Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fidel Castro exits on his own


Nine U.S. presidents over 59 years have uncorked every trick to bring down Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and his militant Marxism: the disastrous Bay of Pigs military invasion, recruiting the Mafia in a bungled assassination plot, a strangling U.S. economic embargo, crackpot Radio Marti propaganda broadcasts from Florida and covert CIA sabotage missions.

Well, people, Castro is finally brought down—by old age (81), lingering poor health and by his own decision that he announced Tuesday in Havana.

Common sense suggests the United States can now gracefully concede Castro was too stubborn for all our might and get on with a 180-degree change in White House policy toward Cuba.

Cuba is a genuine U.S. quagmire and diplomatic fool's mission. This has gone on far longer and is more embarrassing and pointless than the Vietnam War quagmire.

To what end? Only to mollify excitable Cuban-Americans in South Florida who demanded tougher action. Among hundreds of thousands of exiles and their American-born offspring, there isn't enough geopolitical common sense in the whole crowd to justify 59 years of humiliating U.S. futility on the pipsqueak Castro. But every U.S. president since 1959 let the Cuban-American tail wag the U.S. dog. Cuban-Americans are a whining voting bloc, and no Democrat or Republican president wanted to invite revenge from this over-caffeinated political rabble.

Don't look to John McCain to end current policy. He's the candidate, remember, who'd remain in Iraq 100 years. Cuban-Americans are his natural constituency for red-meat war talk.

Hillary Clinton? Would she go against husband Bill's presidential policies toward Cuba when he was commander in chief and after she campaigned so strenuously in Florida among Cuban-Americans?

Barack Obama? He's announced he'd open talks worldwide even with U.S. foes, and communist Cuba surely qualifies as a first stop. But, he too would wait until after the election—if he is elected—to announce a change in order to protect his political fortunes.

Sensible U.S. strategic thinkers understand that if the U.S. embargo were ended—we're virtually alone with this inane strategy—and American free enterprise flooded the Cuban culture, the island nation's economy and Cubans would change within months.

Castro was a useful bogeyman for Washington. He is a Marxist. He was ensconced in our hemisphere. He was brutal with opponents and critics. He was spreading his Communist nonsense elsewhere in Latin America. He lied about reforms he promised after overthrowing Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Now he's fading, probably on the doorstep of death.

What difference if Castro pulls the plug on himself? After six decades, the U.S. charade has no further purpose.

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