The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Whither Cuba?

In an ideal world, I would figure out the Spanish equivalent for whither. Anyway....

With some reluctance, I read Christopher Hitchens' Slate piece on Raul Castro taking over for Fidel. The reluctance derives from Hitchens' uniformly contemptible work over the last 5 years, following on his often contemptible work of the previous decade. But I figured his twin obsessions - the Clintons and "Islamofascism" - wouldn't play in this story, so he might be readable, especially with his Trostkyite history. The blurb suggested that his thesis was that Raul's leadership is, in fact, a coup, which I found absurd. But I was curious to read his argument, plus they called it the 18th Brumaire of Castro, and I've never known what the hell that phrase meant, so I read on.

He is, in fact, arguing that last week's events constitute a military takeover - that "the army has replaced the party as the source of authority." But he quickly backtracks, admitting that Fidel always wore a uniform anyway, so maybe the army was the authority all along. Yeah, I know - kind of dumb. I think he has a lead, and a narrative, and he refused to alter either to make them harmonize. I guess they call that contrarian.

His ultimate conclusion is that the future of Cuba is military dictatorship, whether under Raul or someone else. He points out that the Army already runs much of Cuba's commerce, so this may be a stable situation. He doesn't make the comparison, but I think the analogy to China, with the Party running enterprises, is clear.

It's all interesting to ponder. For so long, Fidel=Cuba=Bad has been about as thoughtful as Americans have been on the subject - and I don't just mean the man on the street. The infantile treatment of Cuban issues in this country is a true shame on us all. And so not much serious thought has been given to Cuba post-Castro, just a vague sense that it'll go back to the way it was, maybe with fewer Mafioso. And goodness knows, that's where the money is. But I don't think there's anyone left on that island who thinks that way.

The greatest failure of our 47 year failed embargo is that it has sapped us of nearly all influence in our nearest non-contiguous neighbor. Not that our role was always, or even often, benign, but at least sometimes America does the right thing, and smart foreign leaders can leverage our idealized self-image to force us to promote the interests of other peoples. But for 47 years, every other country in the world has been ahead of us in developing relationships in Cuba. If American peacekeepers show up in Havana, rest assured that there will be no flowers, candy, or rum on offer.


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