“Atheists are as dull,” the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote, “who cannot guess God’s presence out of sight.”
I don’t know if atheists are dull or not, but lately I’ve been feeling the incredible dullness of political pundits and commentators who have nothing but gloomy cynicism to offer, who cannot see the dynamic nature of the changes that take place on this planet every day. What can be duller than a person who truly and deeply believes in statements like these about the human condition, about the prospects for the future of our world?
Nothing will ever change.
Politics is just a lot of noise.
It’s a corrupt game. Only the worst people can win.
This week, USA President Barack Obama and Cuba’s President Raul Castro reached a historic (though still informal) agreement to suddenly end the state of hostility that has existed between these neighbors for 53 years. The news dropped in the middle of a busy holiday season news week, briefly dominating social media and the airwaves for a few hours between other major global political stories involving CIA torture and North Korean cyberterrorism. I wonder if many people do not realize how momentous the news about Cuba is.
Until the announcement dropped, few people expected such a definitive single stroke, and many might have doubted that such a thing could be possible. Who in the world when they woke up this Wednesday morning would have expected that USA and Cuba would simply declare themselves in a state of hopeful peace before the sun would set? And yet it happened. This is an act of great political courage on the part of both President Obama and President Castro, and the announcement has already been greeted with gleeful acclaim on all sides. (Credit must also go out to Pope Francis, who encouraged and embraced the new relationship, and who is starting to look like the coolest Pope of all time.)
The fact that peace agreements can disable and deactivate the effects of years of suspicion and hostility doesn’t mean that the suspicion and hostility are wiped away or cured. There are centuries of bad karma to be dealt with between the United States of America and its Caribbean neighbor. Learning about the troubled history of USA/Cuba relations is a vital first step towards making this important friendship real.
When the news of the historic informal peace agreement broke this week, unfortunately, most of the journalistic commentary was incredibly trivial. How will this peace agreement affect Barack Obama’s popularity index? Does it give Marco Rubio’s presidential aspirations a new boost? I find this type of news coverage very disappointing, and I find it even more disappointing that my own social media feeds are usually dominated by the same kind of short-sighted commentary.
We can better direct our attention towards the long and convoluted history of USA/Cuba relations: the African slave trade, the sugar harvests and rum empires, the Spanish-American War (a war fought largely over control of Cuba and the Phillipines), the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, the missile crisis of 1962, the US military occupation of Guantanamo Bay.
When we critique the leadership style of Fidel and Raul Castro, it’s helpful to understand that we are talking about a small country that has been a focal point of global war for centuries, that has naturally developed an oppressive and intolerant government in response. Similarly, when we talk about our recent problems with North Korea, it’s helpful to understand the horrifying modern history of that war-torn nation, which like Cuba has been a stomping ground for global powers, suffering greatly and silently through the agony as Russia, Japan, China and the United States fight for its control. An awareness of the history of North and South Korea can give more insight into our current North Korean crisis than the usual dumb jokes about dictators with funny haircuts.
Our pathetic shared history often seems like an insurmountable barrier to world peace, but we can’t allow it to be. Fortunately, peace has a momentum of its own, and change moves fast. This is why I am confident that world peace will actually happen, despite all the discouragement and disgruntlement that always surrounds us in our daily lives.
Sometimes positive change will happen because our leaders will take the lead (as Obama and Castro did this week) and the grateful populaces will run to catch up. Other times, change will happen because the people take the lead and the leaders run to catch up (as happened in the USA during the Vietnam War era, and to some extent during the Occupy protests a few years ago).
Either way, it’s a happy fact that peace moves fast. I bet this is what John Lennon and Yoko Ono had in mind when they recorded a song called “Move On Fast” in 1972. This is my Christmas song for 2014, Hope they can hear it in Havana too …
The human race faces major
The human race faces major challenges now. The human population somehow doubled since 1967, despite all the horrendous warring. The continued pressure to extract mother earth resources to sustain this huge population is here to stay; it’s not going away. And setting aside various issues of corporate and political greed, at least in theory, this has been the major debate of the Cold War and its aftermath– how best to meet these needs? The (historically inefficient and at times domineering) public sector? Or perhaps the more efficient private sector?
