“If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens itself around your own.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Reports of the coming demise of the military dictatorship of Cuba have been greatly exaggerated.
Libertarians are fond of sharing memes like “taxation is theft,” or “taxes = slavery,” and rightfully decry moments when the state denies our inherent individual rights. We also point out that our liberty is lessened when peoples with whom we have associations do not enjoy the same freedoms we do, and rightfully are indignant when populaces outside the US suffer from the initiation of force against their Lockean rights. So, when is American military force justified in the removal of a despotic regime from power? How about when American military force has contributed, either directly or indirectly, to the subjugation of said people? If our government had a hand in the repression of a nation, is there not a moral obligation for our government to at least attempt to right that past wrong?
Cuba is an apt example of the negative effect America can have on the relationship a population has with its government. If in 2018, when Cuban President Raúl Castro steps down and relinquishes power to Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba’s First Vice President of the Council of State, as he is expected to do, the United States should invade to overthrow the Cuban government and disband the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.
In “Black History is American History” David Boaz writes:
“How could Americans proclaim that ‘all men are created equal . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,’ without noticing that they themselves were holding other men and women in bondage? They could not, of course. The ideas of the American Revolution — individualism, natural rights and free markets — led logically to agitation for the extension of civil and political rights to those who had been excluded from liberty, as they were from power — notably slaves, serfs and women.”
Boaz was writing about the American Abolition movement, but his assertion could just as easily be applied to the slavery of the Cuban people under the despotic Castro brothers. In a modern, global economy and the “normalization” of US-Cuban diplomatic relations, the question must be asked: what does the United States owe the Cuban people regarding the liberties demanded by dissidents of Cuba’s totalitarian state?
The United States government has had complicity in the subjugation of the Cuban people. American sanctions and embargoes on Cuba have done nothing to drive the Castro regime from power, while the Bay of Pigs fiasco drove Fidel further into the arms of the Soviets, and consequently a socialist economy. Cuba was a client state of the Soviet Union for the next three decades, and the collapse of the Soviet Union led to an even starker impoverishment of the Cuban people. Obama can pat himself on the back for opening up diplomatic channels, and for allowing and promoting American investment in Cuba, and travel there.
President Obama’s greatest achievement could be the liberation of the Cuban people, but that will not come about because he attended a baseball game, or gave a few speeches (is there any orator on the international stage more delusional about the “transformative” power of his rhetoric than Obama?). The United States government should stipulate to Diaz-Canel, upon his assumption of power, that his government must discard its Constitution and draft one that enshrines Cuban citizens with the negative rights American citizens enjoy.
To its credit, Cuba’s Constitution does declare freedom of religion, but a new one must be drafted and enshrined by popular referendum, and must not include passages which announce the government is “GUIDED by the ideas of José Martí and the political and social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin;” “AND HAVING DECIDED to carry forward the triumphant Revolution… under the leadership of Fidel Castro, which sustained by the closest unity of all revolutionary forces and of the people won full national independence, established revolutionary power, carried out democratic changes, started the construction of socialism and, with the Communist Party at the forefront, continues this construction with the final objective of building a communist society;” “AWARE… that only under socialism and communism, when man has been freed from all forms of exploitation – slavery, servitude and capitalism – can full dignity of the human being be attained;” as well as assertions that “Cuba will never revert to capitalism.”
The Cuban Constitution is a document that bears a resemblance to the Ten Commandments. It first announces what the highest authority is (in Cuba’s case, the Communist Party) and that it is the duty of all to adhere to what the authority says is true and virtuous. The Cuban people will never enjoy liberty if the guiding light of its government is that the Communist Party can do whatever it wants to those who refuse to march in lockstep to the beat of its drum.
Diaz-Canel is no reformer; if he was, he would not have been hand-picked by Raúl. The Castro brothers are not going to leave their legacy in the hands of a man with whom they have doubts that he will carry on the Revolution. Who better than the former Minister of Higher Education? If you think American colleges have become socialist indoctrination centers, how would you describe Cuban ones? Raúl’s closeness to the Cuban military all that ensures the transition to Diaz-Canel will be seamless. Raúl’s endorsement of Diaz-Canel allays their fears that the Revolution will be concluded.
When Fidel became so ill he had to pass the reins to his younger brother, Cuban ex-pats and American Cuba-watchers had hopes that Raúl would usher in a new era of the relaxation of Cuba’s police/surveillance state (as President Obama was flying to Havana a few weeks ago, dozens of protesters calling for the release of political prisoners were arrested and detained), and that Cubans would enjoy a greater amount of economic self-determination (some reforms had been made to allow for tourism and foreign investment by non-American entities during the “Special Period” when the Cuban economy, such as it was, crashed following the collapse of the Soviet Union; these reforms were partially reversed several years later). I hold out little hope that Raúl’s recently enacted reforms will lead to any real measure of freedom for the Cuban people, since they can be reversed on the whim of the leaders of Cuba’s Communist Party. Cuba’s economy is now only mostly controlled by the state, rather than completely. That is because the power of Cuba’s government lies with its military. The Revolutionary Armed Forces controls 60% of the country’s economy and was the precursor to today’s Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, the organization that runs Cuba’s police and surveillance state, and membership in the CDR is a prerequisite for any chance at, by Cuban standards, a semi-decent life.
The possibility for individual liberties for Cubans rests on the disbanding of the CDR and the RAF, since those are the pillars of the Communist Party’s power. Fidel was, and Raúl is not just the president (read: dictator) of Cuba, but by turns the leader of Cuba’s Communist Party as well as commander in chief of the military. Totalitarian regimes always rely on military force, and the greatest stature afforded to members of the Cuban hierarchy is that of military leaders, and they have the most to lose in the case of a pro-democracy, pro-capitalism, pro-freedom government. They will not voluntarily choose to place the levers of power out of their reach. What will they respond to other than the looming threat of invasion by a far superior military such as ours?
Fidel’s speeches were often about the future, when Cuba will finally reach that socialist worker’s paradise. In reality, Fidel’s vision of the future is a boot stamping on the face of each citizen. Forever. And Fidel displayed his dedication to lying about how the woes of the Cuban people are due to the pernicious American influence in his written response to Obama’s speeches, printed in Granma, ‘The Official Voice of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee’ wherein he claimed the American Navy has been blockading Cuba for the past 60 years. If America’s been blockading Cuba, how did the Soviet Union support it for three decades? And now, America is actually the fifth largest importer into Cuba.
America liberated Cuba from Spain in 1898. That was a good thing. Unfortunately, our military has often helped to put down subsequent revolutions, supported corrupt regimes like that of Batista, and made a mess of things with the Bay of Pigs invasion. The American government owes it to the Cuban people to liberate them from Communist tyranny. Americans’ will be made more legitimate when we can welcome Cubans into the community of Western, capitalist nations.