How Russia Decides to Go Nuclear
Deciphering the Way Moscow Handles Its Ultimate Weapon
THE deepening crisis in Cuba inescapably reflects a failure of American foreign policy. Failure rather than disaster, for the situation is not unmanageable. Yet it should not have happened. Because somewhat similar crises are possible in other parts of Latin America, it is not amiss to analyze the policy (or lack of it) for future reference.
The more obvious background events are well-known; they need only be summarized here. Cuba as an independent state came into existence as a result of the Spanish-American War. This in turn was the climax of the war of independence sporadically carried on in the island for a long time, reaching an active phase in 1895. Three bloody years preceded the three-months war with Spain. On December 10, 1898, by the Treaty of Paris, Spain renounced her claims to lands discovered by Columbus. American occupation was set up under the Governor Generalship of Leonard Wood; parties were organized, elections were held. On May 20, 1902, the Cuban Republic was inaugurated and the American occupation ended. The United States retained the right to intervene in Cuba to restore order; this right, rarely exercised (and never successfully), was renounced by the United States in 1934.
Meanwhile, Cuba pursued her independent way with substantial success. Among other things, desiring to assure an economic base for the new country, the United States assured her preferential tariff treatment for imports of Cuban sugar. This was subsequently translated into the large quota of Cuban sugar granted import into the protected American market. Then, as now, Cuba's primary economic resource was the growing of sugar cane and its manufacture into raw sugar, chiefly for export.
The economic life of Cuba was, quite obviously, bound up with that of the United States. Geography would have done this in any event. The economic norms of civilized intercourse were then the conventional ones of private commerce and investment. Cubans traded with Americans. Americans invested in Cuba. This was not philanthropy on either side. The trade was mutually profitable. One must note here a distortion of history which is being widely pushed both in Latin America and among the less responsible intellectuals of the United States. This is that the current of trade and investment, being "dollar diplomacy," was merely a purposeful establishment by the United States of an "informal empire." (I have even heard Cubans insist that the United States "intervenes" in Cuba merely because it exists, is nearby and is economically powerful.) The argument is not entitled to intellectual respect. Eras move in their own times. From 1900 at least until 1933, Cuba had only three possible alternatives. She could be a colony, she could be an independent entity living within the only trade system then current, or she could starve. Of the three, the second alternative was obviously the most advantageous. The intellectuals who now irresponsibly use the strictly propaganda word "imperialism" are men who never experienced real "empire." In point of fact, Cuba was as free to develop her life, moral structure and social forms as any small country at the time--perhaps as any small country can be.
More recent Cuban history developed stress, despite substantial and continuing economic progress measured statistically. From 1927 on, the world produced great surpluses of raw sugar. It sold at catastrophically low prices, even in the protected American market. Distress grew. An aggravating factor was that cane sugar employment, besides being unskilled and badly paid, is seasonal: sugar mills grind from December or January to early May. During the dead season only a fraction of field labor is employed. By 1933 the government of the country then headed by President Gerardo Machado was in trouble.
In the late summer of that year a revolution came to a climax, forcing Machado to flee. A government, chiefly composed of students, was set up in Havana, whose head was a former university professor, Dr. Grau San Martin. The real power was held by Fulgencio Batista, an army sergeant who had led a mutiny displacing all the Cuban officers and had established himself at Camp Columbia as the leader of the Cuban armed forces. In parts of the country mobs held sway, and there was more than a trace of Communist agitation. Personal power at length came to rest in the hands of Batista and the armed forces. He became a candidate for President, was elected and assumed office on October 10, 1934. At the expiration of his term, Grau San Martin was elected President; he was followed in October 1948 by President Prio Socarras. Batista, who had been biding his time politically, again presented himself for President in June 1952. But when it became clear to him and his supporters that the vote was running heavily against him, he coolly took over the army, assumed the presidency and became in fact a military dictator.
