Posted by Scott Cavanagh
Ike was president and Beatlemania still another five years away. Marilyn Monroe was alive; Ronald Reagan was not yet the Governor of California; George W. Bush was 13 -- and Fidel Castro was beginning his reign as president and unchallenged dictator of Cuba.
That reign concluded Wednesday, when the Cuban leader announced that he was resigning from office. Forty-eight years is a long time by any measure, but put in a modern context--where public figures enter and exit the arena so quickly that Andy Warhol's notion that in time everyone would be famous for 15 minutes seems to have come to pass--Castro's amazing tenure as Comrade #1 is all the more amazing.
Castro outlasted nine U. S. presidents and has outlived six. He survived the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of his Soviet protectors and 46 years of a total trade embargo by the world's greatest economic superpower. Now he's gone from the world stage and although the probable succession of his 76-year old brother Raul hardly raises the prospect of radical change in the island nation, it is an opening--one that has not appeared in nearly half a century.
Has the embargo outlived its usefulness? Has decades of economic hardship -- brought on primarily by our own actions--produced any tangible results other than handing Fidel a propaganda club with which to beat us about the head every time the embargo is mentioned?
The powerful Cuban-American political lobby has fought successfully for years to prevent any open national dialogue on this issue. From the point of view of an expatriate Cuban living in the U.S., the continuation of the embargo may make sense, but to the rest of us it is nothing more than a political football, tossed back and forth between the Cuban-American community and the federal government any time mention is made of an alternative strategy to deal with the Cuban problem.
Why don't we open trade with Cuba? How would normalizing relations with a poor neighbor country that has been living under the grip of communism for nearly five decades produce worse results than the failed embargo? China is a Communist economic superpower with a nuclear arsenal--most of which is aimed at us. We grant the Chinese Most-Favored-Nation trading status and borrow billions off of them. We lost 53,000 Americans fighting Communism in Vietnam. That country is now a valued trading partner and growing tourist destination. It's government is also unrepentantly Communist.
Continuing to play cruel draconian economic games with the people of Cuba--a country that sits less than 100 miles off of our shores--is shortsighted and ludicrous. Perhaps there are good arguments for continuing the embargo, but I have yet to hear them. Nixon opened dialogue with the Soviets and the USSR was gone in 20 years.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008
Posted by Scott Cavanagh