Saturday, November 26, 2016

The End of an Era

As Joe Biden would say, "This is a big fucking deal"... Fidel Castro is dead at 90. Castro was one of the most interesting figures of the second half of the 20th century, half monster, half hero- the bête noire of many an American presidential regime but the popular tweaker of Uncle Sam's beard to countless denizens of the developing world who had no reason to love the United States.

Of course, the truth is somewhere in the middle of this tragic mishegas- Fulgencio Batista, the military dictator overthrown by Castro, was a monster himself. More tragically, before he threw in his lot with the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro made overtures to the Eisenhower administration and was rebuffed. Despite portrayals of Eisenhower as the 'last noble Republican', Ike made some serious, far-reaching errors in his term as president (Iran, the Congo, and Vietnam being particularly tragic examples). The major American sins of the Post WW2 era involved propping up dying colonial interests instead of engaging with newly freed colonies as equals to support. I would chalk much of this up to racism, but most of it can be laid at the feet of the Dulles Brothers.

At any rate, the idea of an Eisenhower-backed Castro is an even more interesting counterfactual than a Major League baseballer Castro... sadly for the world, we were stuck with the Castro we ended up with, the central figure in a tragedy with grotesque elements of farce, including such outré assassination methods as exploding cigars and infected wetsuits. With Fidel safely dead of old age, the President-Elect is probably going to take credit. My favorite take on Castro's death is deptfordx' comment at Lawyers, Guns & Money:

“Can’t….. Rest….. Till. America Destroyed.”

*Sees Trump Elected*

“Well my work here is done.”

At any rate, Fidel is finished, one of the last few relics from the not-so-good old days of the Cold War has passed. To the extent that he was a monster, he was merely one in an age of monsters, among the Trujillos and the Duvaliers. His rise, and the rise of other strongmen of his ilk, can be chalked up to failures of the United States to live up to its lofty ideals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and the choice not to implement the Monroe Doctrine as a force for extending democracy and self-determination to Latin Americans. If only we had been a better nation all along, maybe Fidel Castro could have developed into a truly transformative politician, rather than a miniaturized Stalin.


Nasreen Iqbal said...

I wish his revolution had really been successful instead of serving as yet another eternal example that some people could use to try and say certain ideals can never work in practice.

mikey said...

OK, couple of things. I think it's neither fair nor historically accurate to attribute Vietnam - the massive blunder, not the country - to Eisenhower. Just because there was some US involvement there under Ike and JFK, that's always going to belong to Johnson and McNamara. Pre Gulf of Tonkin resolution, it was a sideshow.

Also, too, to blame Eisenhower for the mess in the Congo is just wrong. It was a Belgian colony until June of 1960, and most of the bloodshed was driven by Moise Tshombe's refusal to join the other provinces and demand that Katanga be recognized as an independent state. When Hammarskjöld sent UN troops to fight him, it was with the approval of President Kennedy...

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

"Bread lines in Havana prove communism is a failure, but for some reason poverty in cities like Detroit don't say the same for capitalism."

- seen on twitter