As dictators go, in the earlier days of his power Batista might have been worse. Stealing of government funds reached phenomenal proportions under Grau San Martin and Prio Socarras. It is no compliment to Batista to say that he personally did not equal their record. His friends and associates nevertheless did pretty well. Economic considerations favored this: the market for sugar during and after World War II, and through 1957, was high. Money was plentiful. Until the last few months the Cuban Army was generally loyal to Batista; during much of his career, indeed, it was reported to be the highest paid army in the world. Social legislation was enacted. Wages of Cuban workmen about doubled in the decade from 1949 to 1959, though their real wage had perhaps increased by only 50 percent. But employment in the cane fields was still seasonal. The base from which the increase took place was so low that improvement (like that occurring in the days before the French Revolution) emphasized the fact of poverty almost as much as it ameliorated it. Twenty-five percent of Cuban labor is reported to have been "normally" unemployed. Wealth was hopelessly concentrated in a tiny upper class, which displayed a shockingly small sense of social responsibility to the Cuban masses. Graft in Havana was the rule rather than the exception. Against a background of military dictatorship no peaceful way out was apparent. When a government can be changed only by force, revolution through civil war (its date uncertain) is almost inevitable, though there are rare cases where the dictator will--and can--abdicate peacefully.
In point of fact, Fidel Castro headed an abortive attempt at such a revolution on July 26, 1953. He organized a small force intending to initiate a revolution. Most of his force was wiped out; he was captured, imprisoned and subsequently released. Once more he organized a small force, this time in Mexico, and succeeded in taking a dozen men to the Sierra Maestra to carry on guerrilla warfare.
The political program developed in this period was far from clear. Primarily it opposed the dictatorship of Batista. From the 1953 attempt it could have been known that the movement sought social justice for the unemployed and the agricultural laborers, distribution of land, the cutting of rents, industrialization, rise in productivity, and better distribution. At the time, nothing anti-American was suggested; that was to come later.
By early 1958, two facts became clear. One was that a substantial majority of Cuba wanted no more of Fulgencio Batista. The other was that a contra-Batista revolution had wide support among Latin American democratic leaders throughout the entire Caribbean area. Castro indeed was receiving aid from Venezuela, from Central America and from diverse elements in the United States where somewhat ineffective efforts of the United States Government failed to prevent a flow of money and supplies, including arms, to him. The Batista government protested against any support reaching the Castro insurrection on the familiar ground that this constituted "intervention." The pro-Castro group countered with bitter charges that the United States (presumably by stopping flow of supplies to Castro) was supporting undemocratic dictatorship. They likewise charged that the United States was giving Batista arms--a charge which had a measure of truth in it since under military aid agreements Washington had in the past supplied, and was obligated to supply, a certain measure of weapons and munitions. It must be added that as the civil war increased, Washington not ony dragged its feet but came perilously close to breaking the agreement in an effort not to give arms or other assistance to the Batista government--just as it was also endeavoring not to permit American supplies to flow to the insurrection in the Sierra Maestra.
Batista had enjoyed the passive support of a small but toughly organized Cuban Communist group. Around their hard core they had recruited sympathizers who may not have been Communists but were prepared to follow the Communist lead. Apparently the hard core decided the time had come to change sides. In mid-1958 they signaled a shift in policy, determined to support Fidel Castro, strengthening their organization, especially in Havana, and awaited the outcome. Also, as 1958 drew to its close, elements of the Cuban Army ceased to be reliable Batista forces. Some changed sides. Conspiracies of officers against the Batista government were increasingly frequent. The break-up of that government was in sight.
At least three separate and distinct groups were now converging on Havana. Fidel Castro himself with his brother, Raul, were in Oriente Province far removed from the capital. Other groups who had steadily supported him in his revolution, though without commitment as to the future government of the country, moved in as the situation broke up. On January 1, 1959, Batista fled. An underground youth group emerged, took over, stopped looting, and occupied the police stations and the palace. "Che" Guevara, as head of insurrectionist troops, seized Cabañas fortress on January 2. An anti-Castro Colonel, Ramon Barquin, freed from imprisonment, assumed temporary chieftainship of the Cuban armies and immediately sent out a call for Castro to come to Havana.
