Last week President Obama made smoking a Cuban cigar a little less glamorous.
After 50 years of sanctions, embargoes, a failed invasion, and over a hundred assignation attempts on Fidel “the Beard” Castro – a man that even Mother Nature had some difficulty taking out – President Obama has officially thrown in the towel.
Now, a few good men still consider Cuba a major threat to our nation’s security. They want — no, they need Colonel Jack Nicholson Jessup on that wall. They need to keep Guantanamo Bay open for business. But those few good men can’t handle the truth: our Cold War with Cuba has not been worth the effort.
For more than 50 years, we’ve blown a lot of hot air and rattled a few sabers at the little Commie Nation That Could Barely Take Care of Itself.
We did invade Cuba not long after Castro’s takeover, but our military was not officially involved. Kennedy authorized the use of only a handful of CIA operatives, four U.S. airmen who all lost their lives, and a host of Mafia goons. Yes, the Mafia of the Don Corleone and Tony Montana variety, a Mafia that was eager to regain control of its more lucrative gambling, prostitution and drug operations in Havana.
The plan was to have the Cuban Army revolt and arm ordinary Cuban citizens and retake the country for Freedom and Democracy. The problem was the Cuban citizens and soldiers they met on the beaches that evening were not too much interested and the Bay of Pigs became more than an embarrassment for Kennedy and the U.S.
“The Beard” blustered back at us even more, but the Soviet Union’s attempt to put missiles in Cuba was really the only threat to our nation’s security. Nevertheless, according to U.S.-Cuban-relations experts, our government spent upwards of $50 million per year from 1961-1975 in efforts to bring down the Castro regime, euphemistically referred to as “The Cuba Project.” Reagan ramped up spending, but since then and up until Obama’s announcement, the amount of tax dollars used to destabilize the Cuban government has been somewhat less transparent.
Even when Castro had the perceived might of the old Soviet Union behind him, he could do little to disrupt our American way of life. Therefore, most of our efforts to take back Cuba were little more than show for the Cuban Exiles who had their livelihood and millions of dollars taken away by the Revolution.
Obama’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends” overture to Cuba coincided with the release of Alan Gross, a government subcontractor with the Agency for International Development. Officially, Gross was bringing internet capabilities to the Cuban people. The Cuban government imprisoned him for spying.
Upon his release Gross thanked President Obama and spoke of his concern for the Cuban people. “It pains me to see them treated so unjustly as a consequence of two governments’ mutually belligerent policies,” he said at a press conference. “Five and a half decades of history shows us that such belligerence inhibits better judgment. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Gross also said he supported the President’s move to thaw relations with Cuba. He called it “a game-changer” he fully supports. He added, “I truly hope we can get beyond these mutually belligerent policies.”
While we may not enjoy those clandestine cigars as much anymore, Obama’s move to thaw relations with Cuba will be looked on quite favorably in the not so distant future. Yes, Castro’s brother is still charge. Yes, Senator Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American Old Guard and those few good men are predicting disaster.
However, a poll by Florida International University points out that 68 percent of Cuban-Americans favor diplomatic relations with Cuba. 88 percent of Cuban-Americans under the age of 30 want to move beyond the past and reconnect with their island cousins.
Publicly we never have to admit the wasted years and dollars on a failed Cuban policy. We can discuss it all privately, of course, sitting upstairs at some posh Martini Bar, eating “banned” North Korean Kimchi with James Franco, Seth Rogen, and executives from Sony.
» David Dallas is a political writer. He worked for former U.S. Sen. John Stennis and authored Barking Dawgs and A Gentleman from Mississippi.
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