[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Somewhat Random Thought For The Day

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Somewhat Random Thought For The Day

Here it is:

It is the so-called hard-liners that often have a clear vision of the facts and aren't afraid to take a stand, however popular or unpopular it might be. In other words, hard-liners are just as capable of using reason, rational logic and common sense to arrive at decisions as moderates who are usually lauded as the "reasonable ones" in any idealogical debate.

Discuss.

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21 Comments:

Blogger nonee moose said...

There are no absolutes. The hard-line is not always right. The opposite is not always wrong.

But a hard-line that is knee-jerk is just as bad as a moderate mound of jello.

It comes down to the reasoning, and every well-reasoned position is dictated by the intersection of circumstances and goals.

11:47 AM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Henry Gomez said...

In the world there are certain immutable facts. Some people recognize these facts and others try to deny their existence.

For example, immutable fact: Gravity exists and it affects all objects. If we want to get off the ground, we can do things to minimize the effect of gravity or to counter it but it doesn't change the fact that it exists.

The so-called hard liners (in the Cuba debate, which is what I think we're talking about here) recognize certain immutable facts about the castro dictatorship. We can argue about the best way to minimize the effects of that dictatorship or counter it but just like gravity facts are facts.

The problem with the so-called "dialogueros" or "engagement" folks is that among their ranks there are people who want to deny the immutable facts at the root of the debate: that Castro is a dictator, that Castro is a killer, that castro is an opressor, that human rights are routinely abused in Cuba, etc. etc. These are people like Lisandro Perez, who roundly refused to call the regime a dictatorship when pressed at a recent public debate.

This creates a big obstacle because you have people saying that gravity doesn't exist. So they have no desire to get off the ground. And we spend so much time arguing with them that we can't come to common ground with the others that acknowledge that gravity exists but have different ideas for getting around it.

The other thing is that even among those that acknowledge that "gravity exists" there are many that are wishful in their thinking that its effects aren't as great as they truly are. In other words these are people that believe that fidel castro is rational man that can be dealt with rationally. That you can negotiate with him. It's almost as if these people refuse to see that fidel castro is the equivalent of Charles Manson running a country of 11 million people.

Here's another thing. If the hard liners are characterized by their desire to isolate Cuba, then let me ask this question. If I could wave a magic wand today that would make every country in the world join the US in isolating Cuba, how long would the regime last? The answer is obvious, it wouldn't last. Castro is only still in power because he has credibility among many countries in the world that refuse to see that gravity exists, they deny the immutable truth about the regime (for whatever reason).

But we can see that in our magic wand experiment, we would always have the desired outcome. The regime can't last without foreign support.

Rather than try tactics that may or may not cause some degree of incremental change (many of which have been tried by other countries for decades) why not take the approach that we know will work, the "hard line" approach?

Despite the fact that the other side says the hard-line hasn't worked, it's never really been tried since the end of the USSR. The US virtually stands alone in its proclamation that gravity exists and that if we ever want to get off the ground we are going to have do more than flap our arms. We need to build a rocket or a plane to do defeat gravity.

Bottom line. The regime cannot survive if it loses legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of the world community. There are people working every day to maintain that legitimacy and despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary there are unfortunately too many people out there buy the BS of these apologists.

Why would anyone ever take a soft line against Hitler or Mussolini or Hirohito? If fidel castro is indeed evil, if gravity exists, then we need to deal with him like we deal with other evil men.

12:40 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Alex said...

Wrong. As Henry above illustrates, the problem with hardliners is not the clarity of their positions, is that they have already taken a stand. And once you take a stand, there's no reason or logic. It all becomes about making your position prevail, because you are convinced -certain!- of its "immutability". Henry wishes for a magic wand and he is right, because nothing less than a magic wand will make everybody agree at once to isolate Cuba.

This would not be so bad if the hardliners limited themsleves to wage their particular war. But no, they also attack, often virulently, everybody else. So not only they will not prevail, they will oppose any chances anybody else have of prevailing. And rational, common sense people will stay the hell out of the debate.