In Santiago on January 2 Castro announced the formation of a government under former Judge Manuel Urrutia Lleo as provisional President. Urrutia returned the compliment by naming Castro head of the nation's armed forces, and he outlined a political policy. Constitutional guarantees were to be restored. Freedom of press and radio would be reëstablished. Harvesting of the sugar crop was to be started on schedule. The new government would honor international commitments. On January 8 Castro and his barbudos marched into Havana. There was general rejoicing not only in Cuba but in most of Latin America. The democratic revolution which began when Brazil broke away from dictatorship in 1945, overthrowing on its way, among others, Argentina's Peron, Colombia's Rojas Pinilla and Venezuela's Perez Jimenez, had at length arrived in Havana. One of the great leaders of the democratic movement, former President Jose Figueres of Costa Rica, who with President Romulo Betancourt in Venezuela had actively assisted Castro, promptly offered the new government his congratulations and help. A star had been restored to the galaxy of Latin American democracy.
Disillusionment came swiftly. Within a month Cuban observers were shocked at a new and quite different note: increasing and bitter anti-Americanism within the Castro group which bore the earmark of organized propaganda. On a visit to Venezuela, Fidel Castro attacked the United States and proposed to "liberate" Puerto Rico. A group of Cubans attempted a guerrilla landing in Panama, synchronized with a left-wing demonstration against the United States there. In March, President Figueres visited Cuba as guest of the Castro government. He was invited to speak at a mass meeting. He found himself in the center of a throng at which Castro and his associates violently inveighed against the United States. Figueres replied defending the United States--following which Castro attacked him personally, including Presiident Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela for good measure, although these had previously been his principal supporters.
This attack was an overt turning-point. A number of the leaders who had fought with the Castro forces in the Sierra Maestra left for Central America, seeing the handwriting on the wall. Communists and pro-Communists all over Latin America opened a barrage against the democratic governments and their leaders. Their complaint appeared to be that these were "stooges of American imperialism," meaning that they were not hostile to the United States. In April 1959, a number of Cuban leaders who had assisted Castro in obtaining power reviewed the situation. They were clear that Castro's policy was now to set up a straight Communist government, and were wholly unconvinced by his violent denials. Some recalled that it was standard Communist practice to deny the Communist affiliations of governments they were in process of establishing. Similar denials had been made with great vehemence when Soviet-dominated forces seized Czechoslovakia, and again when the Chinese revolution was in progress. Sadly, they passed the tragic verdict: "A betrayed revolution."
Castro visited the United States that spring. He was well received. Obviously he had American sympathy. Unhappily it rapidly became clear that what Castro said in Washington was the opposite of what he and his friends were saying and doing in Cuba. An agrarian reform law was promulgated by the Castro dictatorship on June 3. Its provisions gave quite legitimate concern to American landowners there. A courteous note by the United States on the subject was answered on June 15 by the Cuban Foreign Office in reasonably courteous terms, but by Castro himself with a tirade of abuse directed against the United States. By midsummer capable State Department officers were warning that Latin America was beginning to believe that the United States was supine and helpless in face of the superior power and propaganda of the Soviet Union in the Caribbean. A stream of Cubans leaving the Castro régime were insisting that the revolution was betrayed; and that, behind Castro's manic oratory, Communists were organizing affairs.
Since then, the communization of Cuba has followed the classic tactical pattern. Denials and other explanations have been voluminous. The fact that Castro was not a member of the Communist Party (he probably is not) has been stressed. Another line has been that he is endeavoring to create a nationalist government like that of Nasser in Egypt. The point was made that there are non-Communists in his government, and it has been insisted that the Communist character of the government has not been proved. For obvious reasons the internal intellectual history of the Castro government is not yet traceable. Clearly a social revolution was being effected. It is possible that its actual orientation during 1959 was under debate. The undeniable fact is that in result its orientation became, in terms of foreign relations as well as in terms of structure, Communist in character. Until historical evidence is available, we shall not know whether this had been intended at the outset, or whether the decision was taken after January 1, 1959. It can only be noted that as early as March 1959 some of the most capable men associated with Castro in the Sierra Maestra were clear that the revolution was intentionally being directed into Communist hands and that Cuba was intentionally being made an enemy of the United States.
