Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Washington can´t Figure It Out

For three weeks now, Cuba has been governed by Raul Castro. As with the demise of the Eastern-European socialist community, many political gurus predicted doom-day had come for the Cuban Revolution. This has not been the case. Cuban daily life goes on much the same as before.
The reason why there has been no revolt, no dramatic changes, is very well explained in an article published August 22 by the International Herald Tribune. This is more or less what is happening in Cuba and why.

"Sticking with Raúl
by William Pfaff

PARIS -- American analysts of Cuban affairs are surprised that Fidel Castro's "temporary" transfer of power to his brother Raúl has not produced unrest in Cuba - or even a revolution.

The U.S. government was ready. The State Department said it had a plan "to aid Cuba" if Castro "moves along in a natural way" (President George W. Bush's words). The White House said there are no plans "too reach out to Raúl." Policy is to "undermine" him. But nothing has happened.

Philip Peters, an expert at the conservative Lexington Institute in Virginia, said, "There is this predicate in our policies that the Cuban system is one that can be pushed over with one finger."

"We were ill prepared for the eventuality of continuity rather than change," says Damian Fernandez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. "All our policies have been built on a foundation of wishful thinking."

Wishful thinking usually characterizes the thinking of political exiles, and of the governments that back them, but in this case it would seem to owe less to bias than to a profound misunderstanding of nationalism.

This underestimation of nationalism persistently makes itself felt in U.S. foreign policy. It comes from a failure of political imagination and sense of history, but is also a consequence of American ideology, which assumes that American values are universal values: that they are the ideals that everyone would adopt if political constraints and repression were removed. They override national commitments and emotions.

This illusion has been taken up by America's allies in Israel, who went to war against Lebanon a month ago thinking that ordinary Lebanese would be grateful to Israel for attacking and (as the Israelis supposed) defeating Hezbollah, which was thought to owe its power to its backing by Syria and Iran.

One would think the Israelis would have taken a lesson from the absence in Iraq of the predicted popular wave of gratitude after the United States overturned Saddam Hussein. There was not much gratitude in Afghanistan after B-52s and an American-led coalition liberated the Afghans from the Taliban, which is now on the return.

One might think the Cubans are ready for change, after 47 years of absolute rule by Fidel Castro and persisting or worsening penury, due less to Castro than to a congressionally mandated U.S. blockade and persecution of the Cubans, to punish them for allowing Fidel Castro to rule them.

Change will come; second-generation revolutionary regimes are not notable for stability or longevity. (Although with Raúl, Cuba remains under the first revolutionary generation, as he is one of the last of the original band of rebels from the Sierra Maestra.)

Nationalism was the most important political force at work in the 20th century, and may prove the most important in the 21st. This often fails to be understood because nationalism's expression is often mistaken for something else. Nationalism picks up autonomous movements and exploits them because they augment its power.

Communism in Asia was a negligible force until the 1930s, mostly confined to Western-educated intellectuals. Marx himself, and Lenin, maintained that Communism could succeed only by mobilizing an industrial working class, which did not exist in Asia.

The genius of Mao Zedong was to redefine the ideology to give leadership to the abused peasantry, and that turned it into a fighting doctrine that mobilized the peasant nationalism of both China and Vietnam, kindled by more than a century of Western colonial exploitation.

The bitterness of Muslims in Asia and the Middle East at Western control and manipulation has today found its expression in radical religion and a utopian notion of expelling the West from the Islamic world and recreating the Islamic empires of the Middle Ages. It provides a dream that justifies sacrifice.

Americans went into Cuba in 1898 to back a nationalist uprising against Spanish imperial control. This followed an earlier 10-year nationalist revolt that had ended in 1878 with promises to banish slavery, which happened, and of political reforms, many of which Spain did not carry out.

After Spain's defeat in 1898, Cuba, under U.S. military occupation, became a republic, but its sovereignty was limited by a constitutional provision, insisted upon by Washington, giving the United States right to military intervention. This was invoked in 1906 and again in 1912.

From 1933, the country was dominated by a populist, American-trained army sergeant, promoted to general, Fulgencio Batista, who enjoyed varying degrees of U.S. patronage until 1958, when the U.S. withdrew military aid from his government. In 1959 he fled the country and Castro and his men took power, which they have not given up.

Confronted with the current U.S. government's plan to "aid" Cuba to become a democracy, it may be that Cubans will be inclined to rally to the side of Raúl Castro."

Now Washington scrambles to get the facts straight. I suggest they read one of their own papers.
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