In recent years, as nations go, Cuba has been as much the lengthened shadow of one man as any instance that could be cited. Castro’s imprint on the island’s politics has been so uniformly central and sensational that he scarcely needed to manufacture the headlines—they made themselves. But, if perchance they did not, he was a genius at inspiring them. The result has been a five-foot shelf of books, good, bad, and middling, about every conceivable aspect of Cuba’s domestic and international politics. This volume is clearly among the better ones.
Structurally the book is a symposium, edited, with a brief introduction, by John Plank, a senior staff member of the Brookings Institution. Its ten essays were contributed by Henry Wriston, Robert F. Smith, Tad Szulc, J. Wilner Sundelson, Kalman H. Silvert, Raymond Aron and Alfred Grosser, Raymond Carr, Leon Lipson, Hanson W. Baldwin, and Bayless Manning. It is inevitable in a symposium that the various papers should be of differing styles and quality, but all of these are thoughtful and honest, and many are perceptive and pioneering as well.
Only a few can be considered individually. Wriston leads with a masterful analysis of the “historical perspective.” It is not merely accurate narrative, but also philosophical interpretation. The final lesson which he draws is that, “at all costs, the United States must not again impair its own integrity” by following ill-conceived policies and issuing dishonest reports. After a discussion full of insights about “exporting the Cuban Revolution,” Tad Szulc of the New York Times concludes that “Fidelism [is] less a continental danger than at any time since 1959.” His essay reveals what Times readers have long realized, that his knowledge of Latin America is encyclopedic and penetrating.
Silvert discusses with prescience and maturity the dimensions of the Alliance for Progress and also devises a typology of Latin American states according to social stratification based on modernity. It is a suggestive and useful schema, even though he proposes it only tentatively. The New York Times’ military editor, Hanson Baldwin, concludes that Cuba, both because of geography and “Russian transfusions of military power,” will be of long-term importance in global and hemispheric as well as Caribbean strategy.
More than thirty years ago this reviewer wrote a study of Cuban-United States relations with the same title as the book now being reviewed, though with a different subtitle. At the end he expressed the hope that the initials of the Monroe Doctrine, which at various times could well have stood for Manifest Destiny, Masterful Domination, Money Diplomacy, and Much Deception, might in the future come to stand for Mutual Deference. For at least a decade that hope has seemed hollow and unattainable. This volume helps greatly to explain why.