Tuesday, December 05, 2006


"The Communist regime, as we have known it, cannot possibly survive Castro's death. To be sure, Fidel's brother Raul will take over leadership; the Cuban Communist Party, the military and intelligence system, and the government ministries will continue to rule. But the regime that Castro created will be dead. It will be dead because Castro will be dead, and whatever survives him cannot be called the same regime. It will have been fundamentally transformed....

The difference between old and the new in Cuba is the difference between Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev. It is not a difference in moral character but of imagination. Stalin was far more than a functionary. He was, in his own way, a visionary -- and was seen by his followers around the world as a visionary. When the Soviet Union fell into the hands of Brezhnev, it fell into the hands of a functionary. Stalin served a vision; Brezhnev served the regime. Stalin ruled absolutely; Brezhnev ruled by committee and consensus. Stalin was far more than the state and party apparatus; Brezhnev was far less.

Brezhnev's goal was preserving the Soviet state. There were many reasons for the fall of the Soviet Union, but at the core, the fact that mere survival had become its highest aim was what killed it. The Soviets still repeated lifelessly the Leninist and Stalinist slogans, but no one believed them -- and no one thought for one moment that Brezhnev believed them.

It has been many years since Fidel's vision had any real possibility of coming true. Certainly, it has had little meaning since the fall of the Soviet Union. In some ways, the death of Che Guevara in Bolivia was the end. But regardless of when the practical possibilities of Cuba had dissolved, Fidel Castro continued to believe that the original vision was still possible. More important, his followers believed that he believed, and therefore, they believed. No one can believe in Raul Castro's vision. Thus, the era that began in 1959 is ending....

Now, the poetry is ending, and the detail men and bean-counters are in charge. They don't know any poems -- and while they can charge the United States with bearing the blame for all of the revolution's failures, it is not the same as if Fidel were doing it. Regimes do not survive by simple brute strength. There have to be those who believe. Stalin had his believers, as did Hitler and Saddam Hussein. But who believes in Raul and his committees? Certainly, the instruments of power are in their hands, as they were in the hands of other communist rulers whose regimes collapsed. But holding the instruments of power is not, over time, enough. It is difficult to imagine the regime of functionaries surviving very long. Without Fidel, there is little to hope for.

The future of Cuba once meant a great deal to the international system. Once, there was nearly a global thermonuclear war over Cuba. But that was more than 40 years ago, and the world has changed. The question now is whether the future of Cuba matters to anyone but the Cubans.

Geopolitically, the most important point about Cuba is that it is an island situated 90 miles from the coast of the United States -- now the world's only superpower. Cuba was a Spanish colony until the Spanish-American war, and then was either occupied or dominated by the United States and American interests until the rise of Castro. Its history, therefore, is defined first by its relationship with Spain and then by its relationship to the United States.

From the U.S. standpoint, Cuba is always a geographical threat. If the Mississippi River is the great highway of American agriculture and New Orleans its great port to the world, then Cuba sits directly athwart New Orleans' access to the world. There is no way for ships from New Orleans to exit the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean but to traverse two narrow channels on either side of Cuba -- the Yucatan channel, between Cuba's western coast and the Yucatan; or the Straits of Florida, between the island's northern coast and Florida. If these two channels were closed, U.S. agricultural and mineral exports and imports would crumble. Not only New Orleans, but all of the Gulf Coast ports like Houston, would be shut in.

Cuba does not have the size or strength in and of itself to close those channels. But should another superpower control Cuba, the threat would become real and intolerable. The occupation of Cuba by a foreign power -- whether Spain, Germany, Russia or others -- would pose a direct geopolitical threat to the United States. Add to that the possibility that missiles could be fired from Cuba to the United States, and we can see what Washington sees there. It is not Cuba that is a threat, but rather a Cuba that is allied with or dominated by a foreign power challenging the United States globally. Therefore, the Americans don't much care who runs Cuba, so long as Cuba is not in a politico-military alliance with another power.

Under Spain, there was a minor threat. But prior to World War II, German influence in Cuba was a real concern. And Castro's Communist revolution and alliance with the Soviet Union were seen by the United States as a mortal threat. It was not Cuban ideology (though that was an irritant) nearly so much as Cuba's geopolitical position and the way it could be exploited by other great powers that obsessed the United States. When the Soviet Union went away, so did the American obsession. Now, Washington's Cuba policy is merely a vestige from a past era.

