Earlier this month, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg spent a weekend in Havana -- at Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's invitation -- and has since posted a series of reports on his views.
That's old news now.
Frankly, the posts have all been very entertaining. Not necessarily informative, but definitely entertaining.
And that's absolutely fine.
At the end of the day, sensationalism sells. Goldberg's back-and-forth with Castro on topics ranging from homosexuals, to Iran, to the failings of Cuba's socialist economy have successfully made headlines throughout the world. That, in turn, has meant smart business for The Atlantic, which finally turned a profit this month.
We have absolutely no qualms with any of that, for our free society provides such opportunities.
However, we do take issue with some of Goldberg's views on U.S. policy, to which he dedicated his latest post, "America's Absurd and Self-Defeating Cuba Policy." In it, he makes some pretty outlandish statements. Once again, absolutely within his rights, as is ours to scrutinize them.
First and foremost, it's important to note that Goldberg's views do not stem from having spent a weekend on the streets with Cuban pro-democracy leaders, such as Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" in Matanzas, or with the family of deceased political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo in the remote town of Banes.
They stem from a weekend in Havana, as a special guest of Fidel Castro, where he shared a VIP guest house with the President of the African nation of Guinea-Bissau.
So what are some of these views?
Goldberg begins by taking the very dangerous route of looking for moral equivalencies amongst dictators.
Thus, he states, "Fidel Castro is not Ivan the Terrible, Pol Pot, or Saddam Hussein."
That may be arguable, but we're not in the 16th century, nor is Cuba half-way around the world in South or Central Asia.
Cuba is 90-miles away in this Western Hemisphere, where despite the steadfast efforts of Fidel Castro and his protege Hugo Chavez, totalitarian dictatorships -- with Cuba's exception -- should only be a memory.
Ironically, many of the defenders of Fidel Castro -- including Goldberg's travel partner, the Council on Foreign Relations' Julia Sweig -- are usually the first to condemn and urge isolation of other regional, right-wing dictators, such as Augusto Pinochet in Chile.
Pinochet is believed to have brutally executed 3,000 government opponents and disappeared another 30,000. Yet, he led Chile's development towards a first world economy.
Meanwhile, Castro had 3,000 opponents executed over breakfast during the first year of his dictatorship alone and has turned Cuba into a third world pauper.
Does that make Pinochet better than Castro? No, it doesn't.
Furthermore, such comparisons serve no purpose -- they are futile, ideological justifications for indefensible dictatorships.
Goldberg then proceeds to state, "I judge his revolution against what it replaced, namely, the thugocracy of Batista, who was a friend only to a handful of oligarchs and American mafia leaders."
Aside from the historic blunder of this statement -- as Cuba's biggest oligarchs actually hated Batista and helped finance Castro's revolution (read Financial Times columnist John Paul Rathbone's latest book, "The Sugar King of Havana," for just one illustration) -- how can anyone judge, compare or justify a 51-year dictatorship (by one man) with a 7-year dictatorship (by another man)?
That only makes the 51-year dictatorship all the more reprehensible, not vice-versa.
Both of these dictatorships should only be judged in comparison to modern-day standards of democracy in the Western Hemisphere. In such a comparison, both dictatorships are losers, with Castro's 51-year dictatorship being seven times worse (simple arithmetic).
Goldberg also states, "I would also point out that China's human rights record, in particular, makes Cuba's look like Norway's."
Another fascinating view, particularly stemming from Castro's guesthouse. Once again, this can be argued and statistically rebutted in proportion to the population of both countries, etc, but that would walk us down Goldberg's trap of looking for "equivalence" amongst dictators.
However, since he makes this comment in the context of critiquing U.S. policy, let's follow his rationale.
As such, does this mean that normalized relations, including trade and commerce, with dictatorships (such as China) are actually worse for human rights and political freedoms than sanctions? Does this mean embracing dictatorships economically actually emboldens them to brutally crackdown on dissent?
If that's Goldberg's point, then we agree.
Unfortunately though, that's not Goldberg's point, for he concludes, "if we want to have influence in the way Cuba is governed in the 21st century, it would be smart to actually talk to Cuba."
And that final statement sums it all up.
You see, talking to Castro (as Goldberg exclusively focused on) is not talking to Cuba -- it's actually a disservice to Cuba.
Only Castro equates himself with Cuba. Therefore, Castro brutally represses anyone that disagrees with him, for they are also disagreeing with Cuba.
And that's exactly the guesthouse view that Castro wanted Goldberg to post.
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