Guest Post by Patrick Doherty: Embrace the Economic Changes

The monthly food ration for a Cuban adult. Photo credit Javier Galeano/AP.
Patrick Doherty directs the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba 21st Century Policy Initiative.
One of the most hopeful signs that both the U.S. policy of regime change and the Cuban policy of total resistance is melting was the joint military exercise at the Northeast gate of Guantanamo earlier this month. It is just really hard to maintain that the other side is all that bad if our armed forces are training to save each others’ lives rather than kill each other.
Imagine that happening in North Korea or Iran.
So it stands to reason that if regime change is no longer our policy and that it is being replaced by a more pragmatic policy of engagement over mutual interests, the codified conditionality embedded in the Helms-Burton legislation that requires Cuba to become a Jeffersonian democracy before we change our policy — contradicts what is essentially our de facto policy (not to mention being anachronistic).
In its place, I would argue that a pragmatic policy of engagement over shared interests should focus on the economy of Cuba, for that is where the vast majority of the suffering of the Cuban people has its root. Indeed, recent reports say that across Cuba over 50 percent of infants are suffering from anemia caused by malnutrition brought on by poor agricultural productivity, high international food prices and last year’s devastating hurricane season.
That the old way of running the Cuban economy is unacceptable also happens to be something that Washington and Havana can agree on. This article by Marc Frank of Reuters, entitled, “Cuba Ponders Reduced State Role In Economy” tells the story of how agricultural deficits have forced the Cuban government to shift farm production into the hands of farmers, and in the process, rethink the role of property in the Cuban system.
That sounds like significant progress to me, progress that Washington should be taking as a sign of the kinds of change we can embrace…and believe in.
— Patrick Doherty


8 comments on “Guest Post by Patrick Doherty: Embrace the Economic Changes

  1. David says:

    You didn’t attack me personally, so absolutely no offense taken.
    I have raised the point a couple of times on TWN that our military personnel were the on-the-ground agents for the war crime known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, and probably noted that Stephen Hawking publicly called the invasion of Iraq a war crime, which it was.
    I also said somewhere that had I been 19 when the Twin Towers were attacked, and had I not at that point come to understand the realities of US foreign policy, I might well have been one of those on-the-ground agents of that war crime.
    I even consider our decision to bomb the living hell out of Afghanistan criminal because it was so clearly an act of revenge, not a measured strategic effort to end al Qaeda’s ability to launch attacks on the United States.
    I understand very well what soldiers are trained to do. I attained the rank of platoon sergeant in the then mandatory ROTC program at the University of Florida. I also know that regardless of that training, most American soldiers have demonstrated that given the right directives, they are also decent human beings for whom the enemy has to be dehumanized for them to carry out their missions of destruction and death.
    Thus do I deeply respect and support, and consider true war heroes, the soldiers who look reality sqaurely in the eye and refuse to be agents of immoral US military actions.
    But also precisely because of who the grunts are, where they come from, and how they are propagandized do I blame most vehemently those who send them and an electorate which is more taken with whether or not we are “winning” than what the realities of the war are.
    We did not learn the most important lessons of the Viet Nam War, and I nearly started throwing things at the television when GWHB said regarding the First Gulf War that the United States had finally kicked the Viet Nam Syndrome.
    War inflicts massive misery and death, and there is no such thing as a war hero as that term is commonly understood. Wars are also catastrophes that no one really wins. Certain entities prevail, and certain interests profit, while mostly wars are terrible net losses for humanity.
    Simple local example: Lake Apopka, which used to be one of the world’s premier bass fishing lakes, was destroyed by WWII. Horrifying first order example: 20 million Russians dead, 6 million Jews, Gypsies, and others exterminated. Dresden firebombed on a Sunday morning as women and children were going to church. Global example: WWII gave us both the development and the use of nuclear weapons.
    The whole planet was, and continues to be, a loser because of WWII. Make no mistake that I am glad the Allies prevailed of the Axis. But it is inexcusable that that war ever happened, and all of the positives fail to offset the negatives if one is honest and takes a comprehensive look at the state of humanity and the planet.
    Add in the periodic economic downturns/meltdowns that keep getting in the way of real amelioration of life on the planet, except for the privileged, and I argue we as a species are on an essentially lose/lose trajectory. I don’t give up simply because our greatest problems are manmade and so can be corrected, if we will.
    In the case of global climate change, we are beyond stopping it, of course, but still have the opportunity to mitigate significantly its consequences. To date, however, special interests and right wing mindsets are making sure we don’t do anything truly meaningful. And the worst offender? The nation which should be leading the way out of the wilderness of ecodestruction.
    I stand by my statement that US and Cuban soldiers, both public servants, can and will do something positive if that is what their superior officers order and enable, and likely take pride in it.


