The United States should abandon its propensity for moral sermonizing in the manner of Dickensian schoolmarms about foreign leaders in obedience to the biblical injunction that, “He who is without sin … let him first cast a stone at her.” We need to tend to our own gardens. We need to examine and cure our own shortcomings, simpliciter. We need to fight to the death in self-defense, but exert influence abroad by example only.
Cuba exemplifies the hazards of doing otherwise. Our multiple sins over many decades created and supported the gruesome tyranny of “Maximum Leader” Fidel Castro, and verified the biblical teaching that, “[F]or whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
Our sinning began with the 1898 gratuitous Spanish-American War fueled by the fanciful falsehood that the Spanish government had caused the explosion of the American battleship Maine in Havana harbor killing 260 sailors. While contemporaneous investigations were inconclusive, Adm. Hyman Rickover definitively concluded that the explosion was caused by spontaneous combustion of the Maine’s coal bin, a hazard common among comparable vessels.
Our second sin was the Platt Amendment. It set forth eight conditions for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Cuba and the transfer of sovereignty to a Cuban government. Among other things, they authorized United States interventions to maintain “a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty,” mandated the compromise of Cuban sovereignty by a perpetual nominal lease to the United States of Guantanamo Bay, and, required the insertion of each and every conditions in the Cuban constitution.
Marching under the banner of the Platt Amendment, the United States intervened in Cuba in 1906, 1912, 1917, and 1920. The Amendment was largely superseded by the 1934 Cuban-American Treaty of Relations. But it had left Cuba politically stunted. Dictator Fulgencio Batista dominated Cuban political life with the political and economic support of the United States from 1934 until Castro’s landmark 1953 attack on the Moncada Army Barracks.
As Castro’s revolt against Batista strengthened, U.S. State Department adviser William Wieland favored his continued support in arguing, “I know Batista is considered by many as a son of a bitch but American interests come first. At least he was our son of a bitch.”
Castro climbed to power in 1959 largely because the United States for 50 years had been complicit in a Pandora’s Box of unpopular, corrupt, oppressive Cuban governments.
But our sinning did not stop with Castro’s ascendancy. President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 attempted overthrow of the Maximum Leader by force and violence rooted in the reprehensible international law theory that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must unwittingly strengthened him. President Kennedy followed by tasking Attorney General Robert Kennedy to assassinate Castro in Operation Mongoose. Both the overthrow and assassination attempts gave birth to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world to the brink of destruction.
We then attempted to bring Castro to heel through diplomatic and economic isolation until he died on November 25, 2016. But boycott and ostracism enabled him to blame his oppression and impoverishment of the Cuban people on us, thus extending his tyranny.
Liberal columnist Richard Cohen of The Washington Post assailed Castro upon his death as “a killer” who “imposed a totalitarian system in Cuba even harsher and more homicidal than the one that preceded it.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, condemned Castro’s “brutal Communist dictatorship.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, declaimed that, “[H]istory will remember [Fidel Castro] as an evil murderous dictator…”
But history written without ulterior motives will more importantly reveal that the United States should never have attempted to dominate, coerce or manipulate Cuba’s political life. We would have been spared the compromise of the U.S. Constitution’s foreign policy of invincible self-defense; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; and, entangling alliances with none.
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