[Marxism] Phil Peters: The nightmare scenario

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Aug 26 10:43:00 MDT 2007

(Fascinating political speculation by Phil Peters who thinks that 
Cuba might really surprise everyone by making certain social and 
economic openings which would by themselves expose and destroy the 
rationales for the blockade, and deny Washington any leverage at 
all in Cuba. Always thoughtful comments from this libertarian who 
knows Cuba well and doesn't fit facts into his ideology.)

Progreso Weekly (Miami) 

The nightmare scenario

By Phil Peters

Taken from his blog The Cuban Triangle.

Here are a few comments on a University of Miami essay by Professor
Jaime Suchlicki and Jason Poblete, "When Should the U.S. Change
Policy Toward Cuba."

The authors begin by discussing the confusion involved in the terms
"transition" and "succession." I thought the Administration defined
the terms pretty well: "transition" meant a change in political
system, "succession" a change in leadership with the system
unchanged. Then the Administration confused the issue completely,
giving us one more reason not to rely on our own government for
analysis of what's going on in Cuba. In my book, what has occurred is
pretty clear: Cuba's leadership has changed, the system hasn't.

The authors' real point, however, is to stand up for the
all-or-nothing U.S. policy in the Helms-Burton law, which provides
that only a complete change in Cuba's political system, not partial
reform, can trigger any easing of U.S. sanctions. They underscore
that the law provides that "a transition government cannot include
either Fidel Castro or Raul Castro." Actually, the law goes them one
better; it says that a "democratically elected government" cannot
include Fidel or Raul, which is worth chewing over for a minute.

Set aside your supposition about Raul Castro's chances in a free
election in Cuba -- would he get 12 percent? 51 percent? 70 percent?
-- and contemplate that this law says that if Cuba were to free
political prisoners; allow a free press, political parties, and labor
unions to operate; dissolve state security; and hold elections under
international observation; then the result would not be a
"democratically elected" government if it were to include Raul
Castro. In other words, it defines not only the processes that Cubans
must follow to achieve democracy, it also sets conditions on the
result. Its message to Cubans is simple: Hold an election and satisfy
all our conditions, but if you elect Raul we won't accept the result
as democratic. Helms-Burton, in this sense, is purely
anti-democratic. But this is the provision of the law that these
authors hold up virtually as sacred writ in an essay devoted to
democracy in Cuba and the constancy of democratic principles in U.S.
foreign policy. Go figure.

Regarding those principles, the authors try mightily to cram the
current U.S. approach toward Cuba into the mainstream of U.S. foreign
policy, implying that any deviation amounts to "supporting regimes
and dictators that violate human rights." They reach back to the Ford
Administration, ignoring that Ford offered to normalize relations
without demanding that Cuba change its political system. They ignore
that Presidents of both parties have long promoted American contact
with citizens and officials in communist countries as a means of
promoting U.S. influence, all the while maintaining our moral
disapproval of the communist system. They ignore the 1992 Cuba
Democracy Act, a law embraced by the late Jorge Mas Canosa, which
offered to ease U.S. sanctions in response to political or economic
openings in Cuba -- the precise opposite of the Helms-Burton

There's more. They set up an old straw man, claiming that proponents
of engagement with Cuba believe that engagement will produce regime
change. (Some do, I'll admit, but they are wrong. There are many
benefits to engagement, but if you want regime change the only honest
path is to make an unjustifiable call for military action.) They make
the tired and customary insinuation about the motives of proponents
of engagement. They argue that the tourism industry "is the one area
of the economy on which the government, besides oil exploration, on
which [sic] the future economic survival of the island depends."
Nonsense. They suggest negotiations with Cuba, which now makes us all
dialogueros, I guess. Jason and Jaime, welcome to the club.

Beneath it all, my hunch is that the authors are beginning to grapple
with a scenario that may soon confront us.

No one knows whether, when, or how much Raul Castro would liberalize
Cuba's economy. But what if he does, even in small ways, as Suchlicki
himself expects? What if an opening produces positive economic
results? What if those results earn him some political approval from
Cubans who are sick of orthodoxy and eager to have opportunities to
provide for themselves and their families?

What if Americans would react by saying that a degree of
liberalization, even if limited, is a positive development? How would
we react to a scenario where Cuban policies are changing and Cubans
of all political persuasions are debating what should come next? The
next question would be to ask, pragmatically, what to do? Are there
any tools in U.S. policy that would encourage a greater opening?

At that point, we would crash right into the big question posed by
Suchlicki and Poblete. And the answer, they remind us, is dictated in
our law: We would do absolutely nothing until Cuba's political system
is transformed and Raul Castro is gone.

We would greet a scenario of new possibilities as spectators with our
feet in concrete. We would make the perfect the enemy of the good,
which is not a typical American approach.

In that scenario, Americans might then look for different options.
The system of laws enacted in response to Fidel Castro might lose
their sacrosanct quality. The Calle Ocho argument that anyone who
seeks a different approach toward Cuba is abandoning democratic
values and supporting dictatorship, might seem a little ridiculous.

That's why an economic opening in Cuba after Fidel would be a hopeful
sign for some, and the political nightmare of a lifetime for others.

Philip Peters works with the Lexington Institute in Washington, DC.
Since 1996 he has traveled regularly to Cuba to monitor and write
about economic and political developments. Peters is an advisor to
the Cuba Working Group in the House of Representatives.


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