Mnaz, it’s interesting to me
Mnaz, it’s interesting to me that you bring the population question up as a possible barrier to peace. I’m open to learning more about this, but I’ve never seen a convincing explanation of this. I believe that the hyper-militarized practices in place around the world today are so dysfunctional — economically, environmentally, etc. — that I can only believe we’d be able to find better solutions to macroeconomic problems in a more peaceful world. But please explain more if there is something I am not understanding about this.
No, I think you’re pretty
No, I think you’re pretty much on target, Levi. It’s precisely because of these real population pressures that more human energy and investment needs to go toward problem-solving, rather than endless militarism. It’s part of the overall big picture– how I see the evolution of our species. Given our long experience with militarism, and the horrific extent to which we pushed it in the last century, the species as a whole must adapt, for its own survival– de-emphasize militarism in the “survival matrix,” if not abandon it outright. And the same goes for “faith”– overall welfare must take precedent over religious dogma (which is intertwined with militarism at times).
War and Peace
War and Peace
Number of Countries involved in wars 64
Number Militias-guerrillas and separatist groups involved 596
This was lifted from warsintheworld.com and updated 12.08.14.
I know, here’s mtmynd with his negativity! If only he would embrace peace the world would be closer to realizing peace. It certainly cannot continue going on indefinitely as long as there are people who are pissed off or people who are needy, people who are greedy and people who love warring.
If we concentrate on our own country, I fear we have far too much invested throughout the world to give it all up and demilitarize any time in the near future. We are the largest provider of arms to the world and that is our free market at work. We are the most advanced country in the world in regards to creating and maintaining a War Machine that is without equal in the history of mankind. Are we familiar with our nuclear might..? An article I wrote in Aug 2001 :
“One Trident submarine can launch twenty-four (24) missiles simultaneously. Each of those missiles can contain as many as seventeen (17) independently targeted, maneuverable nuclear warheads. And each of those warheads can travel seven-thousand (7,000) nautical miles and supposedly hit within three-hundred feet (300′) of its predetermined target. If the U.S. fires them in opposite directions, they can span fourteen-thousand (14,000) nautical miles: half-way around the world at the equator. This means the U.S. can take out four-hundred and eight (408) centers of human population, hitting each with a nuclear warhead ten (10) times as powerful as the bomb that incinerated Nagasaki.
The United States has twenty-two (22) Trident submarines.”
A lot has changed since 2001… about 13 + years. How much more powerful, how much destructive power of just these submarines become… at sea 24/7/265 in every ocean and sea the can travel in?
I’m glad I’m on our side when I think of such force. But it is embarrassing to think our economic system is so powerful that it equates with our military power. And we all know, as hu’man beings, that there are other countries who drool over the idea of having that level of military power, believe me.
Why bring all this up in an article that speaks of peace..? Personally, as I have both said and written so many times, true peace is found within to those who really want it. We can no more preach peace to the world and be taken seriously, than anyone who *talks* about peace without knowing some serious facts about our world.
What ‘mnaz’ wrote about regarding food is right on target. We, the people of the world, cannot expect the world’s farmers to continue providing sustenance to 7 BILLION hungry mouths. Agriculture has to have land and fertile soil mixed with good weather to even pretend to be providers for that many people.
Even if hu’manity got close to that goal, then there is the problem that happens when we are well fed and healthy – we reproduce like rats and that is what we are facing today – overpopulation is the largest threat to our species other than the climate changes we see happening all around us every day.
In this time of Peace for all men, it makes us feel good to think peace is here and in some wondrous way, there indeed *is* something special on that evening of December 24th, where the vibe of peace seem to be the predominate feeling in vast areas of the world that has even the smallest hope in peace everlasting. Why not? The alternative drains us as hu’man beings that are capable of being at one with the rest of life we share this planet with.
Merry Christmas to all !!
Odd how everyone says that
Odd how everyone says that war should only be a last resort, or “war is hell,” or a “human tragedy,” etc. etc. Yet we have all these folks who (allegedly) “love warring?” Do they really exist? And yes, the world powers have interests to look after and pursue (that’s why wars are often based on lies told by the leaders who start them).