  2. JohnH says:

    Turns out that there are at least 10 Latin American countries with per capita income below Cuba’s. Why does Patrick Doherty care so much about Cuba and not at all about those “free market” societies, where huge segments of the population are undernourished.


  3. JohnH says:

    I’ll believe that Patrick Doherty’s heart truly bleeds for undernourished Cubans when he gives some indication that his heart also bleeds for people throughout the Caribbean and Central America who have had their caloric intake rationed by the free market…
    Until then, I have to believe that he’s simply intent on undermining the Cuban regime. Sympathy for “the poor, starving Cuban people” is his latest way to demonize Castro. Will he still feel any sympathy for them when the market fails them? And does he care, or even acknowledge that Cuban undernourishment is closely linked to the American trade sanctions? Why does he not question why it is OK for the US government to try to effect regime change by starving people?


  4. Paul Norheim says:

    Sorry David,
    I did`t intend to attack you personally. But allow me to correct a
    typo from a sentence in my comment above, which contains my
    main point:
    I can´t remember the last time I read an honest sentence from
    an articulate American civilian about US soldiers.
    Everybody treat the soldiers as
    1) heroes who do their duty for America, or
    2 programmed robots who do their work, or
    3) people too young, too poor and/or too stupid to understand
    what they´ve done.
    Nobody seem capable of treating them as people doing the
    actual killing in Iraq and Afghanistan AS WELL AS the heroic stuff
    and things beyond. Thus nobody can deal with the large amount
    of military people who do the dirty work.
    Are they innocent? Are they guilty? You are unable to deal with
    these questions, unless they commit akcnowledged barbaric
    crimes. Easier to blame Rumsfeld on a blog, of course.
    They are trained, hundreds of thousands of them at any time, to
    commit barbaric crimes in wrong places and at wrong times, and
    nobody can deal with this. Thus all this emotional crap about
    the brave men in uniforms who were willing to sacrifice their
    lives for the country and Rumsfeld and Bush and Cheney and the
    rest of the top leaders now and then.
    Hundreds of thousands…millions…in total we`re talking about a
    generation of young men mostly from not so wealthy or
    influential families trained to kill in the wrong places for
    randomly invented ideas like – let`s say GWOT.
    You are incapable of dealing with this insane fact. So you`ve all
    silently agreed to treat the whole generation as disciples of
    Mother Theresa instead. The men in uniform.


  5. Paul Norheim says:

    What on earth are you talking about here, David?
    “They are, after all, public servants, and most public servants,
    given the opportunity and the requisite assets, will do good
    Yes, sure! Public servants… The essential decency of soldiers…
    You sound like you`re referring to some robots whom you like
    to think would be nice fellows if they were not trained to kill –
    but still you`re not sure if they would freak out, right?.
    Sorry David, but I can´t remember the last time a read an
    honest sentence from an articulate American civilian about US
    soldiers that does not smell of bad conscience, abstract slogans
    and lies.
    What you`re saying here is something akin to: Sure, if the US
    army hadn`t programmed them to become murderers and
    destroyers, but instead manipulated them more in the direction
    of John Lennon`s Imagine, then….


  6. David says:

    “It is just really hard to maintain that the other side is all that bad if our armed forces are training to save each others’ lives rather than kill each other.”
    This is one of the most encouraging things I have read, and seems to me to bespeak the essential decency of soldiers when they are given the opportunity to do constructive things. They are, after all, public servants, and most public servants, given the opportunity and the requisite assets, will do good things.
    It also seems to me that if we will allow it, Cuba will evolve in a variety of positive ways. They do, after all, already have a superior public health service staffed with doctors and support persons who are public servants apparently willing and able to provide essential health care to all Cubans and in other countries who will accept their assistance.
    The idea that Jesse Helms and What’s-His-Face Burton, with the support of majority votes in Congress, should be ham-fistedly trying to dictate what kind of government Cuba has is pretty much reprehensible. It is one thing to constructively encourage self-determination for the inhabitants of the world’s various nations. It is quite another to try to dictate what they should determine for themselves, as Jeb Bush so successfully did an election cycle or so back in El Salvador, and Ronald Reagan did so brutally to Nicaragua and Henry Kissinger did to Chile.
    I most sincerely hope we really are experiencing the dawning of a new age in American foreign policy, however much it might be in fits and starts.
    This news is certainly one small positive step for the United States.


  7. jonst says:

    No Erik, frankly, I am not inclined to “forgive you”.


  8. Erik says:

    Forgive me for being a grammar nazi, but I think
    the article is just titled, and not entitled, to
    its title.
    “This article by Marc Frank of Reuters, entitled,
    ‘Cuba Ponders Reduced State Role In Economy'”


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