Monday, March 28, 2011

Reordering The Universe

Ben Smith profiles my former colleague Steve Clemons, founding executive director of the Nixon Center (I took this photo of Steve with the ambassador of Singapore, Chan Heng Chee, at the last Center dinner I attended in 2009; with typical graciousness, he was squatting):

The 6-foot-5, same-sex-married son of an Air Force master sergeant is the quintessential Washington figure for the new age: a self-made, uncredentialed blogger and social butterfly, intellectual entrepreneur, name-dropper and media networker. He’s both a very new kind of Washington figure — his Washington Note cracked the foreign policy establishment open for the blogosphere back in 2004 — and a very old one, the spiritual descendant of great Washington hostesses like Pamela Harriman and the nearest thing to an inheritor of the largely dead, civil, bipartisan salon of the old foreign policy elite.

“Steve is a really important part of the foreign policy universe, and he deserves a huge amount of credit for reordering that universe,” said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official...


J.C. Marrero said...

The article refers to Mr. Smith's keen desire for a U.S. opening with Cuba. There have been many such unrequited openings, including a generous one by President Obama last year expanding remittances and travel.

In an interview last week with Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald, the President seemed to signal that it was up to the Communist regime to make the next gesture.

But there has been no reciprocal "move" by the Castros in the last fifty years.

But--wait--the CastroBros are still serving out their first "term" and maybe just need to grow into their jobs.

Fr. John said...

Thanks, Juan. Is the regime afraid that a warming relationship with the U.S. would be destabilizing?

J.C. Marrero said...

The regime wants an "opening", but purely on its terms. For example, the hotels built by the Spanish, Italians and Canadians are a great deal for the Castros. The regime offers the foreign investors scarefully selected Cubans to work in these establishments (very few blacks, for instance) , but the salaries are paid to the Cuban government in Western currencies. In turn, the Government pays the Cubans with the basically worthless local peso and pockets the real thing.

These jobs, however, go to those the regime trusts most because these workers benefit by collecting tips, making the position of a busboy in a Western "owned" hotel much preferable to being a teacher or doctor. Elian Gonzalez's father was rewarded with a Western hotel job and a position in the Cuban "legislature".

The government is always clever in ways it re-brands repression. Among the current techniques are "spontaneous acts of repulsion". Basically, thugs from one town are bussed to another to physically attack or harass any dissident who is getting too out of line. Thus, the government, Pontius Pilate-like, can say that this is merely the indignant, non-governmental response of the Revolution-loving populace to a great provocation by a counter-revolutionary misfit. The government may simply step in (or not) before the "worm" (favorite Government term for dissidents) gets hurt too seriously.

Finally, those large pro-government rallies are a joke. If you don't attend you may lose your job or chance at education. Plus, the only way to get some soap and deodorant for the summer is to attend the big rally. The Government is always kind.

Bottom line--the Cuban regime wants the rhetoric of accusing the US of not "opening up", but it will never open up to the US in a way that it does not control
100%. Cuba is not North Korea (far from it), but their common ideas of "reciprocal trade" are from the same playbook.

What is most sad about Cuba is what fifty plus years of the regime has done to the psyche of the people. It is all a cynical joke. The new Cuban parlance for "work" is "steal", as in "where do you steal?" instead of "where do you work". To survive, the guy who works at the shoe store steals a pair of shoes that he barters for meat from the gal who works at the grocery store. Usually, the regime looks the other way unless you cross them somehow. Then they get you for theft, counter-revolutionary activities, etc. Very disfunctional.