Political Science 363
Response to Revolution
Response to Revolution, by Richard E. Welch Jr., is an honest and unbiased look at America’s policy towards Cuba during the Cuban Revolution. It covers the general history of and preconceived notions about the revolution in depth and gives ample attention to both sides of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. In addition to this Welch analyzes the reactions of America’s various factions during the early years of the revolution. Upon taking this into a change of the status quo, and of one that only played the international game of politics on its own terms.
The general idea underlying Response to Revolution is the evolution of the U.S.’s opinion of the Cuban revolution from good to bad. Yet to understand this, the author shows that it is first important to understand the events and attitudes that took place between the U.S. and Cuba in the years between 1958-1961. At the onset of the Cuban revolution we find that the U.S. government supported the Batista regime and that while it was technically a democracy it reinforced bitter class differences. Eventually various factions united under Castro and the Batista government was overthrown. While the United States for the most part stayed out of this war and even cut off arm sales to Batista before his overthrow, Welch shows that by then it was to late for the U.S. to ever create a good relationship with Cuba. The reason for this is that the years of and U.S. dominated Cuban economy, combined with the troublesome Platt Amendment, fueled the fire of class differences and created in Castro’s mind a distrust of U.S. involvement in Cuba. However, while Castro’s anti-American stance no doubt hindered relations with the U.S., it was more the fault of the Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies reluctance to offer aid outright to Castro and accept change in Cuba. This unwillingness of Castro to adhere to the U.S. standard or democracy in turn led to unwarranted economic sanctions, which later led to Cuba’s need for Soviet economic support. “The U.S. government measures went beyond the retaliation warranted by the injuries American citizens and interests had up to that time suffered at Castro’s hands” (Welch 58). The author further contests that the problem was only furthered when Kennedy took the matter to be personal and put into act Eisenhower’s counterrevolution invasion force that created the Bay of Pigs blunder. “Eisenhower’s authorization of March 1960 combined with the machismo requirements of the new frontiersmen to make probable, if not inevitable, the Bay of Pigs” (Welch 68). With the events of the revolution put on the table the author moves to the American social reaction to the revolution, which proves to be the book’s strongest analytical aspect.
The author’s examination of the various sections of American society during the revolution is the books’ greatest source of data in support of its thesis. Society in the book is broken up into three groups: the Right, the Left, and the coffeehouse campus culture. While none of these groups escape the author’s scrutiny the Right by far is portrayed as the worse of the three and as one concerned with “inciting popular fears” in the American people. The Left on the other hand ideologically gains the author’s blessing, but proves to be too broad of a group and in the end is dismissed and at best ineffective in changing U.S. policy. The Left also proves to be the most thought out section of the book, simply because it was the most representative of American culture at the time, showing the U.S. to be a land of mixed emotions. The coffeehouse group however, lacks clarity and turns out to be a redefinition of various factions within the Left. This section while relevant proves to be the books weak point and could most likely b left out and not missed. While the author attempts to distinguish the group as an entity in itself, Welch ends up referring again to the same Academics that he did in the Left section and made no attempt to distinguish a separate train of thought. After the three groups are looked at in depth, a common trend becomes apparent. This concept supports the author’s thesis that America in general supported the idea of a revolution in Cuba that liberated the people, yet at the same time it proved that there was no general consensus among the American people towards U.S. – Cuban relations. So was America’s stance toward supporting the Cuban Revolution, only if it worked according to the US’s rules, a smart choice?
According to the evidence, the author shows through the downward spiral of relations starting with the Eisenhower presidency, the answer is clearly no. Welch holds the stance that the U.S.’s unwillingness to work with Castro only hastened the involvement of the USSR in Cuba and in the end permanently cutoff Cuba from the U.S. At the point I tend to agree with the economic literature that the book cites. While we, as a nation did not agree with Cuba’s politics, our decision to impose economic sanctions was not wise and led to the nationalization of U.S. oil companies in Cuba. If the U.S. had simply continued to conduct business as usual and provide economic aid they would have been able to open the market in Cuba again down the road. In addition to this while Socialism was inevitable, Communism may not have resulted since the USSR’s economic presence would not have been so drastically needed. However we cutoff Cuba and found that Castro was a man who reacted swiftly and decisively when provoked.
In hindsight was the United States’ policy towards Cuba in the years between 1958-1961 correct and well thought out? According to the book’s evidence and my personal observation of our current relationship with Cuba I would say no. The U.S. failed to see that its ideals and values were not shared by the entire world, and in Cuba’s case our values and economy lead to more social oppression that Communism would have. We as a nation were one of mixed emotions and our leaders who made decisions concerning Cuba were largely uneducated on the history and politics of Cuba, leading to a trend of bad relations. This in effect showed the U.S. to be a nation only concerned with its own interests, rather than the heroic liberator and protector of democracy. If I got anything out of all this I must say it was the realization that the U.S. as a nation was in fact no better than some of the nations I sought to ward off. In conclusion Response to revolution is an honest book that takes no sides and simply exposes the fact that the U.S. Policy towards Cuba during the Cuban Revolution was one that was not well though out, and ultimately ended any chance of reverting to favorable economic relations with Castro’s Cuba.