Page 47 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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MAY 2013
ment. Reporting, especially Herbert Matthew’s
New York Times
dispatches from the Sierra Maestra, portrayed a young, daring
and educated guerrilla leader who would usher in a new era of
enlightened governance for an island nation plagued by corrup-
tion, repression and U.S. meddling. Te ease with which Castro’s
motley band brought about the collapse of the Batista govern-
ment ofered confrmation.
So when Castro planned a visit to the United States as a guest
of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, I was pleased,
in a ft of undergraduate audacity, to invite him to visit Prince-
ton on behalf of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society and its
subsidiary International Relations Club, of which I happened to
be president. He accepted, but ultimately gained more ofcial
sponsorship for this visit to campus.
My notes from his remarks record him seeking a middle way
between communism and capitalism, one that neither “sacri-
fces freedom” nor fails to meet “the needs of the people.” He
advised us “not to worry about communism in Cuba [because]
when our goals are won, communism will be dead.”
Castro must have said something similar in his three-hour
meeting with Vice President Richard Nixon, because Nixon
commented that Castro was “either incredibly naïve about com-
munism or under communist discipline.” In
Fidel: A Critical
one of the more important books about Fidel Castro,
Tad Szulc wrote that on this trip Castro “had engaged in decep-
tion [and] that Fidel had initiated secret coalition talks with the
old communists at least three months before his American trip.”
Nixon’s phrasing refected the prevalent view in Washing-
ton: world events should be seen in the context of an existential
struggle with the Soviet Union. Events in Cuba moved rapidly to
concentrate the Eisenhower administration’s mind. By the time
Ike ceded the presidency to John Kennedy, Castro’s show trials
of his opponents, his expropriations and Nikita Khrushchev’s
embrace of the Cuban Revolution had convinced Washington to
side against Fidel.
President Kennedy rapidly executed Eisenhower’s plan to
support an invasion by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs. Tat efort
was a well-known fasco, and undoubtedly helped persuade
Castro that he would be more secure with Soviet missiles posi-
tioned in Cuba. Taking up my appointment as a Foreign Service
ofcer in September 1963, I would soon become engaged with
initiatives the Kennedy administration undertook to counter
Soviet infuence and the threat of Castro-style revolutions in the
Americas, which risked moving the region out of the U.S. orbit
and into the Soviet camp.
For Latin Americans, Castro’s insurgent model ofered