Commentary Magazine


Cuba & the U.S.

To the Editor:

The article by Dennis H. Wrong [“After the Cuban Crisis,” January] makes one yearn for the days of the forthright imperialists Henry Cabot Lodge and Captain A. T. Mahan. The latter knew what they wanted and never concealed their goals with unctuous adjectives. . . .

At the outset Mr. Wrong accuses “the pro-Castro left” of “an interest in blurring” President Kennedy’s position . . . with the contention that the administration is opposed to the social structure of Cuba and its confiscation of American business. A few paragraphs later he writes that “The Bay of Pigs invasion was politically disastrous because it suggested [delicate word] that the United States was not prepared to tolerate any regime in Cuba that was domestically revolutionary, neutralist in foreign policy, and antagonistic to private American business interests.” Apparently we are to conclude that this motive disappeared at the time of the missile confrontation.

Mr. Wrong operates from the premise that the Cuban government must be overthrown. He expresses no moral or legal scruples—the methods failed. He has no anxiety over a situation that bordered on nuclear war. What he now proposes is a new effort whereby a dishonest flag of social democracy would be raised of all places in Oriente province. . . .

The saddest aspect of Mr. Wrong’s attempt to show the CIA how to do the job is that it will meet with approval in many intellectual circles. Rare indeed have been the protests when President Kennedy in dealing with Cuba violated inter-American treaties, our Neutrality Act and the U.S. Code, and the accepted standards of self-determination, non-intervention, and respect for territorial integrity. . . .

But he has a greater task ahead of him than Cuba; it is all of Latin America. Let him heed the words of the Mexican novelist, Carlos Fuentes, who asks North Americans: “Why do you seem so hysterical, so jealous, so angry when a revolution puts into action the liberated energies of the people, and so indifferent, so calm, so thoughtful when these same people are exploited, tyrannized, and debased by a feudal oligarchy? . . . Understand this: Latin America is not going to be your back yard any more. We are going to enter the world.”

Elmer O. Fehlhaber
Glouster, Massachusetts

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Mr. Wrong writes:

Mr. Fehlhaber strikes me as being a fairly typical Castro partisan whose letter confirms my original brief characterization of the breed. He is unwilling to believe that the American government makes any distinction between a neighboring regime that expropriates American capital and carries out economic reforms of a state socialist character and one that not only joins the Soviet bloc but invites the Russian to establish missile bases on its territory. The Bay of Pigs invasion did “suggest”—and I used the word advisedly—that the American government failed to make such a distinction in Cuba, although it has clearly made it elsewhere in the world and even in Latin America. But the invasion attempt was not backed up by any commitment of American troops, was largely promoted by a single agency within the government, and was based on criminally mistaken assumptions about Castro’s popular support and the political appeal of the Miami refugees who participated in it. I notice that since the missiles crisis people like Mr. Fehlhaber have become even more violent in their condemnation of the Bay of Pigs than they were at the time and have created a veritable mythology in order to picture it as the equivalent of the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution by Russian tanks. Such a line conveniently obscures the quite different considerations that moved the Kennedy administration last October. To equate the half-hearted, abortive Bay of Pigs venture with Kennedy’s stand at the time of the missiles crisis is clearly absurd, even if one regards, as Mr. Fehlhaber appears to, the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba as a matter of no concern to the United States. Would he, by the way, expect the Soviet Union simply to look the other way if American missile bases were suddenly installed in Finland?

I do think the replacement of the Castro regime by a social democratic government would be in the best interests of the Cuban people. I considered in my article how this might be achieved without any intervention by the CIA and without risking nuclear war. Since the Soviet Union created what Mr. Fehlhaber elliptically refers to as “a situation that bordered on nuclear war,” my article expressed the hope that the Russian retreat under American pressure now made it possible for the Cuban people themselves to act against Castro free of any direct involvement in cold war politics. (I was, I’m afraid, much too optimistic in doubting that Cuba could any longer be exploited for domestic political reasons in the United States.) My article was about Cuba and the Cubans, not, as Mr. Fehlhaber chooses to believe, about American foreign policy. If Mr. Fehlhaber thinks that Manuel Ray and his followers are “dishonest” social democrats, how would he characterize the “bourgeois-liberal” flag raised by Castro in Oriente province in 1956? Incidentally, the Carlos Fuentes he cites was quoted last October as having vigorously denounced Castro for selling out the “Latin American revolution” by allowing the Russians to turn Cuba into a satellite. That was the point last October, not whether the administration opposed “the social structure of Cuba and its confiscation of American business,” and even Mr. Fuentes and other anti-American Left nationalists saw it, though Mr. Fehlhaber appears unable to grasp it.

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