This post is dedicated to Yoani Sánchez
Cuba is a somewhat personal subject for me, for reasons having to do with my youth, Cuban post-Batista history and Soviet propaganda of the sixties and seventies of the last century. From time to time I revisit the subject in my mind, having made a promise to myself to write about it more when The Beard croaks - which act he, unfortunately, keeps delaying. Possibly to outlive me and make me break my oath.
The article by Joshuapundit on the related subject caused me another round of mulling. The first task of that mulling was to define to myself what the issue is. Definitely not the handshake as such. Of course, Joshuapundit is right on the Democrats being prone to hobnobbing with the most disgusting and murderous dictators. In fact, the inimitable President Carter alone easily outshakes and outkisses any given bunch of politicos on any given continent. And the man is really, but really omnivorous in this activity. A person barely has time to put on dictator's regalia and to kill a few citizens of his nation, and here comes Jimbo, ready to kiss and forgive.
Besides shaking hands with Baby Castro being a shameful act, and I totally share the sentiment, there is something missing in the attitude of the conservative wing of the American politics to Cuba. I really can't consider this outburst by Sen. John McCain to be anything but foolish posing:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized President Obama for shaking the hand of Cuban leader Raul Castro at the memorial ceremony for former South African president Nelson Mandela, comparing the gesture to Neville Chamberlain's handshake with Adolf Hitler at the start of World War II.To start with, Baby Castro is not Hitler. This comparison is demeaning to many millions of people in Europe who died as a result of the evil and murderous regime led by the latter. Neither do the circumstances of the handshake warrant such deluge of ire. But of course, Sen. John McCain could do with a serious improvement of his diplomatic skills and general understanding of what is going on outside of United States, as his lame article in Russian Pravda confirms.
The problem is not the handshake, but a very long period of misunderstanding what is going on in Cuba and being unable to come up with a solution for this simmering pot of trouble on American doorstep. Mr McCain is just an extreme example of stereotyping the dictatorial regimes (and Cuba still is one, no doubt about it) and applying the same rhetoric and the same "rules of engagement" to every single one, as his Chamberlain/Hitler faux pas shows. But the main fallacy of his approach is shared by too many people in power.
Cuba is indeed still in the hands of an evil regime, but a very tattered and weakened one, especially after the demise of Soviet Union and cessation of Soviet assistance. Paradoxically, one of the main forces still keeping the country afloat is the money transfers from US Cuban community. As far as the communist propaganda is concerned - hardly anyone, the leaders of the regime included, believes in all this nonsense. Let's not forget that The Beard himself, after taking over the country from the corrupt and rotten Batista regime, was hesitating on the question of choosing between US and USSR as the most fitting patron, and only ineptness of State Department stood in the way of a totally different outcome... but this is already spilled milk.
It is important to understand that the time of the stick is gone. Not just because the stick will hardly work with Cubans, proud and strong people as they are, but because it is not needed. The infamous embargo against Cuba must be rescinded, no matter how many hotheads in Florida blow their gaskets as a result. The flow of American and other Western goods to Cuba will inevitably be accompanied by information flow. And the Cubans currently living in US, visiting their home country in droves, will only increase the information supply - no matter how vigilant the guards of the regime are.
There is no need, deity forbid, of another Bay of Pigs fiasco, nor of poisoned cigars and other similar rubbish. The regime is crumbling, its teeth are almost gone and a lot of kindness, patience and understanding will do the trick. And I am confident that just as CIA was surprised by the fall of the Berlin wall, it could be surprised again - by the fall of the Castro's junta. Bloodless fall, I want to stress.
And then it will be up to Cubans. I hope that enough of them understand what Yoani Sánchez* says here:
One day we will look back and realize that the Castro regime fell or simply ceased to exist, taking with it the best years of my mother, my best years, the best years of my son. But perhaps it’s just as well, not having another January first, no photos of Greek-profiled gentlemen with pigeons perched on their shoulders. Perhaps a change that goes through the waters of apathy is better than another carnivorous revolution that devours us all.(*) And if you don't know yet who Yoani is, it's time for you to link to and to read her site.
Afterwards, afterwards there won’t be much time for festivities. The bubble of false statistics will pop and we’ll be struck by the country we actually have. We’ll realize that the infant mortality rate isn’t what we’ve been told all these years, that we aren’t the “most cultured people in the world” and that the nation’s coffers are empty… empty… empty. We will hear a chorus of “with Raul Castro everything was better.” We will have to start to change the name of the Stockholm Syndrome and relocate it to this tropical geography.