Stop Shackling America’s Interests with Cuba to Fidel and an Anachronistic Cold War Past


castro hemingway steve clemons.jpg
When Fidel Castro dies, something fascinating will happen in America. The History Channel will run extensive coverage of Castro’s life. CNN will air over and over again profiles of Castro and the many American presidents he outwitted and survived. Every major network, even Fox, will be obligated to remind Americans of how big a personality and player Castro was on the world stage.
We will see replays of the Kennedy-Khrushchev standoff over the Cuban missile crisis. People will learn about Batista and the fact that the pre-Castro Cuba was a playground for gambling, drugs, prostitution, and organized crime. They will learn about the failures of Communism, Castro’s battles with intellectual and political dissidents — but they will also learn than Cuba today is not what Cuba was yesterday.
Today, Cuba exports doctors and not arms. Today, there is a Benetton store in downtown Havana, Venezuela and China are Cuba’s largest economic partners, and the Cuban economy grew by approximately 10% last year — with little of that driven by US economic interests.
They will learn a lot about Fidel Castro — and whether people find him admirable in some ways or despicable — most young Americans who have no tangible memory of the hottest parts of the Cold War will sense that one of the last giant personalities of the last century just passed.
And then they will learn how a small cabal of Miami-based Cuban-Americans manipulated laws and our institutions to wage a personal war against Castro and sacrificed core American interests in doing so. It is stranger than fiction when one realizes that a grandson of Batista is now on the Florida Supreme Court and has allegedly helped the most extreme, violent Cuban Americans escape indictment. And that two nephews (by former marriage) of Fidel Castro represent their Florida constituents in the US Congress reflects the oligarchical realities of political power in America and in Cuba.
Almost every assessment of US-Cuban relations feels an obligation to mention Fidel, or to mention the dissidents in jail today, or to start with a discussion of whether the current Cuban government will survive a transition to something beyond Fidel Castro or not.
We need to make judgments about the future course of US-Cuban relations according to our parochial interests today — and to realize that commerce, travel, the exchange of people, ideas, facebook commentary, and money are powerful empowering forces that cannot make the current situation worse than it is. In fact, there is every indication that ending the travel and economic embargo of the United States would open many new positive and constructive possibilities both within Cuba and between Cuba and the United States.
We have been lousy at trying to script a regime strategy for Cuba. We need to stop it — and stop thinking about it and let Cubans determine their own course, which I think America can softly and positively influence if we stop trying to demean and humiliate that nation.
The Miami Herald in a lead editorial today, “More Remittances, Travel for a Free Cuba — Our Opinion: US Can Help Break the Isolation Imposed on Cuban People,” speaks to this logic:

The U.S. government should do more to break the regime’s imposed isolation of the Cuban people. How will civil society grow without outside resources and contacts? How will Cubans, including government and military officials, overcome their fear of change?
More family travel and cultural and academic exchanges would open a world of information and supportive contacts for Cubans on the island. More remittances would help sustain political prisoners as well as Cuban democrats stripped of jobs. This would allow Cubans to compare democracy and free markets to the regime’s alternative.
President Bush should take the advice of experts like Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa, who lived the transition to democracy in Eastern Europe, and most Cuban dissidents including hard-liner Martha Beatriz Roque. All push for more openings, travel and contact with Cuba. It is no accident that Cuba and North Korea are the longest-lasting dictatorships left. Both have used isolation to keep people enslaved.
After Fidel Castro dies, Cubans will have a chance to shape their destiny. Opening up to Cuba now will encourage a transition to freedom.

As much as I generally support the objectives and policy targets of the Miami Herald editorial, I do find it odd that the blame for Cuba’s isolation is placed on the Cuban government. It is America that has maintained an ineffective embargo.
Last I looked 184 nations voted at the UN against the embargo — and are taking advantage of America’s absence in Cuba’s economic life.
— Steve Clemons


9 comments on “Stop Shackling America’s Interests with Cuba to Fidel and an Anachronistic Cold War Past

  1. Finest says:

    Your saccharine boho dance is pathetic. Get out in the cane fields, finger the last pesos in your pocket, try to remember what you aren’t supposed to say, then scream at the top of your lungs ‘I am a man, not the regurgitated Marxist defecation from an old bitch tyrant!’
    Clemens, your cowardly brainwaves produced all the slaughter in the last century’s rancid history, and we are sick of it, and we are leaving you behind!