A year later Soviet intervention became overt. Mikoyan paid a state visit. In May 1960, Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union would "defend" Cuba against "American aggression." In July 1960 Raul Castro visited Czechoslovakia to buy arms and Moscow to receive honors. Meanwhile, Cuban embassies all over Latin America (save where the personnel has defected) openly engage in pro-Communist organizing activity. To the extent they are allowed, they distribute Communist literature, much of which is reported to have been printed in Moscow. Cuban agents, with Communist support, are endeavoring to upset the government of Guatemala and are active in agitation elsewhere. Khrushchev has announced that the Monroe Doctrine "has died a natural death" and should be interred as a stinking corpse.
The situation may be summarized. Wholesale social and economic change was needed--indeed, was long overdue--in Cuba. Given the military dictatorship of Batista, revolution was the only way by which it could be secured. This was the feeling of the United States and of most of the specialists in the Department of State. There was a general American disposition to assist the process. From the inception of the new régime, January 1, 1959, to midsummer of 1960, the Government of the United States behaved with scrupulous consideration and tolerance.
But, from the spring of 1959 on, directors of the Cuban revolution seemed as much interested in picking a quarrel with the United States as in effecting their social revolution. American policy and American diplomacy avoided giving any pretext for hostility, and acted with remarkable moderation in the face of growing provocation. It had not, as in the case of the Bolivian revolution of 1954, moved in to offer direct assistance, and in retrospect it is unclear whether such coöperation would have been possible. In any case, it is one thing to offer friendship to a revolution. It is not so easy to offer support to a revolutionary group which proclaims the desire and intent to become an enemy of the United States. The problem becomes infinitely more difficult when that revolution throws itself into the game of world power politics, sacrifices Cuban national safety and Cuban national interests by seeking to make that country and its people a part of the Soviet empire and its régime a client government of Moscow.
The present situation is clear enough. Under the Castro government, Cuba is carrying out a social revolution. In this it had general popular sympathy in the United States and tolerant acceptance by the United States Government. It also chose, apparently intentionally, to become anti-American when anti-Americanism appeared wholly unnecessary. Pretexts given the Cuban people for this sound strange to American ears. The Cuban people were to arm and, if need be, die to repel a threatened American invasion which was a pure figment of imagination. Organizing a social revolution apparently was not good enough; it had also to be converted into an act of hostility to the United States. Apparently, also, Cuban politicians increasingly conceive themselves as divinely appointed leaders to carry on anti-United States activities throughout the entire hemisphere, and to become spearheads in aligning Latin America with the Soviet or the Chinese Communist bloc in a cold war aimed directly against the national existence of the United States.
To assess the substantive failure requires an understanding of the shift in Latin American affairs over the past 15 years. Partly as a result of economic and social change, Latin America since 1945 has progressively abandoned the system of dictatorial rule by caudillos all the way from Cape Horn to Central America. It has established governments stemming from direct and more or less popular elections. This sweeping revolution, embracing the better part of a continent and a half and affecting most of its 180 or more millions of people, has been treated by the Department of State as an almost trivial change--and not a wholly agreeable one.
The State Department carried on a conventional policy of friendship with the governments of these countries before their dictatorships fell. Its diplomats had been on friendly terms, sometimes intimate, with the dictators. So long as these were in general friendly to the United States, respected our interests and coöperated with our policy, the diplomatic task was considered done. Although these dictators (like all rulers whose power does not come from popular assent) had to maintain a steady and frequently an increasingly cruel policy of suppressing popular opposition by police methods, the United States took pains not to show sympathy with their opponents--irrespective of the quality of the men or of the forces they symbolized. In this attitude, the Department was supported by a steady stream of reports from the chiefs of dictatorial secret police to the effect that all their opponents were "Communist." This material found its way into the State Department files, and was fed to Congressional and other officials. It proved a useful excuse for harrying and harassing entirely genuine democratic leaders and movements.