In may issues (abortion) you'll see two sets of hardliners entrenched and common sense absent from the debate.

2:16 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Alex,

Clarity comes from an understanding of the facts and how they fit in the puzzle. This doesn't guarantee positive results, but it's the first step.

The point of this post is to show that it's not only those with moderate stances that are reasonable and intelligent. Unfortunately, while some hard-liners are wrong in the actions they take, some on the center and left automatically make the assumption that all hard-liners are ignorant blowhards that are constantly on the attack. This shows me that these individuals can be just as closed-minded and intolerant as those which they accuse of same.

Fact: Cuba is a totalitarian state that offers no basic freedom to its people.

Fact: Virtually every country does business with Cuba. This has not resulted in positive change in Cuba.

Fact: Cuba is unwilling to make concessions that will give its people more freedom, thereby reducing if not eliminating the prospects for true and fruitful dialogue.

Once we get past this, it's all about "how to get there" as Henry noted. Certainly there is room for debate and many so-called hard-liners are and have been more than willing in engaging in honest, open debate with those who understand the basic facts but disagree on how to solve the problem.

This is where the far left castro-apologist side gets in big trouble. Their facts are distorted, and they know it. As a result, they purposely yank the chain of the honest hard-liners to get them all riled up. They are professional agent provocateurs, or jodedores, as Cubans would say. The emotionless, snarky delivery of people such as Lazaro Fariñas and Francisco Aruca are prime examples.

In my mind, debate with these people, much like dialogue with castro, is useless. Give me a good honest debate between the so-called moderates and so-called hard-liners any day.

3:13 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Excellent analysis, Robert and Henry.

Alex, your argument is exceptionally weak. "And once you take a stand, there's no reason or logic." This statement may apply to you but where is the evidence that it applies to everyone else? I don't see it. In my experience, people who take strong positions on issues often do so following long processes of learning and argument in which they test their ideas against other ideas. It's the undecideds and "moderates" who are often guilty of sloppy, misinformed or illogical thinking, since they tend to be less interested in the issues in the first place and won't do the work of learning more.

3:42 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Alex said...

Jonathan: if you don't know the difference between a strong position and a stand, you need a dictionary, not a debate. But thanks for the "following long processes of learning and argument" that was a good laugh. The insult? Weak.

Robert:

- "Reasonable" and "intelligent" are not synonyms. You can be very intelligent and very unreasonable at the same time. In any case, oly the ones that behave as blowhards should be called blowhards. You know who those are.

- "...many so-called hard-liners are and have been more than willing in engaging in honest, open debate with those who understand the basic facts but disagree on how to solve the problem." You know what? Give me a list. It'll be very short. Certainly screaming a Lisandro Perez to take a stand doesn't count as "open and honest" debate.

- "This is where the far left castro-apologist side gets in big trouble". "Far" anything, by definition, is not moderate. So again you are talking about hardliner vs. hardliner. Nobody serious lumps Aruca with Bernardo Benes or Joe Garcia for example. Nobody but the hardliners. So why do you and Henry bring them up in this argument, if it's not that in your minds any stance that doesn't include the traditional hardline position is wrong prima facie and pro-Castro?

- Your last two "facts" are wrong. We have already discussed that so let's not go there. But consider this instead; there is a significant amount of countries -in fact, a majority- that dispute them and have been disputing them for decades. That is a fact. Since yours and Henry's premise admits you'd have to turn those countries around for your hardline position to work, how are you going to convince them? By antagonizing? By isulting? By telling them they are accomplices, apologists or at best willfully blind? Does that work with you?

- Debate for the sake of debate is worthless in real politics. Have your debate, but don't be fooled into thinking it'll have any real impact in the Cuba situation. When push comes to shove compromise, patience and diplomacy have proven to be more effective and more likely to get a willing ear.

If the larger point is that moderation per se is not a virtue, I agree. But neither is stubborn certainty.

4:20 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Henry Gomez said...