As far as “our arsenal,” what good is spending massive amounts of resources and energy on maintaining a gigantomungus military (what is it?– like 20 times what any other country on earth is doing?), and possessing weapons that can destroy the world? (Especially when it’s likely that they’ll never be used?)
The U S of A does a hell of a lot of chest-thumping about how it is the “lone superpower” and such. And yes, we have much to contribute to the world, and much to be proud about. And I realize that the US political system, though riddled with corporate corruption, is still superior to many/most other nations. But really, who anointed the U S of A as the chosen ones– the only ones deemed worthy of world economic and military dominance, and the self-appointed world police?
I agree about overpopulation– it is a serious problem. All the more reason for our species keep evolving— away from religious beliefs encouraging both overpopulation and excessive warring. Unless one sees war as a legitimate regulator of human population– hardly the most “moral” position that one could take, I’d say.
Re: ” Yet we have all these
Re: ” Yet we have all these folks who (allegedly) “love warring?” Do they really exist?”
Indeed they do, amigo. They are the warrior class just as there is the scholar class, the religious class, the arts and crafts class and the traders amongst us… all working to maintain their cultures.
Re: “But really, who anointed the U S of A as the chosen ones– the only ones deemed worthy of world economic and military dominance, and the self-appointed world police?”
I believe WWII was what raised us to that position, mnaz. We were fighting wars on two sides of the oceans, our manufacturing planes, arms and everything else that maintains war we largely accomplished on our own. Sure we had allies and damn good ones, but it was the U.S. who really exploded using the manufacturing tools we literally invented, the airplane, super ships, the atom bomb… it’s a long list I’d say. Other countries, allies and not, had to have taken notice and must have been impressed by what this country “grew up” to become.
I fear it’s engrained in the psyche of the U.S. to take the position of world leadership. I, to this day, can’t imagine any other country taking that big of a responsibility to do what we have done and are still doing… encouraging (at damn near any cost) democracy across the globe. We are still pretty much admired as to what we have accomplished and do have the best University systems in the world, the most innovative peoples, still, after the greats in our early history.
But don’t think I’m gloating, my friend. You know better. It’s the old duality deal… there is a negative side to all our positivism. It’s a natural consequence of living.
Overpopulation? It worries me, too. But that requires new energy to tackle… lots to rant about on that! Ah8CV
Yes, absolutely, I’m aware of
Yes, absolutely, I’m aware of the WW2 effect, but I don’t necessarily agree that it gives leaders who take the baton from that “victory” free license to start their own various “wars against evil,” referring back to WW2 as justification, as Bush & Co. certainly did.
And I’m interested in the warrior class. No doubt, war’s destruction is real and on a fairly regular schedule in our collective psyche, given centuries of history, but then there’s always the question of who has owned history, so I wonder, well I can’t help but wonder. Yes, long live duality!
Mtmynd, once again, I’m
Mtmynd, once again, I’m surprised that you are satisfied with these homilies of futility. Maybe I’ve been reading your comments wrong, but it sounds like you truly and deeply believe the human race is destined to suffer under the thumb of militarism forever — and that the only escape is to become one of the few who have “inner peace” and ignore the great disease that inflicts our shared body politic. Well, sorry to hear that you’re not interested in helping improve the situation.
To believe that world peace is a futile dream is a choice you make, and I don’t admire your choice. As for myself, I’m happy to say I’m far from discouraged, and I see good things ahead for the cause.
Levi, thanks for your input,
Levi, thanks for your input, too. But I do not think demilitarization is a reality in our (current) world affairs. There is far too much at stake for any one country that has anything at all to lose that willfully would consider demilitarizing whatever army they might have.
Peace *does* begin within, my friend. It is not going to arrive via UPS Overnight Delivery at your doorstep nor for anyone else. There are plenty of “us” (yes, I am including myself) that are largely pacifistic and will do most anything sensible to avoid warring with people. But that is not Peace, that is an attempt to prevent war or serious battles. Those are distractions and uncomfortable to be around.
