The Washington Times
My Cold War, it seems, is not over. Such is the somewhat dispiriting conclusion to draw from the two sets of demonstrations of the week, one in Washington and one in Little Havana, Miami.
It’s easy to derive one simple statement summarizing the view of the throngs gathered outside the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, the great uncle of six-year-old Elian: They don’t want the boy sent back to Fidel Castro’s Cuba. That’s commendable clarity, regardless of what you think of the substance. It bespeaks seriousness of purpose. And it is absolutely impossible to offer any similar summary statement about the views of those demonstrating against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington.
They are against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because – well, because why? Because international financial institutions promote globalization, and globalization benefits multinational corporations, not poor people around the world. Therefore, these tools of international capitalism need to be either A) harnessed to promote environmentally sound and sustainable development including fair labor standards or B) destroyed.
It’s as if the anti-Vietnam War protesters wanted to A) smash the military-industrial complex and end the war while B) increasing Pentagon funding to aid indigenous guerrilla liberation movements around the world. As former State Department official Robert B. Zoellick wrote of the demonstrations that greeted the meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in October, “the protesters’ arguments were contradictory: They wanted both to blow up the WTO and to have the WTO establish a host of global rules to dictate social, economic, political and environmental conditions around the world.”
One young man whose hair was dyed hot pink, for those of you who remember the color from its 1970s fashion debut, carried a sign that said “Capitalism kills.” Now, as it happens, capitalism has produced rising living standards. When living standards rise, people live longer. Therefore, capitalism has resulted in people living longer. But completing such a syllogism requires both knowledge of history and the ability to reason, neither of which seemed much in evidence. On the front page of the Baltimore Sun Monday was a photograph of a young man with locks long and richly curly, carrying a placard with this zinger aimed at the heart of the IMF: “It’$ More Faci$m” (sic). Would it be too much to say that people who don’t know how to spell “fascism” probably don’t know much about what it is, either?
Now, back to Miami, and on to the substance of the views of demonstrators there. Cuban-Americans may, in general, be passionate and voluble, but they also know something about life under communism. After all, they or their parents personally fled Mr. Castro’s Cuba. Some of them even did so while leaving loved ones behind. Why would they do such a thing? Because Mr. Castro’s revolution had every intention of repressing them. Because Cuba under Mr. Castro became a communist dictatorship in which people enjoyed no freedom and no prospects, unless they were willing to join the elite specializing in repression; and even this did not exactly pave the way to a secure future, since Fidel has long been in the habit of murdering underlings whose power grows too great.
This phenomenon was by no means unique to Cuba. Before the pink-haired youth and the curly-maned youth were born, one was regularly confronted with the spectacle of massive flight from communist repression. Hundreds of thousands fleeing Vietnam in rickety boats. Daring attempts (often fatal) to breach the Berlin Wall and escape East Germany. Refuseniks languishing in the Soviet Union.
But the Cold War is over, as people who took little interest in fighting it at the time often point out. And so it is. The Soviet Union is gone, and Mr. Castro is no longer the menace he was when he was sending Cuban troops to further Soviet strategic designs on Africa and shipping weapons to communist guerrillas in Central America.
Now, to be a Cold Warrior at the time was, in part, to find oneself defending indefensible things -dictatorships in the Philippines, Chile, South Korea, El Salvador, Taiwan, Iran; white rule in South Africa. One defended them on the grounds that what would follow them would be worse – not only morally, but strategically, as a part of a direct challenge to us. It was a dreadful but necessary task. In retrospect – which is to say, things having turned out well – one can think of more agreeable positions one might have taken on Gen. Pinochet, et al.
But things turned out as well as they did only because enough people could see a difference between good and bad and between bad and worse. This takes a little more discernment than what’s on display from young Messrs. “Capitalism Kills” and “It’$ More Faci$m.” They are spiritual heirs to – indeed, they were probably taught the nonsense they believe by – the same people who have been apologizing for if not celebrating life in Mr. Castro’s Cuba for 40 years. For this, there is no defense.
Mr. Castro is not much of a strategic threat anymore, but he remains a moral menace. The people outside Lazaro Gonzalez’s home understand this. I’m on their side. Anybody who wants the Washington protesters, their moral obtuseness and their mindlessness, is welcome to them.