The problem is that hiding in the ranks of the so-called moderates are Castro agents of influence (Aruca, Lesnik, Perez, and Perez Stable, to name a few). They talk a good game and sound oh so reasonable but they have a mission, and that mission comes from the comandante. Divide the exile community and make his enemies look like cranks.

Alex, you and I have discussed in advertising terms how it's easier to tear something down (like the smoking industry) than build something up. So for them it's an easy job to destroy the Cuban-American exile community. There's an audience out there that's already predisposed to believing el comandante's bullshit.

Also I don't think it would be that hard to turn world opinion around if we had the help of the media. How long did apartheid in SA last and then how long did it last once the world became aware of it through popular culture and the media?

The fact is that Liasandro Perez doesn't have to denounce the regime. It's his right not to. But then he can't pretend to be for change in Cuba because he refuses to agree to the basic premise that the regime is a dictatorship and that changing the regime should be the goal. That we want to fly and that we need to find a way to get around gravity. Then I'll accept his suggestions for how best to do it. But until then I'll just think he loves the ground and doesn't want to get up off of it.

4:22 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Henry Gomez said...

By the way, my position on Cuba HAS evolved over time. Only it's evolved toward the "hard-line" position. Not because somebody confused me, but the opposite, because I have examined all the available evidence and come to the realization that fidel castro can not be negotiated with because his objectives are not what we would normally ascribe to a rational leader of a country and because he is a liar and cheat. It would be like insisting on playing poker with a known cheater. Why would anyone blessed with the tools of reason and logic expect the cheater to play an honest game if every time you have attempted that he has cheated?

Can we agree on this: There are people in this world that are hell bent on doing what they want to do no matter what the consequences.

Can we also agree on this: That sometimes (perhaps once in a generation) one of these people rises to power in a country and does a lot of damage.

If both of these are true, how can we expect to negotiate a settlement? Answer, you can't. The personalities need to change. We have had 10 administrations from both parties and varying degrees at attempts at detente and all have failed. The one variable that hasn't changed is the one that needs to change to change the outcome of the experiment: fidel castro.

So there's a lot of wisdom to be gained from a simple bumper sticker: No Castro, no problem.

4:29 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Alex,

I don't know how you can deny that significant positive change (I should have thrown the extra adjective in initially) has not occurred in Cuba. All evidence indicates that. And we're all still waiting for the regime to make concessions with its own people. However, let's move on.

You wrote:
-(Quoting Robert)"...many so-called hard-liners are and have been more than willing in engaging in honest, open debate with those who understand the basic facts but disagree on how to solve the problem." You know what? Give me a list. It'll be very short. Certainly screaming a Lisandro Perez to take a stand doesn't count as "open and honest" debate.

- (Quoting Robert)"This is where the far left castro-apologist side gets in big trouble". "Far" anything, by definition, is not moderate. So again you are talking about hardliner vs. hardliner. Nobody serious lumps Aruca with Bernardo Benes or Joe Garcia for example. Nobody but the hardliners. So why do you and Henry bring them up in this argument, if it's not that in your minds any stance that doesn't include the traditional hardline position is wrong prima facie and pro-Castro?

First of all, let me make this point totally clear: not having a traditional position doesn't imply being pro-castro.

You say that hardliners lump all non-hardliners together, yet you then make the direct comparison between the far left and the hardliners as equally "out there". Seems like you're doing exactly what you accuse hardliners of doing.

The point of the post was to illustrate that one can have a hardline position and not be some extremist nut. Let's call the extremists what they really are, but why lump everyone else in with them? In other words, hardliners can be reasonable and intelligent (those two terms go hand in hand IMO, but what do I know?). The implication you made that there are very few on the hardline right who are willing to engage in open and honest debate is precisely the attitude I was thinking of when I wrote the post. Those who are truly interested in debate of the facts would be wise to let go of that thinking.

5:04 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

One more point: as with Henry, my position has changed throught the years. I was once largely uninterested in Cuban-American politics, then became a staunch moderate.

