by Noam Chomsky
The establishment of diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba has been widely hailed as an event of historic importance. Correspondent John Lee Anderson, who has written perceptively about the region, sums up a general reaction among liberal intellectuals when he writes, in the New Yorker, that:
“Barack Obama has shown that he can act as a statesman of historic heft. And so, at this moment, has Raúl Castro. For Cubans, this moment will be emotionally cathartic as well as historically transformational. Their relationship with their wealthy, powerful northern American neighbor has remained frozen in the nineteen-sixties for fifty years. To a surreal degree, their destinies have been frozen as well. For Americans, this is important, too. Peace with Cuba takes us momentarily back to that golden time when the United States was a beloved nation throughout the world, when a young and handsome J.F.K. was in office — before Vietnam, before Allende, before Iraq and all the other miseries — and allows us to feel proud about ourselves for finally doing the right thing.”
The past is not quite as idyllic as it is portrayed in the persisting Camelot image. JFK was not “before Vietnam” – or even before Allende and Iraq, but let us put that aside. In Vietnam, when JFK entered office the brutality of the Diem regime that the US had imposed had finally elicited domestic resistance that it could not control. Kennedy was therefore confronted by what he called an “assault from the inside,” “internal aggression” in the interesting phrase favored by his UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson.