez is portrayed as a crazy evil dictator in the American media, yet remains well liked around the world and deserves credit for improving the living conditions of so many people in Venzuela since he was elected.

massmarrier said...

Well, last is first. I'm comfortable with Venezuela trading oil money for doctors and such from Cuba. Don't bother with such a challenge. My post doesn't lead to it and I'm the wrong guy to ask to dump on them.

We have dodgy democracy in this country in many ways. We can still bring along other nations, particularly those with stunted economies (largely our fault before and after the 1954 revolution in this case). Trying to cripple them and topple their leaders is not the way and anyway we abjectly failed in Cuba's case.

We can and should provide no-strings assistance. If we prove reasonable neighbors who live the democratic ideals and freedom for all we claim to want for other nations, we'd have our buddies there.

In light of our own employment, prison and health demographics, we have a long, long way to go before we should be lecturing other nations. This is a classic case of needing to walk it like we talk it.

Mark D. Snyder said...


Anonymous said...

One of the most insipid comments heard in politics is (in its many forms) "The US embargo of Cuba is a 'failed policy' and needs to be overturned."
How do we know the policy has "failed"?
Because Cuba is still enslaved and Castro is not dead.
Fine. If that is the standard, let's apply it broadly to other national policies.
We have a complete ban against killing other human beings. And yet people still kill.
We have rigid speed limits. Yet people still exceed them.
We ban the use and sale of certain drugs. And yet drug use soars.
We demand compliance with our tax code. Something which many proud Americans honor in the breech.

So these policies are also abject failures.
They have not accomplished their intended results.
I imagine that those decrying the "failure" of the Cuban Boycott will also champion the repeal of these other "failed" policies.
Legalize murder. Abandon speed limits. Decriminalize killer drugs. Abolish the IRS.

What? You say the Dump the Boycott Crowd DOES NOT support these other actions?
So it is not the so-called FAILURE of the Cuban Boycott policy that moves them.
What then?
We are left to guess.

massmarrier said...

Hardy har. You set up a straw man with your own definitions of failure.

That doesn't cut it.

Instead, our inability in nearly five decades to destroy Cuba is a huge international embarrassment. Other than failed invasions and assassinations, we have done nothing as a nation to help Cuba or convert it to a democracy more to our liking.

Our policies didn't work in the 1950s and have not since. Nearly 50 years of slamming our head against a wall should inspire us to try something different.