Your final comment, ” I’m happy to say I’m far from discouraged, and I see good things ahead for the cause” is to be commended. It reminds me of something an old friend of mine constantly has to say about peace – he sees it coming. He is a 30 yr follower of Baha’i also… and Baha’ullah also saw that himself some 125 years ago… before WWI and WWII and all the other wars since his death. As long as there are those who believe in another’s hopes and dreams, there will be a continuum of that belief. But believing in Santa Claus doesn’t make it reality.
You surprise me, Levi. As someone who actively reads world history, I’d think you’d be more than aware of the steady growth of militarization world wide. Technology and medicine has also increasingly grown over the same era and there is still severe problems in the world that high tech and big pharma is unable to eliminate. The same with agriculture. Even the best scientific minds in the last 100 years have been unable to cure the ills of mankind. Nor has philosophy… show me any that have accomplished world peace.
But yet, you strongly *see* good things ahead for world peace (or even demilitarization). Let me be clear (again and again), I hope that day will arrive in my own lifetime. I really do. But as I’ve also said I am more a realist than a dreamer and I do not see it on my radar.
If one believes in peace, believe in yourself for it is within each and every one of us that peace is alive and well. Until that time when we all become mutually aware of that One Truth, there will be no world peace as we dream it.
Thanks for another year of success for Litkicks, amigo, and may the good site continue moving forward and attracting more like-minded folks. I enjoy our talks together and I hope to have more in 2015 and beyond.
Happy Holidays to you and your great family !!
Cecil B. Lee
Cecil, thanks for your
Cecil, thanks for your response. While I don’t admire what you choose to believe about the future of our planet, I do of course still respect you very much, and I’m glad you express your opinions on this website. I also realize that more people around the world agree with you than with me,
Rather than answer your challenge here, I can point to the many blog posts I’ve written already on the topic of pacifism. For the world to continue on the current path amounts to a death sentence for the human race, so I’m remaining confident in the alternative path.
Levi… your words instilled
Levi… your words instilled a vision of our only home, Earth… smoke rising all over the globe, dead sealife floating so thick ships are stuck at sea with nowhere to go… people hungry and wasted, a few waving their white flags… while in the distance I see a man yelling at the top of his congested lungs – “I TOLD YOU SO! WHY DIDN’T YOU LISTEN TO ME??”
No, it’s not meant to be humorous but only what some see as our ending.
Late last September I
Late last September I attended a 90th birthday party for Jimmy Carter. I spoke to a close friend of the 39th President who told be that one of Carter’s regrets was that he did not change the diplomatic approach toward Cuba while he was President. Like so many politicians, Carter did not take a bold stance on Cuba during his first term because he was afraid of losing Florida in his re-election bid. Of course, Carter lost big anyway. He should not have been so timid.
Anyway, I’m glad Jimmy Carter, in his 91st year, lived to see the turning point toward true peace with Cuba.
“When we critique the
“When we critique the leadership style of Fidel and Raul Castro, it’s helpful to understand that we are talking about a small country that has been a focal point of global war for centuries, that has naturally developed an oppressive and intolerant government in response. Similarly, when we talk about our recent problems with North Korea, it’s helpful to understand the horrifying modern history of that war-torn nation…”.
Levi, with due respect, I think you’re being too indulgent. These countries have oppressed individual rights beyond any measure which can be justified by their history. Parts of the American population suffered too, e.g., enormously in the 1800’s during the Civil War or when extending the frontier to the Pacific. Same with other Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, yet it remains a democracy. Only democracy and free markets are a guarantee that conditions will improve for the people as a whole.
The Castros are not a “leadership style”, they lead an absolute dictatorship, initiated and maintained by force, for which there is no justification. If a free vote was held there tomorrow, can anyone imagine the Castros would be elected to run the country?
I am content some daylight has been opened in the Cuban-American impasse. But the future isn’t much less clear than it was before. Real issues need to be resolved. Cuba harbours American fugitives from justice. American property worth billions was confiscated in the early 1960’s and must, under some reasonable arrangement, be made whole to the owners or their descendants. Cuba will have to reform its polity from the bottom up to have the hope of full and free trade with America.