In April of 2000, it all changed. It was the Elian fiasco that opened my eyes not only to what those on the left stood for, but it made me study Cuba a lot closer. I then arrived at the hardline position, but only after lots of thought and experience.

5:07 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger nonee moose said...

Henry, agreed. And thanks for recognizing that the engagement philosophy actually has different flavors. Your hatd-line, IMO, is one of those that I had alluded to as based on some reasoned process. And I have no qualms with your immutable facts. I don't happen to believe that any engagement with any of the castros is advisable. They are what they are, and that ought to be beyond debate.
I also agree with you on the theory that the regime would not last two days if every country decided to stand fast against the tyranny of the regime. However (and this is an academic "however", rather than a philosophical one), there are many facts which militate against that possibility. And, though they are by no means immutable, they are realities under which one has to operate, because in my opinion they are conditions which are sufficiently cemented, in a geo-political sense, that to add their mutation to the to-do list would be an inefficient use of energies, with little chance of success.
I'm not talking about the specific denial of "gravity", but rather the perceptions that drive that denial. Though it may not ultimately be true, it is not unheard of for at least tacit support for the regime to be based on the perception of the U.S. as a country that, by virtue of its size and shape within the international economic and political community, too often crosses the line between foreign relations and outright meddling in the domestic affairs and politics of other sovereign nations. What keeps another country from looking at the open calls for regime change, in the case of Cuba and other axes of evil, and not thinking "we could be next" the minute that country takes a position that is not convenient to the U.S.? I don't suggest this as condemnation for the U.S. actions of the past which could be interpreted that way, politics is a dirty business and international politics even moreso. So, form a geo-political point of view, to join in such a brazen effort at regime change is at the same time creating a vulnerability which can haunt a lesser nation in the future.
From an economic standpoint, I have said before that, on some level, the absence of the U.S. as an investor in the Cuban economy (again, an absence which I still believe to be appropriate) has simply created a vacuum in international investment opportunities which countries like Spain and Canada have been able to fill without the added competition from the US, politics of reclamation be damned. It is a sad state of affairs, to be sure, that the governments of these countries have chosen other than a principled stance. But as protectors and promoters of their own rational economic entities, and on that basis alone, who can blame them? I am not defending the morality of such decisions, but we all know that economics is for the most part amoral.

I had begin this post in response to Henry's original comment, without the benefit of the subsequent discussion. Let me say that I don't consider Max Lesnik or Aruca moderates, and for anyone to do that undermines the true fertility of the ground in close proximity and on either side of the line.

5:40 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Alex said...

Henry: Aruca, Perez and Lesnik don't say the same things and don't act the same way. That's just not true. They may have common positions in some things, but that's it. On top of that, those are always teh exptreme names people run when they talk about "moderates" but they are hardly moderates. What if I say that Gingrich, Limbaugh and Coulter are all the same? Do you agree with that?

I mean, I have made many times the distinction between a Saavedra and a Ramon Saul Sanchez or a Basulto, a Perez Roura or a Mas Canosa. There are nuances and nuances are extremely important. Lumping is just a diversion.

Robert: hardliners are all hardliners, from any sign or persuasion. I don't see the contradiction.

In other words, you get Saavedra and Aruca on a deathmatch, I'll ring the bell.

But as far as lumping the nuts, see my answer to Henry above. I don't think any of those are nuts.

An extremist is somebody who goes on the radio and says that Haitians are opportunists that don't deserve the break Cubans gets because they are not running away from communism. A smart person shows solidarity with the haitians (see Basulto)

A nut doesn't allow for any talks with anybody who is part of the Cuban regime. A smart person realizes there's something to be gained (Benes obtained the release of political prisoners) even if it's just a political point (Mas Canosa debated Alarcon).

A nut says Elian would return to his father "over my dead body". A smart person realizes it's not a battle that can be win ethically, morally or politically. I can't come with an example for that one, because every freakin' Cuban public figure was in the wrong there. Sorry.

5:44 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Alex said...

