27 April 2006

On Shafting Cuba

Albor Ruiz has an interesting column in the New York Daily News today. He quotes a letter from academics who are sick of manipulative U.S. foreign policies that endeavor to squelch Cuban political self-determination:
"The policy embraced by the Bush administration and spelled out in the 2004 Commission Report ignores and misreads Cuban history.

"Moreover, the policy attempts to negate the Cuban people's right to self-determination and sovereignty by implying that the U.S. should have a major role in determining Cuba's future. Cuba's present and future must be determined by the Cuban people, not by the U.S."

For me, this letter sums up everything that has been wrong with U.S. foreign policy since Woodrow Wilson's ill-advised foray into WWI. Please don't misunderstand; I'm not necessarily anti-Wilsonian. In fact, I love the guy. I've written a couple of big papers on his ideology. But he was misguided in the same way that virtually every president since has been.

Wilson saw himself as holding a morally superior position (which, it could be argued, he did), but that's not the problem here. The problem came when he decided that America should better the morality of the world (via military involvement in the Great War and subsequent political involvement in the League of Nations) and make it "safe for democracy." Ever since, we have been using a wide variety of militarily and diplomatically coercive techniques to get the world to fit into our mold of a Free, Egalitarian (well, nominally, at least), Representative Constitutional Democracy. That's what got us into 'Nam, that's what got us into Iraq, and that's why we place embargos and travel restrictions on Cuba.

Tellingly, Wilson's efforts were in vain. He soon discovered that neo-Christian liberal ideology could not overcome Bismarckian Realpolitik in the international sphere, and his famous Fourteen Points were emasculated at Versailles. Moreover, his Highly Moral American Public had grown tired of international involvement, and Congress stymied the president's attempts to get the U.S. to join the League of Nations. (This, it can be argued, contributed to the LON's failure a couple of decades later.)

I think that, ultimately, the American desire to impose its own political image on the rest of the world has its basis in the "City on a Hill" rhetoric from Christ's Sermon on the Mount. The Puritans were using it in the 17th century, and it still had resonance with Americans when Regan's speechwriters made use of it in the 1980s. That's a huge shelf life for a rhetorical device, folks.

At any rate, the United States would, perhaps, be well advised to re-read a couple other parts of the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth," and "First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye."


ian schmidt said...

essentially, yes
I agree quite much....
Kudos on getting in a reference to Realpolitik in everyday conversation ;-)

Joyous said...

Heh...so I didn't actually read this post but I DID read your interrests...and I thought they were hilarious!! Thanks for being my first comment, Micah!

Iris said...

It seems to me that Wilsonian politics are also based on the 19th century idea of Manifest Destiny. What do you think?