Obama’s declarations are a start, but there is a long road ahead.
P.S. As for North Korea, I won’t even go there.
Hi Gary —
Hi Gary —
Well, what you’re saying here captures the mainstream attitude towards Cuba among USA policy makers since the early 1960s. I’ve been hearing variations of what you’re saying all my life. Lately I’ve been hearing it from Marco Rubio on Fox News, but the credibility is wearing thin. I think we need to question whether or not these statements hold up to examination.
You say the Castros “lead an absolute dictatorship, initiated and maintained by force, for which there is no justification”. This is no more true of the Castro regime than of a hundred other strongman regimes around the world. Strongman government is, sadly, a familiar phenomenon in the Caribbean, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia. Is the Castro regime more dictatorial than that of other third world governments? Evidence seems to indicate that it is not. So why can we be friendly with Saudi Arabia and Liberia and Nepal but not with Cuba?
You say: “American property worth billions was confiscated in the early 1960’s and must, under some reasonable arrangement, be made whole to the owners or their descendants.” I think this is highly unrealistic. Are you aware that Cuba has a few gripes with the USA too? For one thing, the USA literally invaded the country in a secret CIA operation with intent to overthrow its government. For another, we are still holding a section of Cuban land at Guantanamo Bay, and using this land for deeply nefarious purposes. I think that between USA’s gripes with Cuba and Cuba’s gripes with USA, compromises in good faith ought to be made. It’s called peacemaking, and it usually works out well.
Thanks for your reply. The fact that I agree with the “received” story about Cuba doesn’t mean it’s wrong of course. 🙂 I rarely watch Fox news and don’t draw my views from them; if Fox and I happen to concur in how we see this particular issue, well that’s fine.
It depends how you look at it doesn’t it? Cuban exiled nationals tried to re-enter their own country, not the U.S. The U.S. gave fairly minimal help, as we all know from history. Something like 10% of the Cuban population was exiled after the Revolution and it is understandable that they wanted to go back.
The point about dealing with other strongmen is true, but they don’t seize U.S. assets, this was land and businesses owned by all kinds of people: companies, families, churches. The embargo was put in place for this reason, not because Cuba is hostile or Communist. (At the same time, the fact of a Communist country being so close to the U.S., which sent 1,000,000 refugees there which the U.S. accepted willingly and resettled to their benefit, is a fact of life and can’t be compared to dealing with far-away regimes. This is especially so when Cuba was under Russian influence and there was the threat to host Russian missiles there. Still, that is not why there is an embargo).
The Caribbean is basically democratic today and it is their own peoples’ choice that it is, through free elections.
Guantanamo is simply the result of a legal situation, a long lease IIRC, that the Cubans felt they couldn’t break, perhaps because the Americans would have defended it, I’m not sure. China did the same for the Hong Kong lease, it’s international law.
I’m all for compromises, but IMO, it can’t be on the basis of no compensation. It’s not just and even the Soviet Union paid off the pre-1919 bonds finally to the West. And as I mentioned, the return of American fugitives has to be addressed as well.
Cuba is going to have to change, not because of America, but because of what its own people surely want. Until the regime permits free elections, no real progress will ever be made, even if the embargo was lifted (IMO).
Gary, thanks for a reasonable
Gary, thanks for a reasonable and intelligent response. There is validity to what you say and, yes, you are reaching a higher level of credibility here than Marco Rubio’s constant weeping act on Fox News.
So, yeah, there are major issues to be worked out before the USA and Cuba can be at peace. I think that is what you are saying, and I agree. So isn’t that the process we are now trying to begin? The issues weren’t being worked out without communication. Maybe they can be worked out WITH communication.
The hopeful end result of this peace process should be a Cuba that is less dictatorial, less “Communist”, and more accessible to former Cuban citizens who fled. So maybe you and I are on the same side here?
A couple of detailed points to dispute. I don’t think you can say that the Bay of Pigs invasion took place “with fairly minimal help” from the USA. The invasion was a CIA operation. It was done with *secret* USA help, but that doesn’t mean it was done with minimal USA help. My knowledge of the CIA-led invasion comes from Tim Weiner’s “Legacy of Ashes” which is considered a credible history of the CIA.