Whether in their own countries, or in exile or refuge in the United States, the democratic leaders found themselves baffled, discredited, almost persecuted by the Government of the United States--supposedly the symbol of democracy. When their revolutions succeeded, as they did in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica (where Figueres overthrew a Communist-Fascist dictatorship in 1948) and Honduras, the misinformation and prejudice in many cases held over. In most instances the trouble has been repaired. In a number of important countries, the Chiefs of State and their associates had received the shabbiest of treatment (to understate the case) before they acceded to power. Yet by all intellectual standards they were precisely the men the United States should have best understood.
One must be just here to our diplomats. They consider their business to be handling relations between governments. Intimacy and friendship with the occupants of the palaces is a normal goal. Having views about the social conditions in, or the form of government of, any country is not, as they construe it, their function. The character of its government and the structure of its social system are matters for the people of that country only. Sympathy for a Betancourt during the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez in Venezuela--to take one example--would spoil or embitter inter-relationships. Courtesy, even decorations, given to dictatorial officials were thought to assist in maintaining "good relations." One no more questioned the popular implications of such moves than eighteenth century ambassadors in Europe questioned the right of the reigning prince, however unpopular, to his throne.
Accompanying this classic diplomatic habit, there was exaggeration of the doctrine of "non-intervention." Prior to 1932, the United States Government had in certain situations intervened with Marines and economic measures to protect American rights, or to assist in restoring order. This excited deep resentment in Latin America. At the Montevideo Conference of 1933, Secretary Hull had renounced this right, just as he renounced the right to intervene in Cuba under the Platt Amendment in 1934. At the Conference of Buenos Aires in 1936, more specific renunciation was made when the United States voted for a declaration against non-intervention. But "intervention" was then well understood, and its outlines were reasonably clear. The intervention referred to was intervention by force of arms, or by blockade. It was not assumed then, nor is it today, that a country cannot have an opinion of its neighbor governments, or a point of view about them, or about social conditions in them, or that such opinions or points of view cannot be expressed. Certainly the governments, the diplomats, the politicians and the press of Latin America have felt entirely free to express their opinions of the policies and make-up of neighboring countries, including the Government of the United States.
Further, by a growing consensus now embodied in the Charter of Bogota in 1948, the American nations have brought into being a body of principles which are acknowledged to be of common concern to all of them. Included in these are fundamental principles of human rights and freedoms. For example, it is recognized that social justice and social security are bases of lasting peace (Charter of the O.A.S., Article 5-h) and that every person in the hemisphere has the elementary rights of free association, liberty under law, and freedom of religion, of opinion and of expression of ideas. Nothing in the doctrine of non-intervention imposed either on the Department of State or on its embassies the obligation not to understand and not to express an opinion about the political and social movements which were sweeping the hemisphere.
The doctrine of non-intervention as practiced thus became almost a doctrine that the United States would encourage the status quo, however unsatisfactory to the local population. But in the case of dictatorships, the only certainty is that at some point the status quo will change. In the democratic revolution of the past 15 years, this exaggerated interpretation gave the impression that the United States was almost an ally of the systems which were steadily being overthrown. The excuse given--that the democratic movements were perhaps "Communist" in character--was untrue to begin with. Any force it might have had was nullified by the strange fashion in which the United States allowed it to be known in ensuing elections that it favored this, that or the other candidate who not infrequently accepted Communist support, as was the case in Venezuela. And, not infrequently, the individual thus silently favored was defeated.
The only safety, then and now, was for the United States to make a positive affirmation of faith and to act as a solid intellectual and spiritual protagonist of that faith. Partly because this is the only self-respecting position a great power can take, and still more because of the respect Latin Americans of all political faiths have for men who act consistently on principle, the United States lost one of the greatest opportunities it has had. Perhaps in Castro's reëstablishment of naked dictatorship, the opportunity recurs in another form.