  2. Steve Clemons says:

    Finest — thanks for playing. Last time I checked though most of my friends (even the ones on the left) see me as an ultra-patriot and least self-loathing intellectual they know.
    That aside, I understand your passion — but with all due respect, your brand of views were more mainstream in the early 60s and have been perpetuated for decades by the incredibly successful lobby of Cuban Americans in Miami and New Jersey.
    That lobby is fragmenting, and the position you articulated here is simply an out of date anachronism.
    We need to move on. And we will.
    Best regards,
    Steve Clemons


  3. Finest says:

    Clemons, you are the quintesential rationalizing leftist. By your reasoning, or lack of it, I can kill you because you don’t believe what I believe. Then I will indoctrinate your young with my glory, over your death, for the next fifty years, till I die in bed, unavenged. All the bravery and courage in Cuba was slaughtered because self hating pseudo-intellectuals like yourself allowed a sociopath to run riot over civil liberty and freedom. What’s left in South Florida couldn’t even stand up to Janet Reno! Beelzebub is putting the finishing touches on that next circle, housing your buddy Fidel, he, Tanya and the rest of their worthless ilk.


  4. john somer says:

    Will anybody remembeer Herbert Matthews, the NY Times reporter wo “made” Fidel ?


  5. Chuck Dupree says:

    Steve, I agree with your take on the Cuba embargo and what a rational American policy would be; but I can’t take seriously your contention that American television will stop lying about Cuba when Castro dies and start educating Americans about what actually happened before and after the revolution he led.
    You’re not really maintaining that the American establishment will own up to its lies, are you? When was the last time something like that happened? What’s their incentive to begin telling the truth? That would simply emphasize how much dissembling they’ve done over all these decades.
    BTW, I went to college with Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and as I recall he was just as intellectually dishonest then as he is now. He’ll still be in Congress when Castro dies, presumably. And I can’t imagine Hillary doing anything that tends to generate peaceful co-existence with Cuba. She’ll feel compelled to prove her manhood, like George H. W. Wimp did. The anti-union pro-torture pro-Blackwater pro-Wall Street candidate is not going to make friends, or even stop being enemies, with any state that feeds everyone. IMO.


  6. george says:

    Spot on with regards to the Cuba issue. As a 38 year old son of Cuban immigrants from the 60’s, the failed policies of BOTH countries have us at where we are today. Only through conversation and giving the Cuban people more of a taste of what we have over here will help bring down the wall that we have built…by the way…isn’t that what we did with the USSR and others? That’s what I thought.


  7. feudi says:

    Let’s see…Cuba is run by a megalomaniac for over forty years under strict dictatorship. Castro takes a once lavish island of relatively happy and prosperous people, and turns it into a Communist stronghold that assisted the Soviet Union in subjugating several African nations for over a decade. He permitted our mortal enemy to place nuclear missiles in his country aimed at America. He turned the economy of his nation into a fourth rate, run down mess with no viable insfrastructure…and he may have been responsible for the assassination of an American President…
    …and the posters here, incredibly, blame American foreign policy for this massive collapse of a once proud, independent nation! Go figure.


  8. BigDaddyRich says:

    Thanks for this great post, Steve. One example of the screwed up U.S. policy towards Cuba is TV/Radio Marti, which satellite broadcasting channel operated by the U.S. government out of Miami, at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, but is not seen in Cuba, because the signal is blocked by that government. What a waste.


  9. Bemus Beekeep says:

    Ah Cuba, that last great bastion of Cold War diplomatic failure. American diplomacy began it’s demise with Cuba and Cuba will remain long after U.S. diplomacy has gone the way of the red tennis shoe. Get it? “Red” tennis shoe? Sorry. Those that can’t learn from the painful lessons of history are doomed to repeat those painful lessons over and over. I would offer up the comprehensive failure of one George Bush as case in point. America is so screwed!


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