31 August 2008

Sarah Palin, Cuba, and The Solidarity of the Weak.

I know that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has had her hands full with the Russians up in Alaska, but, if she wants to catch-up on the roots of relations among low and low-middle income nations, she could do a lot worse than watching the exceptionally well researched film, Cuba: An African Odyssey.

Most impressive, the movie compiles extensive, animated interviews with the aging key players on all sides, including CIA station chief, Larry Levin, Cuban Commander Victor Dreke, and one pissed-off Politburo member telling us how shocked the Soviets were when they learned that in 1975 Castro had dispatched forces to Angola.

What emerges--besides fascinating details such as the CIA estimating the number of Cuban troops in Angola by counting baseball diamonds and historical forget-me-nots such as Pik Botha admitting that in Cairo the Cubans forced the South Africans to release Nelson Mandela as a show of good will--is that forty-two years ago Cuba forged a “solidarity of the weak,” an internationalist ethos that goes a long way in explaining why we cannot get fledgling democracies to support in any meaningful way our efforts to topple brutal tyrants.

But beyond our genuine Human Rights concerns, Solidarity of the Weak is now a Foreign Relations force to wreckin with. Understanding its legacy helps explain, for example, how Iran can dance around “international” pressure and, in part, how Putin could act without fear of significant international consequences.

McCain’s Gunboat diplomacy won’t suffice here, a dangerous fact the touchy codger doesn’t get (or perhaps hasn’t figured out how to frame in terms of his tear-jerking confinement in Vietnam).

To be sure, the quiet alliance of Low and Low Middle income nations is a global thing, an alliance whose teeth were cut fighting the wickedest mercenaries in the history of mankind.

So what other persuasive vehicle beside multinational negotiations does a cash strapped America have to secure the cobalt in the Congo, for example?