How long did apartheid lasted: 46 years. How long since the first UN sanctions: 32 years. How long since "Ain't Gonna play Sun City" (1985): 9 years. Worldwide opinion didn't bring down apartheid, nor did economic pressure, which was little (the US didn't have an embargo, as Jeff Flake famously said in Little Havana). Apartheid reform came from within (De Klerk) and it was forced by civil war, uprisings due to the genocides perpetrated by Piet Botha's government (and say what you want, but large-scale genocides have not happened in Cuba) and general ungovernability of the country.

BTW, the apartheid continues to be a bad example vis-a-vis Cuba. What if a current US administration followed Reagan's "contructive engagement" policy? (Nevermind that it failed because it was long on "engagement" and short on "constructive") Would that be acceptable to the hardliners?

6:02 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Henry Gomez said...

Nonee Moose

I agree with a lot of what you have said, but the thing that gets me is that it's a realpolitik outlook. That since we can't possibly beat the castros by taking a principled stand then we should just accept the fact that other countries don't trust the US and that we should give in to their fears (founded or unfounded). In such a scenario Cuba just becomes a pawn in the game. And I think that's exactly what has happened. No president has made Cuban freedom a real priority because it's simply not worth the trouble it would cause within the international community, no matter how "right" those actions might be.

Alex: Let's be clear, there's a big difference between conservative commentators that may share an ideology and the aforementioned Perez, Aruca, Lesnik who I consider agents of the regime.

The latter all parrot the same attacks on the exile community (Perez less so because his cover as an academic requires him to sound more reasonable). Every time you mention Cuban censorship they talk about censorship in Miami. Every time you talk about terrorism they talk about terrorism in Miami. On and on it goes.

As for apartheid, you validated my point. The practice lasted a long time but once it began to get a consistent amount of media coverage it became an unsustainable policy. DeClerq didn't get rid of it out of the kindness of his heart. At least I don't think so.

And there's two sides of the economic engagement argument. Yes that's what Reagan's policy was but he was highly criticized for it by the same people that want that to be the policy toward Cuba. And let's be clear, even under apartheid black africans were emigrating to SA. In Cuba the rafts only go one way. In SA there were private businesses and property. You could argue that what was good for those businesses was good for Black south africans and that it could eventually liberalize their system. In Cuba as I've always argued the rules are rigged to minimize the democratizing effects of trade and business.

As I've worked on this BUCL campaign I realized that I'm glad that it's Spanish companies exploiting Cuban workers and enforcing the exclusionary practices of the regime. I'm glad it's them and not us. Nike, Coca-Cola and other American companies get a lot more shit for doing things that are much more benign.

12:30 AM, May 25, 2007  
Blogger Jonathan said...

And let's be clear, even under apartheid black africans were emigrating to SA. In Cuba the rafts only go one way.

Right, that's the way to compare these kinds of situations: look at the revealed preferences -- emigration, changes in property values and so forth. The worst countries export people and not much else.

9:21 AM, May 25, 2007  
Blogger Alex said...

If you really think media attention is all it takes to bring down a regime, you need to read more history. Duvalier, Burma, the Khmer Rouge, Sierra Leone; there are tons of examples of regimes that where roundly conmdemned in the media. Songs were written, movies were made. All of them brough down from within. Keep thinking it was a bunch of musicians singing and not the Soweto uprisings, the ANC (which was labeled a "terrorist" organization in the West btw)and military defeats in the central african wars that got the National party to elect DeKlerk, a reformist.

Yes, there's a geopolitical context to everything. You want to isolate apartheid or cuba from the political realities of history to suit your argument, fine, but that's not how it works in the real world.

As far as the other stuff goes: you and a bunch of exiles consider them agents of the regime, but you have no proof that they are. Only your opinion. I don't think you have listened to Aruca or read Lesnick or Perez much. If that's the position you are going to take, then, frankly, it's a waste of time. Anybody who doesn't agree with the hardliners is a Castro agent. That broken record gets plenty of play, so here goes another broken record: When you take positions like these "principled" positions, don't lament yourselves when nobody listens to you, and you know outside Miami nobody listens to you.