Without a foreign sponsor, Cuba is geopolitically impotent. It cannot threaten U.S. sea-lanes. It cannot be a base for nuclear weapons to be used against the United States. Its regime cannot be legitimized by the fact that the international system is focused on it. That means that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Cubans, under Castro, have been trying to make themselves useful to major powers. Havana approached the Chinese, and they didn't bite. The Russians may be interested in the future, but they have their hands full in their own neighborhood right now. Countries like North Korea and Iran are in no position to exploit the opportunity....

Certainly, Raul and his colleagues have superb instruments with which to stabilize Cuban security, but these are no better than the instruments that Romania and East Germany had. Those instruments will work for a while, but not permanently. For the regime to survive, Cuba must transform its economic life, but to do that, it risks the survival of the regime -- for the regime's control of the economy is one of the instruments of stability. Raul is not a man who is about to redefine the country, but he must try....

We are, therefore, pessimistic about the regime's ability to survive. Or more precisely, we do not believe that the successor regime -- communism without Fidel -- can hold on for very long. Raul Castro now is reaching out to the United States, but contrary to the Cuban mythology, the United States cannot solve Cuba's problems by ending the trade embargo. The embargo is a political gesture, not a functioning reality. End it or keep it, the Cuban problem is Cuba -- and without Fidel, the Cubans will have to face that fact
In "Cuba after Castro" by Dr. George Friedman www.stratfor.com

As George Friedman wisely argues, with the soon to be achieved passing of Tovarish Castro, the Cuban Revolution, will be 'over'. 'Over' not so much in the banal chronological sense, but more in the Hegelian, Weltgesichtian sense, that those overheated and essentially deceitful memories of the Sixties, Soixante-huitard in nature, of picking sugar cane in the fields, of Che, all the nonsensical rubbbish which at one time, so long ago, enveloped so many peoples mindsets, will be forever swept aside into the rubbish bin of histoire, as Tovarish Bronstein, so accurately predicted so long ago (not of communism of course...). In terms of World Politics, the death of Castro, and his Cuba, the Cuba as the Latin American focus of the 'world revolution' is something which died, de facto, quite some time ago. Roughly sometime in between 1967 (when Guevara was killed) and 1973 (with the overthrow of the Allende). The death of Castro will merely confirm this long ago passing away, making the de facto, de jure as it were.

As Friedman notes, among others, the situation of Cuba apres Castro will be one of a regime, which while legitimate in some real sense of the word, will have no future to turn to, and, by definition is unable to permanently subsist on memories of the past. In fact, if one wished in some sense to recall the real meaning of 'Brezhnevism', it was not so much the endemic corruption, inefficency, waste of vast resources on foreign aid, military expenditure, et cetera, et cetera, but, a society which was held together by living on its, once glorious past. Anyone who has some knowledge, even indirectly of life in Brezhnevian Sovietskaya Vlast, can tell you, that with the suppression of Reformism, of the 'Thaw', in the mid-1960's, what became the core of the regime, was a commitment to maintaining a living mausoleum. A society of the undead, as it were. Which in the case of the Soviet Union meant on the glorious memories of the Second World War chiefly. Memories which became in essence a substitute for Bolshevik ideology as a source of legitimacy in the mass of the population. In the case of post-Castro Cuba, with a much more meager diet of 'glorious' memories to choose from, the half-life of such a regime, will be much more truncated than Brezhnev's Sovietskaya Vlast. Perhaps a mere ten years to Brezhnev's twenty or so (1964-1985). Although, foreign alcolytes, such Chavez, will attempt to pump more resources to expand that time frame. An attempt which is doomed to failure of course.

For the United States, which is the only great power having any real interest in Cuba, and its unheroic future, the near term will be, should be one of 'watch and wait'. Watch, carefully to see the regime die, slowly but surely. Wait, with some trepidation, because the fact of the matter, is that the regime's future demise will not be a pleasant thing to see. Or bear witness to. Rather than any 'spring time of Democratic yearnings', by Cuba's poor, struggling masses, one is much more likely to see, chaos, anarchic violence, shiploads of people, no longer fleeing communism, but, just plain old poverty. Joining of course much of the rest of the Latin American continent in that respect. Of course, if the USA, had a diplomacy worthy of a great power, it would be preparing for this coming storm, by re-establishing ties, economic, diplomatic et cetera, with Cuba. However, just as American diplomacy in the Near East is in thrall to the Zionist Lobby, American diplomacy vis`a-vis Cuba, is in thrall to the nostrums of the Cuban emigre community. Which in effect means that when the 'end' does come for the post-Castro, Communist regime in Cuba, the USA, will be as prepared to deal with it, as it was to deal with the chaos of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.


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