Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Pre-Emptive Epitaph for a Failed Policy

I arrived in New Delhi a week ago, and my jaw remains in dropped position. I’ll get some photos and reflections up on my travel log soon. I’d like to say I’ve been 100% engaged in the experience, but admittedly, given prevailing world events, my eyes keep being drawn home.

Recent reports and speculation about Cuban President Fidel Castro’s state of health have brought a lot of attention to U.S. policy towards that country. I was fortunate enough to spend a few months studying Cuban history and a few weeks visiting the island during my time as a Berea student. During that period and since I have come to recognize the complexities involved in assessing the victories and failures of the Cuban Revolution.

What is not complex to me, however, is the abject failure of 47 years of U.S. policy towards Cuba since Fidel Castro came to power. In the words of Buddha, “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth -- not going all the way, and not starting.” Clearly, the U.S. has not even started down the path of assisting Cuba in the full attainment of an open society, and the regressive policies of the Bush Administration have only made matters worse:
  • What sort of policy restricts personal exchanges between Cuban-Americans and their Cuban families, as well as between Cuban and American students, scholars, humanitarian aid workers, and church groups? How is Cuba ever to be exposed to treasured U.S. ideals around freedom and democracy if we’re not allowed to interact with one another?
  • What sort of President assures the Cuban people that he stands ready to help them “…enjoy the fruits of freedom and democracy” while meeting openly with individuals who are working towards the overthrow of their government? I think the $80 million that the Bush Administration has pledged towards subverting the Cuban government over the next two years could be better spent on other priorities.
  • What sort of Administration criticizes Cuba’s lack of civil liberties while itself refusing to release Cuban political prisoners even after their convictions have been overturned? It’s quite likely that some of the worst human rights atrocities being committed in Cuba today are taking place within the (illegally) U.S.-occupied Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
I believe that Condi’s speech on “Radio Marti” (a propaganda program that the US broadcasts into Cuba) a few nights ago was as much a message to the US citizenry as those in Cuba: “The United States respects your aspirations as sovereign citizens…” As a result of their ongoing foreign policy blunders, I think the Republicans are feeling the angst of an alarmed populace in an election year. We must let them, as well as their Democratic opposition, know that we are watching closely and that we demand a policy of “constructive engagement” with Cuba.

Please join me in contacting President Bush and your Congressional delegation to let them know that it’s time for the U.S. to rethink its Cuba policy, and that the recent report by the Administration’s so-called “Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba” takes our Cuba policy in precisely the wrong direction. For ongoing news and action alerts related to US relations with Cuba, as well as other nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, I have found the Latin America Working Group helpful. Finally, for a much more thorough and articulate critique of U.S. policy towards Cuba, see the Emergency Network of Cuban American Scholars and Artists for Change in U.S.-Cuba Policy.

As always, I welcome your feedback and suggestions for further action on this issue. Thanks!


The Joker said...

Just curious as to your thoughts...

I have a friend from Cuba. He says everyone hates life there. His father is a pediatrician and his uncle sells shoes. Because of the way the government structures people's income. The uncle lives a real nice life while his father is not making as much. Who should judge someones value? A dictator or customers?

In terms of creating value, I think the pediatrician has much more worth than the shoe salesmen. Don't you think that a philosophy like Communism, that starts out with the fundamental assumption that people do not have the right to their own income - that no matter how much they create for society, they are only worth what everyone else is? Is the dude that makes solar panels equal to the dude that pushes a broom and complains about gas prices?

Admittedly, capitalism hasn't really been all that just a system either (because of government intervention). Please don't take this to mean I think either system is operating ideally.

But as a curiousity, which is the more philosophically/ethically sound system, communism or capitalism?

Jason Fults said...

Brother G-Unit,
Congratulations on your first-ever blog post. My apologies for taking so long to get back with you. I've been otherwise occupied up in McLeod Ganj, India, sitting at the feet of His Holiness the DL and hoping to become enlightened ;)

I too have made friends from Cuba over the years, both people who have left and people who remain--part of the reason why this issue strikes such a chord with me. But let me first assure you that there is no such thing as unanimity amongst Cubans with regards to the current situation there. Talk with, for instance, low-income Cubans who experienced life under Batista and you'll get a considerably different take than from young people who have grown up in the post-Revolutionary era, or from the wealthy elite who fled the country along with Batista.

Secondly, I too have serious concerns about some of the shortcomings of contemporary Cuba, basic human liberties among them. When I spent time on the island I definitely witnessed what I felt were some troubling indicators that the country is not the post-capitalist utopia that many on the far Left would make it out to be.

But what I am learning, what I think our nation needs to learn, is that the time has long past when we can afford to take a unilateralist, militaristic approach to spreading "our" values in the world (as if we actually even have a shared set of values anymore--I seriously doubt GW and I mean remotely the same thing when we extol the importance of "democracy", for instance). An interesting, recent essay that I think every American should read and reflect on is "The Unamerican Century"

If you want to talk about the relative merit and viability of different economic systems, that is a conversation that I welcome and am quite interested in. Before I left the U.S., I had gotten started on Michael Albert's ”Parecon” and was actually going to suggest that you and I read that together, since we seem to share some of the same geeky, analytic qualities and are equally hungry for some sort of meta-solution to the messes that we see around us.

But regardless of where we eventually end up in terms of our economic perspectives, I think our foreign policy towards Cuba (and other nations) has to be considered within a much more complex framework--one that takes into account the importance of our shared history with that nation, our own shortcomings in the realm of human liberties, and our rights and even legitimacy to get involved in the internal politics of another nation.

Still your homie,