I wonder how many Americans know how the U.S. embargo against Cuba got imposed. The story provides one more example of how the post-World War II national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto America’s governmental structure warped and perverted the values and principles of the American people in the name of the anti-communist crusade.
From 1953-1959, Fidel Castro’s forces were engaged in a revolution against Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, a cruel and brutal dictator who was supported by the U.S. government.
During the last two years of the war, the U.S. government imposed an arms embargo on both sides to the conflict.
After Castro ended up winning the war on January 1, 1959, he made overtures to the United States but was quickly rebuffed owing to his desire to make Cuba, for the first time since 1898, totally independent of U.S. governmental control.
The CIA began making plans to overthrow Castro, with the aim of installing another dictator that would enable the U.S. government to continue controlling Cuba.
When the U.S. government continued its arms embargo, Castro turned to the Soviet Union for weaponry. Not surprisingly, this caused the CIA to go ballistic, not because he was going to use the weapons to invade the United States but because he would be able to use the weapons to defend Cuba from an attack by the United States. The ability to defend against such an attack was perceived to be a threat to U.S. “national security.”
Of course, in the midst of the Cold War/anti-communist craziness that the U.S. national-security state was inculcating in the American people, hardly anyone asked some basic questions: Why didn’t an independent nation state have the authority to buy weapons from whomever it wanted? And why didn’t an independent nation-state, including one ruled by a communist regime, have the right to defend itself from acts of aggression from the United States?
The Eisenhower administration, no doubt under severe pressure by the CIA, announced a reduction in the sugar quota allotted to Cuba.
Now, think about that for a moment. A sugar quota? What that’s all about? In an era in which there was virtually complete deference to authority to U.S. officials among the American people, hardly anyone even thought to ask such a question. If there was a quota for sugar imports from Cuba, then there had to be a good reason for it, the thinking went.
The quota was part of an international agreement that the United States had entered into that allocated a certain amount of sugar that could exported by sugar-producing nations to nations purchasing the sugar.
So, here you had the U.S. government, which was openly proclaiming to the communist world the virtues of “free enterprise,” as part of an international central-planning cartel that was the very model of anti-free enterprise. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, a genuine free-enterprise system is one in which there are no cartels, no quotas, and no socialist central planning on sugar or anything else.
In any event, the reduction in the sugar quota was the U.S. national-security’s state’s initial attempt to squeeze Castro out of office by squeezing the Cuban people. The idea was that if the Cuban people could be made to suffer sufficiently enough by denying Cuba the ability to export its principal product, the Cuban people would rise up and oust Castro from power and reinstall Batista or install some other U.S.-approved dictator who would enable the U.S. government to resume control over the island.
But the Cuban people had had enough of Batista and U.S. imperialist control over their country. What the CIA never understood — and still doesn’t understand — is that most Cubans hated U.S. control over their country and were willing to stand with Castro no matter how much economic suffering the U.S. government inflicted on them.
In any event, the Soviet Union and China picked up the slack and agreed to purchase the sugar that could no longer be sold to American consumers. The Soviets agreed to pay for the sugar with oil.
Foiled once again, U.S. officials went ballistic. Also, once again, hardly anyone asked some basic questions: Why doesn’t an independent nation state have the authority to sell whatever it wants to any other nation state, especially to prevent mass starvation arising sanctions imposed against its citizens?
Another point that was lost in all this Cold War craziness was that the sugar embargo was an attack not only on the well-being of the Cuban people but, more important, an attack on the economic liberty of the American people, who, like everyone else in the world, have the fundamental, God-given right to buy and sell anything they want with anyone in the world without governmental interference or punishment.
When the Soviets sent their oil to Cuba in payment of the sugar, U.S. officials ordered U.S. oil companies operating in Cuba to not refine the oil.
Imagine that: here the U.S. government, led by the CIA, was complaining about a communist economic system being established in Cuba, a system by which the government controls the means of production, while, at the same time, issuing orders to private American firms on how to conduct their business in Cuba. It was just another example of how the U.S. national-security state, in the same of fighting communism, had the United States embrace communist methods.
Following orders from their political bosses in Washington, the U.S. oil companies refused to refine the Soviet oil. They had to know what was coming next. Not surprisingly, Castro nationalized the oil refineries. Cuban rulers, just like U.S. rulers, don’t like it when private businesses don’t follow their orders.
In retaliation for the nationalization of the oil companies, the Eisenhower administration imposed the embargo against Cuba, which continues to stand more than 50 years later. Not surprisingly, Castro retaliated by nationalizing all U.S. companies and most privately owned American properties in Cuba. That second phase of nationalizations caused the Eisenhower administration to sever diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Once again, hardly anyone asked some basic questions, like: Where in the Constitution did it grant the U.S. government the power to act as boss, daddy, and protector of U.S. private firms operating abroad?
Where in the Constitution was the U.S. government authorized to impose economic quotas and embargoes on foreign regimes?
Where in the Constitution did it authorize the federal government to adopt communism and socialism in the name of combatting communism and socialism?
Indeed, where in the Constitution did it authorize a national-security state apparatus to be grafted onto America’s governmental structure?
Of course, by this time the CIA was already planning a sneak military attack on Cuba for the purpose of effecting regime change there, notwithstanding the fact that Cuba had never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. The CIA’s plan was carried over to the Kennedy administration and turned out to be one great big deadly and miserable fiasco.