Term Paper: Future of Cuba

Pages: 80 (20759 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper

Cuba After Castro

Cuba is an island nation some 90 miles from Florida, and proximity alone gives this country great importance in the thinking of American leaders. More than this, however, Cuba represents a major loss in the Western Hemisphere, a country that is Communist-led and that has therefore been viewed as a major security threat to the United States. At times, that threat has been given even more weight, as it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. At other times, the threat has been less specific and often derives largely from antipathy to the leadership and to the very idea of Communism. In addition, Cuba holds a place of importance because of the many exiles from Cuba who have come to the United States and who have considerable influence over U.S. policy toward Cuba, and Cuban exile groups often fight any indication that the U.S. government might be softening toward the government of Fidel Castro on any issue whatsoever. Castro has been in power in Cuba since 1959 when he and his rebel army overthrew the Bautista government, an act that would become the primary reason for the exodus of many Cubans to America, notably to Florida. Many of these exiles have worked since to end the Castro regime, and it appears now that the era of Castro's leadership will end as a mater of course given that he is approaching the age of 80. More and more consideration will therefore be given to what will follow Castro, meaning what improve the lot of the Cuban people. Although the Communist government in Cuba has claimed success in reforming agrarian policies and in achieving a fairer and more equal society, observers dispute this, and there is considerable evidence that the government has failed, that the economy is weak and in disarray, and that the Cuban people are actually worse off now than they were before the ascension of the Castro regime in 1959. For many, the primary issue is whether Cuba after Castro will remain Communist or will shift to a free market economy, or at least some semblance of one, as many of the former states of the old Soviet Union have done. In a more specific sense, it is vital that the economy of Cuba be revived and that the people as a whole be able to make a living. Indeed, many of the political issues would probably be decided by an improved economy. An analysis of the background of Cuba and of the Castro regime leads to a consideration of what that regime has done in Cuba over the last four decades before considering what many experts see for Cuba in the future.

BACKGROUND

When Columbus arrived in the New World, Cuba had a native Amerindian population that began to decline after the European discovery of the island and following its development as a Spanish colony during the next several centuries. Large numbers of African slaves were brought to the island to work the coffee and sugar plantations. Havana became the starting point for the annual treasure fleets bound for Spain from Mexico and Peru. Spanish rule was maintained as a severe and exploitative form of control, with occasional rebellions from the native population that were harshly suppressed. Spanish rule continued until 1898 and U.S. intervention during the Spanish-American War, leading to the Treaty of Paris that established Cuban independence. Independence was in fact granted in 1902 after a three-year transition period. In 1959, Fidel Castro led a rebel army to victory, and it has been his iron rule that has held the regime together since then. Cuba's Communist revolution had Soviet support, with efforts to was export this idea throughout Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, with mixed success. More recently, the country has been slowly recovering from the severe economic recession of 1990, which came after the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies, worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually. Castro and his Cuban government portray the country's difficulties as the result of the U.S. embargo that has been in place since 1961 ("Cuba" para. 1).

The end of World War II led to the beginning of a different kind of war, the Cold War, an enduring ideological battle between the democratic West and the Soviet bloc. The United States emerged from the war as the strongest power in the world, and the Soviet Union intended to challenge that strength. There were signs of tension between the U.S. And the Soviet Union before the end of the war. The tensions increased after the war. There is disagreement on the precise beginning of the Cold War, but the Cold War is seen as deriving from the historic background of Soviet-American relations and from the specific events of 1945 through 1948. In fact, the alliance between the Soviets and Americans during the war was an aberration from the norm since the Russian Revolution. American hostility toward the Soviet Union began with American animosity toward communism. America also had an image of the Soviets as a government that had negotiated a separate peace with Germany in 1917, leaving the West to fight the war alone. Americans had also been unhappy with the many attacks on the American capitalist system, and such attacks were particularly unwelcome in the 1930s when capitalism was in trouble. The Stalinist purges of the 1930s were also remembered, as was the short-lived pact between Stalin and Hitler in 1939. Soviet hostility toward the United States also had deep roots. The Soviets remembered American opposition to the revolution in 1917. The U.S. had also sent troops into the Soviet Union at the end of World War I, and the Soviets believed this was to overthrow their system. Russia had been excluded from world affairs after World War I until World War II, and this was resented. The U.S. did not recognize the Soviet government diplomatically until 1933. Most Russians also deeply distrusted industrial capitalism. World War II seemed to bring the two together, but events in the war also more deeply separated them. Americans were hostile to the Soviet invasion of Finland and the Baltic states in 1939. There was also antipathy to reports of Soviet brutality. The Allies did not invade until two years after Stalin wanted, and the Russians suffered terrible casualties in the meantime (Ranelagh 34).

The generation that brought the United States into international espionage and covert action and that established the CIA was rising to power by 1941 and included Dean Acheson, secretary of state under Truman; Robert Lovett, lawyer, and banker who served as Truman's secretary of defense and later an adviser to Kennedy; James Forrestal, secretary of the navy under Roosevelt and secretary of defense under Truman; John Foster Dulles, lawyer and secretary of state to Eisenhower; Allen Dulles, a lawyer and the longest-serving director of the CIA; and Walter Bedell Smith, chief of staff to Eisenhower during World War II, ambassador to the Soviet Union, third director of the CIA, and later undersecretary of state. All these men had experienced the excitement and hopes of World War I. From their experience in the years between the two world wars, they developed three strong convictions that would be the basis for their policies once they came to power. The first was that in 1919 the U.S. had been outsmarted by the British and the French in the postwar settlement and had reacted by withdrawing to its continental boundaries; they were determined that this would not happen again. The second was related to the events of Munich in 1938 when Hitler was let loose by the tired, dispirited, cynical politicians of the old empires, after which the aggressor gained step after step with little opposition. The third conviction was that democracy was a viable governing alternative, and the idea that the people could get together and make deals based on idealism and pragmatism appealed to them on a number of different levels. These were the convictions that supported the attitudes and activities of the governing elite from 1941 until the late 1970s (Ranelagh 34-35).

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was another impetus for the creation of an intelligence agency. Many facts were known at the time to the U.S. government, and had those facts been collected in one place and properly analyzed, the "surprise" might not have been a surprise at all:

If such an intelligence estimate had been presented to the president, defensive action would almost certainly have been taken. But the government had no central agency for marshaling all the information, making sense of it, and presenting strategic assessments to the president. (Kessler 98)

The only intelligence agencies existing at the time were operated by the military, and they were often seen as no more than the dumping ground for the least qualified military personnel. Each of the services was battling the others, and fiefdoms developed within the services that often suppressed whatever intelligence assessments were made:

The government had no… [END OF PREVIEW]

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