Because that's what really at the core of posts like these. The "we against the world, why won't anybody realize we are right" whine. At some point you have to realize when everybody else paints you with a brush, no matter how unfair it seems to you, there's a reason.

10:14 AM, May 25, 2007  
Blogger Henry Gomez said...

Well it just strikes me as odd the the left in America discards a realpolitik approach when it's a republican in office (say Nixon or Ford) and it's a right wing dictatorship like the Shah or Iran or Somoza in Nicaragua but it's a realpolitik argument that's used to justify the coddling of castro (or any other leftist).

And do you think the US gets involved in places like Somolia, Kosovo, etc. without public outcry?

Cuba might as well not even be on the map. It's hands off.

11:31 AM, May 25, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Alex,

You're too quick to say, as usual, that hardliners dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as castro agents. You surely don't think it's that black and white, do you? After all, you've suggested that there are no absolutes and that there's plenty of room away from teh extremes for debate. Otherwise, why are we here trying to have a debate over this and why haven't Henry or myself called YOU a castro agent yet.

Frankly, that attitude is just as much of a broken record as what you accuse the hardliners of, and the point of this post went totally over your head.

3:05 PM, May 25, 2007  
Blogger Alex said...

Henry, sure it's wrong if the left (shouldn't you say "extreme" left) in America criticizes a realpolitik effort that has a worthy goal in mind. Clinton caught pleny of heat because of Kosovo. Going into Somalia, where there was a genocide hapening, is good no matter what. As it should be going into Darfur. Supporting the contras in Nicaragua was good realpolitik. Nixon going to China was good realpolitik (and he caught heat from whom?) Taking Pinochet at his word was good realpolitik. In other words, look at the goal, not just at the way to get there.

I think the approach to Cuba would change much, and there would be a lot more consensus if everybody focused less on Castro and more on the Cuban people.

Robert, give me a break.

3:58 PM, May 25, 2007  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Unhappily it's not just the extreme Left. Outside of Miami I've met many "moderate Democrat" types who think that "right-wing Cubans in Miami" are, as a group, little better than gangsters. This is a frequent prejudice among northern liberals.

To clarify some other things: while Nixon going to China was indeed realpolitik, our support of the Contras was based on a strong and popular belief in the USA that it was important for us to support opponents of communist aggression in general and victims of the Sandinista dictatorship in particular. The common view here was that Somoza was a thug but that the Sandinistas were much worse and were allied with Castro. Support for the Contras was therefore justified on both geopolitical and humanitarian grounds. Why we didn't engage in direct subversion against Castro after the Bay of Pigs, I don't know.

I think we should arm anti-govt groups in Sudan. But who's kidding whom. If Clinton had gone into Darfur the Left would have approved, by and large; if Bush did it the Left would talk about US imperialism. That's just the way it is. A significant fraction of the American Left sees the USA as arrogant and intrusive in world affairs, a threat to peace, and deserving of being humbled and restrained from doing further harm. So they are more tolerant of the actions of someone like Clinton, whom they perceive as one of their own and as basically pursuing their agenda, than they are of someone like Bush.

Henry is right about the double standard that the US Left applies to Republican administrations. A Republican administration that is (or was) applying a principled policy against fascist dictators in the Middle East gets called imperialistic. But it's only pursuing the kind of policy that the Left formerly said we should apply to Somoza, South Africa et al. And the Left by and large didn't mind our Balkan intervention.

3:38 PM, May 26, 2007  
Blogger nonee moose said...

Speaking as a Republican, the real truth is that both the right nd left apply double standards. That's the way the game is played. So everybody just chill with the fingerpointing. It really is disingenuous on all sides.

Jonathan, I agree that the Reagan administration's support for the cotras was not realpolitik, in that it did not involve the administration doing something they would otherwise not do. If anything, it was their methods of executing that policy, specifically whatever role narco-trafficking played in the funding of the effort with tacit approval from the U.S., which might be considered realpolitik.

4:22 PM, May 26, 2007  

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