October 17, 2003,
Announcing his new initiatives in the matter of dealing with Cuba, President Bush proclaimed that "no tyrant can stand forever against the power of liberty." Mr. Bush must have been making a biological point. Fidel Castro is not going to live forever, and therefore it is true that that tyrant's stay on earth is limited: by a congeries of organic factors that include blood, heart, and brain. A mortal development here would not make his death a triumph of U. S. foreign policy. Castro celebrated his 77th birthday last August. He had told the National Assembly in March that he would remain in power "as long as I feel that I can be useful and if it is not decided by nature before." By "nature," he doesn't mean U. S. policies. He completed his thought: "Now I understand it was not my destiny to rest at the end of my life."
What Mr. Bush did, on October 10, was to announce, or rather to reemphasize, three policies. There would be a commission set up to assist a Free Cuba. I.e., motions to help Cuba when Castro is ousted or dies. (One wonders whether these would include renouncing the claims of U.S. corporations whose assets were confiscated by Cuba four decades ago.)
Mr. Bush will enforce more strictly travel restrictions to guard against American entrepreneurs going to Cuba to do business, or Americans going there as tourists.
And Mr. Bush will continue to attempt to devise ways to get Cubans seeking refuge from Castro entry to the United States without requiring them to "risk their lives at sea." The policy would seek to cope with Castro's punishment (most recently, sentences of 10 years in jail) of Cubans who seek to emigrate, are caught, and repatriated. How?
Castro reacted to the Bush initiatives in a characteristic way. "Cuba again denounces these new provocations and aggressions by the neofascist American government." These policies, said the official Communist Party daily, Granma, "have an electoral stink" that shows "the unlimited commitment of the American government to the extreme right and its obsessions with destroying the Cuban revolution's example."
Now, analysts of the political situation can't discount the whole of such condemnations of U.S. policy simply because they issue from Castro and his retinue. Mr. Bush's reiteration of the same old thing in respect of our treatment of Cuba can't be attributed to fundamental U.S. attitudes toward tyrannical governments. If this were so, we would not have permitted trade with the Soviet Union during thirty long years before that tyranny ended. The tyranny in China shows no sign whatever of ending, and does not, there, depend on the longevity of a single person. Mao has been dead for a long time, and we are into the fourth generation of tyrannical successions. U.S. policy urges trade with Vietnam, a tyranny we fought, in living memory, not by restricting tourist visas to Hanoi, but by dispatching 500,000 American soldiers to shoot North Vietnamese Communists and their sympathizers.
Policies towards China and Vietnam evolved, but not policies toward Cuba, even though the worldwide threat of which Cuba was once a salient no longer exists. Why? Do those policies have something to do with "an electoral stink"?
Well, yes. Minority exertions on foreign policy tend to have extortionate effects. This is true of Jewish American influence on Mideast policy, of Hispanic American influence on immigration policy, of Cuban American influence on Cuba policy.
There is, in this case, something of national pride also at work. We have been terribly humiliated by Castro over forty years. We tried to invade his country and failed. We tried to assassinate him and failed. He extended his hospitality to Soviet nuclear missiles, very nearly precipitating world war. Add to this his personal odiousness in torturing and killing individual Cubans who defy or displease him. I quote myself a few years ago, and reiterate that I would volunteer to serve as hangman if Castro were caught and sentenced to death.
But U. S. pride, brandished in Little Havana policy, doesn't make sense. Castro lives on, the penury of the Cuban people increases, and the only truth that survives is that socialist Cuba cannot withstand one thing-capitalist intervention. But only Cuban Americans, apparently, can bring on such revisions in policy as would at least permit American enterprise to bring concrete relief to Cubans, through the capitalism that scorns the pretensions of Castroism and the misery they have brought.
But this torch must be lit by Cuban Americans. That day is not advanced by political fustian that has got us nowhere in the 13 years in which Castro has lived an isolated salamander in what was once the oceanic threat of a Soviet enterprise.