11 February 2015

Can we say with confidence that “Only President Obama could go to Cuba”?

There's a political proverb stating, “Only Nixon would go to China”, meaning “only a politician or leader with an impeccable reputation of upholding particular political values could do an action in seeming defiance of them without jeopardizing his support or credibility”. (Wikipedia)

President Nixon was a hardliner when it came to dealing with the communists. No one would suspect him of coddling them by visiting China and opening formal relations, but he did. Even those who did not suspect that Nixon's intent was to leverage the Chinese against the Soviets never questioned his motives. They trusted him to be tough with communism, regardless of appearances.

Yes, you know where I'm going with this, don't you? Do we trust President Obama's motives in opening formal relations with Cuba? Can we say with equal confidence that “Only Obama could go to Cuba?”

Did President Obama jeopardize his support or credibility by defying his political values? Of course, to answer that question, we must first identify what his political values are.

President Obama is, if nothing else, consistent. He has given great latitude to other despotic regimes during his tenure in the White House. The Arab states have been especial beneficiaries of his acts of appeasement and forbearance. Only Israel has felt the sting of the President's displeasure during these past six years.

Now Castro is vindicated. Despite the constant litany of human rights violations, he has won his battle with the United States. President Obama blinked. 

Strangely, as I researched Cuba and Castro prior to writing my first novel, Rebels on the Mountain, I found Fidel to be a heroic character. (Anyone interested can see summaries of my research in a series of blog postings at http://www.jackdurish.com/4/category/cuba/1.html) It was only after he drove Batista from the island nation and rose to power that he morphed into a tyrant. Ultimately, I appended a final chapter, a postscript to my novel, wherein one of the principal characters returns to Cuba to witness the ravages of his rule. Otherwise, readers might be left with a false impression that I admired Castro.

In 1953, Fidel Castro was on trial for leading an attack on the Cuban Army barracks at Moncada. He made a four hour speech in his defense and concluded that while the court might convict him, “history will absolve me.” Is President Obama speaking for history, for all of us, or just himself?

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