Who is an enemy?
Published Friday, February 16, 2001, in the Miami Herald
In a fit of political provincialism, a professor once told me that, despite popular belief, the true cradle of Cuba's national
revolutions was not the city of Santiago but the Law School at the University of Havana.
She was right. Not only that. But even if the cradle in fact were in the Oriente province, the avenging creatures always end
up suckling in Havana.
This applies particularly to the 1959 revolution.
The classicism that underlay many courses taught at that school left a definite mark on the political imagination of a
student who would become the commander in chief of a lifeless island: Fidel Castro.
His historical imagination is deeply rooted in Greco-Roman antiquity, not in Cuban or Latin American history. That's why
his speeches are larded with allusions to the battle of the Thermopylae, to Pyrrhic victories, Numancian self-immolation
and assorted Caesars, and why his apocalyptic frenzy has more in common with a pyromaniacal Nero than an
intransigent [Cuban independence hero Antonio] Maceo.
VILIFIED BY PROPAGANDA
In the course on Roman law, Castro had to learn at least two axioms:
* To achieve political importance, a small nation must look for a big foe -- and for a big friend who can be an enemy of
its big foe.
* My foe's enemies can be my friends.
By discursively establishing enmity with the United States (the deluxe rival selected by Castroism), one can reach a
visible level of formal disagreement that distracts public opinion and allows "secret diplomacy'' to make deals
unrestrictedly in the shadows.
Critics of the American establishment may not know that Castro historically has offered every guarantee of good behavior
toward his neighbors to the north. He has become a diligent ally -- a little heavy-handed, to be true, but always willing to
serve. His supporters should reconsider their enthusiasm in the light of such facts.
Faced with this evidence, a shift toward theory is pertinent. Thus, we might ask: What is an enemy? This issue was
raised by Iring Fetscher in his book Tolerance, which includes the definition, image and actual result of the friend-foe
Singular to Castroism is the abyss that separates the formal foe from the real foe: the enemy from the version of the
enemy vilified by propaganda.
The amassed documentation and the increasingly explicit offers of complicity contradict the assertion that, to Castro, the
United States is a radical enemy. The real enemy of Castroism is the Cuban people. He hates his compatriots both on
the island and in exile with the same intensity; particularly those in Miami, because they've been able to show what
Cubans are capable of doing when living together in democracy.
At this crossroads in history, with his "enemy'' assured, Castro now is looking for friends. He proposes pacts and
seduces with royalties. Sometimes he offers concessions that to a businessperson are practically irresistible. That's
something I can understand: Some people are in a hurry and want to gain an advantage before they participate in the
inevitable encounter with the island.
Castro hates Cubans in exile because they've been able to show what Cubans are capable of doing when living together
This is the situation: Why should a man who is notorious for his enmities insist on searching for alliances, even with the
United States and with the Cuban community in Miami?
Hereafter we shall listen to many proposals for under-the-table deals, never mind that the discourse is offensive, even
foul. Castroism is skilled in the art of listening, but also has a very long tongue with which to seduce eager and
Beware Fidel Castro, who is just as willing to profit from his enemies as he is to send his friends to hell. Be aware of
history, for Castro can do it again.