Fidel's Final Victory
Below is an excellent, hot off the press, article from the forthcoming (often right-tilted) Foreign Affairs policy journal. It is a great primer on US-Cuba relations that is not afraid to state truths that are unheard of in the MSM.
The piece will be read by serious Latin policy thinkers across the Board and deservedly so. It obliterates the hard-linters positions with logic and reason, even from a US-first perspective. It is not often a piece questioning so much of official US foreign policy dogma on any country gets such exposure. That it was commissioned for Cuba at this time shows the importance of the moment and the complete wrong-headedness of US policy on Cuba - at least viewed by the Council on Foreign Relations-type elite.
Fidel's Final Victory
By Julia E. Sweig
From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2007
Summary (by Author): The smooth transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his successors is exposing the willful ignorance and wishful thinking of U.S. policy toward Cuba. The post-Fidel transition is already well under way, and change in Cuba will come only gradually from here on out. With or without Fidel, renewed U.S. efforts to topple the revolutionary regime in Havana can do no good -- and have the potential to do considerable harm.
CUBA AFTER CASTRO?
Ever since Fidel Castro gained power in 1959, Washington and the Cuban exile community have been eagerly awaiting the moment when he would lose it -- at which point, the thinking went, they would have carte blanche to remake Cuba in their own image. Without Fidel's iron fist to keep Cubans in their place, the island would erupt into a collective demand for rapid change. The long-oppressed population would overthrow Fidel's revolutionary cronies and clamor for capital, expertise, and leadership from the north to transform Cuba into a market democracy with strong ties to the United States.
But that moment has come and gone -- and none of what Washington and the exiles anticipated has come to pass. Even as Cuba-watchers speculate about how much longer the ailing Fidel will survive, the post-Fidel transition is already well under way. Power has been successfully transferred to a new set of leaders, whose priority is to preserve the system while permitting only very gradual reform. Cubans have not revolted, and their national identity remains tied to the defense of the homeland against U.S. attacks on its sovereignty. As the post-Fidel regime responds to pent-up demands for more democratic participation and economic opportunity, Cuba will undoubtedly change -- but the pace and nature of that change will be mostly imperceptible to the naked American eye.
In Washington, however, Cuba policy -- aimed essentially at regime change -- has long been dominated by wishful thinking ever more disconnected from the reality on the island. Thanks to the votes and campaign contributions of the 1.5 million Cuban Americans who live in florida and New Jersey, domestic politics has driven policymaking. That tendency has been indulged by a U.S. intelligence community hamstrung by a breathtaking and largely self-imposed isolation from Cuba and reinforced by a political environment that rewards feeding the White House whatever it wants to hear. Why alter the status quo when it is so familiar, so well funded, and so rhetorically pleasing to politicians in both parties?
But if consigning Cuba to domestic politics has been the path of least resistance so far, it will begin to have real costs as the post-Fidel transition continues -- for Cuba and the United States alike. Fidel's death, especially if it comes in the run-up to a presidential election, could bring instability precisely because of the perception in the United States that Cuba will be vulnerable to meddling from abroad. Some exiles may try to draw the United States into direct conflict with Havana, whether by egging on potential Cuban refugees to take to the florida Straits or by appealing to Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon to attempt to strangle the post-Fidel government.
Washington must finally wake up to the reality of how and why the Castro regime has proved so durable -- and recognize that, as a result of its willful ignorance, it has few tools with which to effectively influence Cuba after Fidel is gone. With U.S. credibility in Latin America and the rest of the world at an all-time low, it is time to put to rest a policy that Fidel's handover of power has already so clearly exposed as a complete failure.
"By continuing the current course and making threats about what kind of change is and is not acceptable after Fidel, Washington will only slow the pace of liberalization and political reform in Cuba and guarantee many more years of hostility between the two countries."
More, much more