This week, the News Blast is bursting with developments in Cuba and U.S. policy.
We imagine you want to get to it, so we’ll keep our introductory remarks – harrumph – relatively brief.
Earlier this week, we came across a well-worn speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy at the University of Washington in 1961. This address came about a half-year after the Bay of Pigs invasion, nearly a full year before the Cuban Missile Crisis.
You can listen to the entire speech here and reach your own conclusions. When we read his address, these two paragraphs nearly jumped off the page, and seemed to be written with a pen that could have described the world we see today.
We must face problems which do not lend themselves to easy or quick or permanent solutions. And we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient – that we are only six percent of the world’s population – that we cannot impose our will upon the other ninety-four percent of mankind – that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity – and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.
These burdens and frustrations are accepted by most Americans with maturity and understanding. They may long for the days when war meant charging up San Juan Hill -or when our isolation was guarded by two oceans-or when the atomic bomb was ours alone – or when much of the industrialized world depended upon our resources and our aid. But they now know that those days are gone – and that gone with them are the old policies and the old complacencies. And they know, too, that we must make the best of our new problems and our new opportunities, whatever the risk and the cost.
Though Kennedy was an architect of the Cold War, there is evidence – as Peter Kornbluh and others have reported – that he saw the futility of trying to impose our will on Cuba in his day. One might predict his astonishment that we are still trying to impose our will on Cuba in our day as well.
Our national fixation on Cuba did not begin with Fidel Castro or the Revolution in 1959. It has been a part of this country’s historical arc, indeed an imperative of the U.S. national interest, since 1803. That is the argument – offered with a precise mind and graceful hand – by Louis A. Pérez, renowned scholar at the University of North Carolina, in his forthcoming article, “Cuba as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”
Lou has offered us the opportunity to publish his study of how Cuba has coursed through our foreign policy and the veins of our national character for the better part of three centuries. It reminds us of how we got here; how we arrived at the point when sanctions have lasted longer than our refusal to recognize the Soviet Union or China, years longer than it took us to reconcile with Vietnam, so long that Cuba has been under U.S. sanctions for almost half of its national existence as an independent republic.
This and more is captured in Lou’s piece, including the sadness in his description of why a failed policy has remained so long in place; “its continuance has no other purpose than to serve as a justification for its longevity.”
Much of what we do – what motivates our work, our trips to Cuba, our research, our passionate advocacy for reforming the policy, and especially the news blast we send you every week – is about living in the world John Kennedy foresaw in 1961, and finding new ways for Cuba and the U.S. to reach past this history and build a new relationship based on dignity and respect.
In the coming weeks, we will notify you in a separate blast about how you can download Lou’s piece absolutely free of charge.
In the meanwhile, we ask you this.
If you share our love of history and our belief in engagement; if you read the blast, support our work, and plan to download the article by Lou Pérez, why not give something back?
This news blast is a project of the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) – a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in DC. We take no government money, of course, but instead depend on the generosity of readers like you.
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