Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Kissinger and Cuba

Henry Kissinger wanted to attack Cuba in 1976 because Fidel Castro invaded Angola (here is the link to the documents at the National Security Archive--as always, the documents are fascinating). This is all coming from the new book by Peter Kornbluh and William LeoGrande new book, Back Channel to Cuba, which looks great.

There is so much here. It's Henry Kissinger in all his glory, with threats, exaggerations, and vanity. Some things in particular struck me.

First, Kissinger was offended that Cuba invaded just as the U.S. was negotiating better relations, and he couldn't understand it. This reminded me of Nicolás Maduro, where suddenly he'll shift from "I want to improve relations" to kicking some U.S. official out. In fact, Castro did not and Maduro does not want fully normalized relations because it removes an important domestic foil for them.

Second, in all of the talks about normalization, the Cubans keep repeating that ending the embargo is the only way to really get things going. Since the U.S. negotiators wouldn't promise that, in a sense they were fairly doomed from the start anyway. Lawrence Eagleburger quickly catches on that the Cubans are differentiating between discussions, which they are happy to pursue, and negotiations, which they are not.

Third, Kissinger's "pipsqueak" comment falls perfectly within the history of U.S.-Cuban relations. Lars Schoultz wrote an entire book (That Infernal Little Cuban Republic) examining the frustration of successive U.S. officials that this tiny country was not succumbing to U.S. pressure. During the Cold War, this became a question of credibility--if a tiny country could resist us, then we look weak.


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