Regarding reparations for seized assets, I don’t know what the process is, and I’m sure it’s complicated by the fact that Cuba probably does not have a source of wealth (certainly not at American exchange rates) with which to make reparations. So, holding up a peace agreement until this step can be taken means never having a peace agreement.
I have no idea how the Guantanamo Bay issue can be worked out, but it’s worth mentioning that on the world stage it’s USA, not Cuba, that looks pretty shameful here.
It will not be easy, but let the peacemaking begin!
Well, lots of ground where we
Well, lots of ground where we can agree. By minimal U.S. help for the Bay of Pigs invasion, I meant, had the American military helped the exiles to defeat the Communists, we wouldn’t be having this discussion now. 🙂
It’s true that Cuba can’t afford to pay reparations now nor should this be insisted on, but some kind of deal needs to be worked out, to pay it over time, or with a discount. I understand various proposals have been floated how to do this. Apart from the justice of it it is absolutely necessary because say they opened part of the country for Americans to buy land to build a house, maybe on the coast. Well, people wouldn’t want to risk losing their investment to a future legal claim by an heir of someone whose land was confiscated in ’62. So it’s in everyone’s interest that this be resolved, Cuba’s too.
It’s good to talk, yes, but concessions are necessary on both sides, and Obama should insist on Cuba taking demonstrable steps to become more free, less Communist as you say. He could have gotten more from Cuba than he did. I wouldn’t take any further moves, as well, until the fugitives from justice are returned to face American courts. The New Jersey governor made a strong statement not long ago on this issue and I am in full agreement.
Gary, it sounds like you
Gary, it sounds like you think it would have been a good idea for President Kennedy to actually invade Cuba in 1962 to restore its previous corrupt dictatorship. Do you think that would have been a more ethical invasion than, say, Stalin’s invasion of Hungary in 1956 or Brezhnev’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968? I don’t see how it would have been any different.
Of course, it’s bad enough that we tried to do this covertly via the CIA operation — and if the Bay of Pigs invasion had been successful, I suspect it would have gone over as well with the Cuban people as the CIA-led overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 to restore the Shah. We saw how well that worked out in the long run …
I appreciate your knowledge of the facts, Gary, but I’m not really able to tell what your moral principles are here — except the principle that might makes right, and that everything the USA does must be good.
Oh come on… Just how “free”
Oh come on… Just how “free” was pre-Castro Cuba under Batista?
from wiki: “After finishing his term he lived in the United States, returning to Cuba to run for president in 1952. Facing certain electoral defeat, he led a military coup that preempted the election.
Back in power, Batista suspended the 1940 Constitution and revoked most political liberties, including the right to strike. He then aligned with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnating economy that widened the gap between rich and poor Cubans. Batista’s increasingly corrupt and repressive government then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba’s commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with the American mafia, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana, and with large multinational American corporations that had invested considerable amounts of money in Cuba. To quell the growing discontent amongst the populace—which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riots and demonstrations—Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his anti-Communist secret police to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions; ultimately killing anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 people.
And so it goes. Yeah, nice guy. Clearly, everything was just hunky dory before Castro ruined everyone’s lives.
Jumping in here, but I think
Jumping in here, but I think that Batista was a worse path for the Cuban people than Castro, and the US support of the dictator Batista is the reason that you had Castro. It is funny that the US government (and other dominant governments) always side with dictators rather than socialistic leaders (witness the bad rap that Chavez got, when in fact he was treating his people better than many other dictatorships that are supported by the US).
The narrative that capitalism is good and socialism is bad is propaganda presented by the corporate controlled mainstream media to protect their predatory practices that allow them to make their excessive profits unfairly (war, environmental damage).
Why do you think the democratic party leadership would rather have a republican elected than Green party member? The corporate elite and their henchmen (our elected officials) don’t want any change that will upset the apple cart. The apple cart is where all the apples are owned by the elite, the money goes to the elite, and there will be some people who have to go hungry because they can’t afford the apple, even though there are enough apples to feed everybody.
so it goes