In the Cuban case, this continuous, cautious and technically correct attitude of the United States made it easy to represent her as a supporter of the Batista régime. The accusation was not fair. Particularly in later phases, the United States went as far as perhaps it properly could in doing nothing positive which would shore up his falling power. Because the State Department was well informed about Castro (rightly, as the event proved), and had little faith in his democratic propensities, it did not choose to decide between either contender, justifying its aloofness in the name of non-intervention. Factually, for a substantial period of time, the aggregate morale of the Cuban revolution was democratic, anti-dictatorial and anti-Communist. That force could and should have been encouraged, canalized, and, in the hour of its success, given every assistance. A liberal democracy as well as drastic social reform was what Cuba wanted when it revolted against Batista. It is what a great majority of Cubans want now.
Also among the substantive reasons for our failures in Latin America was the surprising ineptness of our economic policy. Contrary to general opinion, the heart of Latin American political formation does not revolve around economic issues: the Latin American begins with philosophical principles and only secondarily translates them into economics. Nevertheless, economics are of enormous importance. On them hang the hopes of emergence from the nineteenth century shackles of grinding poverty for the vast majority and of wealth for a small oligarchic upper class.
The United States by all normal standards was not ungenerous, though by comparison with her munificence towards Europe its aid to Latin America was pitifully small. But it was planless: there was no attempt to work out a continental program with the same sweep and objectives as that adopted for the Marshall Plan in Europe. Preachments about the value of private enterprise and investment and the usefulness of foreign capital were, to most students of the situation, a little silly. In Latin America, as elsewhere, there is a great and extremely useful place to be filled by foreign investment, and a great deal of work which can be done very well by private enterprise. But not always, and not everywhere. Probably, if the truth were known, this form of economic development in Latin America at the moment is a minority rather than a majority function. With the possible exception of Brazil (a very great country developing her own norms and rules), the chief capital developments have to be carried on either by public enterprise, or by mixed public and private enterprise, or in any case by arrangements stemming from the central state. Indeed, in some of the Indian regions of South America, private property as we understand it is almost unknown.
Coupled with the absence of over-all planning, foreign aid, like private investment, became a hit-or-miss sort of thing. This is not to suggest that in many cases great good was not done. Rather it is to say that opportunities were lost to present to Latin America as a whole a clear-cut, viable program giving solid basis for a pledge that production per capita would rise by a stated percent in a stated number of years--a rise which could be greater than the increases promised by Communist agitators.
The social conditions presently existing in Latin America were normal in the nineteenth century; questionable in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century; intolerable now. The measure of improvement has served to highlight the difference in the condition between the great majority of Latin Americans and corresponding conditions among the populations of the United States and Western Europe. There was--there is--no particular faith (and not much reason for any) in the proposition that unmodified continuance of the existing social-economic systems will produce general improvement.
Bracketed with this is the eternal problem of social justice. Foreign aid or private investment may industrialize, may increase production, and still leave the masses in as bad shape as ever. Obviously when the United States through its private or its public sector decides to invest in or otherwise to assist another country in the hemisphere, its primary objective should not be the creation of a few more Latin American millionaires. It should assure itself that the fruits of the increased production will be used to give greater measure of food, health and comfort and (still more) hope for the future, to the peon or guajiro or campesino, rather than to bankers or landowners. Here our old friend "non-intervention" bobs up again. Is this the business of the United States? Should we have offered aid with "strings," conditioning grants on social effectiveness? The answer is yes. No one is obliged to seek capital in the American market, or to accept assistance through foreign loans or grants. The purpose in either situation must be the purpose of the United States, which has every right to state it, express it, and work out plans by which the purpose will be fulfilled. In this case the only justifiable American purpose is to bring the level of life and social welfare in Latin America as close to that of the United States as possible, and as rapidly as possible. Most Latin Americans are clear that, properly handled, their twentieth century revolution can give both freedom and social welfare.
In point of fact, where justifiable social revolution is involved, the United States can and should assist in making it viable. We did this in Bolivia and the result to date has justified it, though that revolution is still in midstream. It would have been perfectly possible, for instance, to offer to a Castro (assuming he did not choose to be an enemy of the United States as apparently Castro has done) a means of financing his agrarian reform and his stateowned program of industrialization. The United States should be able to work in entire cordiality with any kind of social system which does not insist on being its enemy. American so-called capitalism is not a religion or a dogma; it is a way of getting things done which works extremely well in the United States--and may be quite inappropriate in many other situations. Obviously the United States cannot be, and cannot be expected to be, cordial or coöperative towards a revolution whose chief end is hostility to the United States, or which refuses to maintain at least minimal standards of human rights.
