Page 46 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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MAY 2013
ike Captain Ahab’s preoccupation with van-
quishing Moby Dick, the threat posed by
Fidel Castro drove U.S. policy in the Americas
throughout the Cold War.
My own involvement with Castro began as
an undergraduate and continued through two
tours in the Atlantic as a Navy ofcer and 31
years in the Foreign Service. Tose years spanned most of the
Cold War and included four assignments in Latin America, as
well as a stint as a deputy assistant secretary in what was then
the Bureau of Inter-American Afairs.
As in the case of Ishmael’s
, the ship of state on which
I sailed pursued an obsession. I kept bumping up against events
and threats that seemed to be Castro’s doing. Indeed, refect-
ing on my Foreign Service experience, it appears that no fgure
loomed larger in the formulation of U.S. policy in the Americas
than Castro, our great white whale, against whom so much U.S.
policy reacted. For our nation, locked in a global struggle with
the Soviet Union, his improbable success in ousting a corrupt
and harsh leader threatened to spread to other countries of the
Americas, most of which had similar political and social prob-
Unlike Ahab and the
, however, the United States
survived the encounter—but so has the whale. In retrospect, the
U.S. diplomatic, economic and military reactions to Castro and
his allies throughout Latin America turned out well. Democracy
and economic development now thrive widely. Our policy’s big-
gest failure, in my judgment, was in Cuba itself, where it helped
perpetuate the Castros’ authoritarian regime.
“Communism Will Be Dead”
Like others of my generation, I welcomed the arrival of Fidel
Castro in January 1959. In reasoning that is echoed in reactions
to the Arab Spring, it seemed to me that any alternative to the
unsavory dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista would be an improve-
Paul D. Taylor’s 31-year Foreign Service career (1963-1994), spent
mostly in Latin America, included appointments as ambassador to the
Dominican Republic and as deputy assistant secretary in the Inter-
American Afairs Bureau (now the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Af-
fairs). Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he was a Navy ofcer during
the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Since retiring
from the Service, he has taught strategy, international economics and
Latin American afairs at the Naval War College.
In this reminiscence, an FSO
traces U.S. policy in the Americas
from the 1950s through the 1980s.