But our policy in Cuba gave little hint of this. The close economic relations between Cuba and the United States and the preferred Cuban position in American markets had undoubtedly improved the over-all Cuban position. A little of the benefit from it did trickle down to the Cuban campesinos. The chief result, however, was great luxury for a relatively small group in Havana, and a small rise above the starvation level for the masses. The field was clear for Communist intriguers to identify the United States with the squalid social situation--and divert the revolution to Communist power-political aims.
Let us turn to a second consideration--that of method. In part the trouble in Cuba (indeed, the trouble in Latin America generally) is a failure of American organization.
For 20 years the foreign activities both of the President of the United States and of his Secretary of State have been almost wholly engaged by Europe and the Far East. Latin America was a stepchild. Reorganization of the State Department on recommendation of the Little Hoover Commission has set up a system of committees and inter-departmental clearances making it extraordinarily difficult for anyone of lower rank than the Secretary of State to get anything done in reasonable time. Latin American affairs have historically been handled by an Assistant Secretary. They continue to be so handled, but under the new system between him and the Secretary of State were interposed under secretaries, deputy under secretaries, committee clearances, and so forth. The official directly responsible now has less organizational capacity to act than a division chief had in 1940. The situation is aggravated by a natural desire in the Foreign Service for "big" assignments; that is, assignments in Europe or in the greater countries of the Far East where press coverage provides opportunity for reputation-making. Here the Foreign Service merely reflects a sad American fact: the United States public is chiefly conscious of countries on the European and Far Eastern tourist circuits. Most of it has not the foggiest idea whether Ecuador borders on the Atlantic or the Pacific, or knows that a majority of South Americans speak Portuguese and not Spanish. The men working in Latin American affairs on the whole are an able, devoted and dedicated group. But they work in isolation, and will continue to do so until the White House and the Secretary of State give continuous and personal attention to the problems of a continent and a half whose affairs are of first importance to the safety and welfare of the United States.
Another blank in the picture is the fact that the United States Government communicates with governments but has evolved no effective means of communicating with peoples. Conceding, as we must, that an embassy's primary business is with the palace, it must be added that a greater and more enduring necessity is for the United States to maintain relations with the people themselves. In practice, this means maintaining relations with individuals in, and leaders of, the opposition, of trade unions, of university life, as well as with government officials and formal society. Where the government is democratic, this can be done by a well-organized, well-staffed and competent embassy. In a democracy, the diplomatic official both can and is expected to maintain as wide connections as possible. In a dictatorship, or where opposition is violent, a non-diplomatic mechanism is needed. For the Communist bloc, the Communist parties or organizations supply this function. The United States would operate rather differently, but comparable connection and communication could be worked out. The British Foreign Office has been past-master in doing this; there is no reason why the United States cannot have a left as well as a right hand where circumstances require.
More in fact is needed here than mere contact. Latin America is now dividing itself, as elsewhere in the world, between groups which pin their faith on a Communist solution, though this means loss of personal freedom and even of independent action, and those which hope both to maintain freedom and responsive government and also to achieve social justice and improved economic conditions. Of the latter, the United States is the acknowledged successful symbolic leader. But if an inhabitant of Cuba or Peru or Argentina seeks to find an organization or a movement dedicated to these ends with which he can identify himself, he has the greatest of difficulty. There is always an organizer and agitator prepared to take a pro-Communist or malcontent into an organized camp. Where, however, is the hand outstretched to men who wish the assistance or seek to follow the ideals of the United States? A handful of pro-Chinese or pro-Soviet organizers with quite adequate financing and support has been active for years from Mexico and Cuba to Cape Horn. Sympathizers with them at once find identification, companionship, outlet for their desire to be effective. The United States has almost abandoned the field.
Hence the Cuban problem. When Batista fell, the hard-core Communist cadres found little, if any, choate force to prevent them from taking over.