Cuba: Offensive. -FIU-SOUTHCOM

Cuban Strategic Culture Report-August 2009 (Click for pdf version of full report), by Anthony Maingot
Below analysis by América Martínez

This report was the second in a series of strategic culture assessments published by Florida International University's Applied Research Center in collaboration with the United States Southern Command through the FIU-SOUTHCOM academic partnership. The report, written by Dr. Anthony Maingot, is the product of a working group held in Miami on July 9, 2009 which brought together 11 unnamed but supposedly "prominent" academic and private sector experts on Cuba. Maingot himself is not a "prominent" Cuban scholar. This is the first time I've heard of him and when I inquired to Dr. LeoGrande (a legitimate Cuban scholar and Dean of American University's School for Public Affairs) he explains that Maingot is a Caribbean scholar who has done work on the English-speaking Caribbean, not on Cuba. I find it quite odd that at a university located in Miami organizers of the working group were not able to find a scholar recognized by peers as a Cuba expert to write this paper.

The paper itself is a poorly written and conceptually poor and reads like a C/D undergraduate political science report. Citations to back up points made in the paper are scarce. For example on the fifth page Maingot claims that "Cuba imports 80% of its food from the United States" but does not provide a source for this surprising statistic, leaving me to wonder about its validity and surmise that perhaps what the original statistic actually said was that 80% of US imports to Cuba were food, which would be believable since the embargo only allows Cuba to import food and medicine (5).

"Cuban strategic culture remains offensive, nationalist and wary of US intentions. Engagement between Cuba and the US requires extensive change in Cuba-US perceptions as well as change in US-Cuba perception."

My comment: no, it requires a change in the reality of US interventionism and imperialist "regime change" goals of the embargo. I'm not sure what he means by Cuban strategic culture being offensive.

But surprisingly enough in the last point on page 6 he states that "if there is regime change, then it will have to be at Cuban affair" which I didn't expect to see in this paper, unless by Cuban he means to include Cuban-Americans?

The purpose of the paper seems to be to figure out what changes should be made to bring together the Cuban and US governments and he seems to be concerned with understanding the "elite culture" (a phrase that doesn't seem to make much sense when talking about a revolutionary socialist government built on values of social justice and equality, but we'll let that pass) and how these "elites" might react to different US actions.

In speaking of the Cuban and American geopolitical/geo-economic panorama, Maingot is concerned that with Cuban competition in two areas: Cuban ports competing with South Florida ports, and exploration for of gulf oil by Cubans or non-US corporations acting on concessions granted by the Cuban government. He also raises the specter of the threat that pollution from Cuban exploration activities might represent the United States as we are up the Gulf Stream.

There are lots of things that he says expecting people to understand that I don't get like the reminder that we "keep in mind that Cuba is a Caribbean country and, as a result many there have the ability to sustain a fairly permanent national identity, rooted in political socialization process even as they pursue multiple identifications" or that "as goes nationalism, so both the nationalist" (16).

He characterizes the revolution of changing from a "nationalist, idealistic, even romantic phase…to a militarized, dictatorial regime we recognize today"(18). I think this is a strange characterization considering that the revolution began as an armed struggle. Doesn't get much more militarized than that… having lived in Cuba in the 2000s I would not characterize it as a militarized dictatorial regime. Nationalism is alive and well and idealism and romanticism made it at least until the 1990s.

A large section of the paper was dedicated to psychoanalyzing Castro and his leadership style which is just boring and stupid because Fidel is not the revolution, something that people outside of Cuba just not figured out yet.

The next section of the article looks at Raul Castro from much the same perspective. The most remarkable part of this section is the fact that Maingot repeatedly mistakes the name of the Cuban military (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionaria, the FAR) calling it by the acronym FAC (31). This is really an amateur mistake, made more than once so it's not just a typo. Like I said, a C/D paper.

The next section looks at the political culture of contemporary Cuba. The author says that it's nearly impossible to figure out the nature of popular political culture in Cuba (probably because he can't be bothered to actually go there and talk to people?). Numerous anthropologists and even tourists visiting the island have managed pretty accurate representation of popular political culture, but Maingot depends on three telephone polls done by foreign groups (CID/Gallup, a Pan American Development Foundation project and a Freedom House survey) and a summary of writings by a selection of Cuban economists and social scientists.

I won't go into the legitimacy of using foreign telephone polling as the basis of knowledge of Cuban political culture but I do take issue with the way that Maingot reads the data.

Hablando de Ud mismo, como se describe?:
revolucionario 48%
comunista 11%
socialista 10%
no integrado 24%

Using this data Maingot says that "the dominant attitude was found to be apathy and/or inertia" (33). Clearly that's not what this data is saying! The survey shows that 48% of the people consider themselves revolutionary, another 11% consider themselves communists and another 10% consider themselves socialists, all appellations which would be considered to be supportive of the government which had identified itself as revolutionary, communist, and socialist. So 69% of the people identify themselves with terms that indicate support for the government. The remaining 24% identified as "no integrado", a term which allows some debate as to what it actually means that I would translate a something roughly equivalent to not active in society/concerned with politics. I wouldn't have a problem with characterizing this 24% as apathetic, but the most important thing that this survey tells me is that nearly 69% of the people care enough to describe themselves as revolutionary, communists and socialists. In fact it's impressive that in 1994, at the darkest moment of Cuba's post-socialist economic crisis, 69% of the people identified themselves with terms that indicate support for the government. Of course, Maingot said in a footnote that the team which performed the Gallup poll was rumored to have been infiltrated by Cuban intelligence.

So first Maingot blatantly misreads the data, and then, probably sensing that no one else would buy his analysis, adds a footnote calling into question the survey data by saying that the team which collected it was infiltrated by Cuban intelligence.

Maingot uses the second survey by the Pan American Development Foundation to continue trying to make a point about Cuban apathy by saying that "seven out of every 10 Cubans do not participate in CP meetings" (34). Now I'm not sure what CP means, because he doesn't explain this acronym, but I'm assuming that means Communist Party. If that's true, this argument is ridiculous because the Communist Party is not an open political party like the Democratic or Republican Party in the United States. It's invitation-only Party. Not everyone is able to go to the meetings, only members. Seven out of ten Cubans aren't even members of the Communist Party so how could they attend meetings? To make the point he would like to make about apathy he'd have to look at what percentage of Communist Party members do not attend their meetings, but he does not provide this information.

In his discussion of Cuban economists, taken word for word from Maingot’s own study "Epistemic Organic Intellectual and Cuba's Battle of Ideas," he intends to establish a conflict between Fidel Castro and Cuban economists, but fails to offer evidence of this.

While in the introduction Maingot characterized Cuban strategic culture as offensive, in the conclusion he characterizes it as defensive leaving anyone who managed to make it through the 37 pages of poorly written ramblings even more confused than when they started reading. In the conclusion he characterizes the United States policy dilemma as one between pouring money into radio, TV Martí, and funds for dissidents in order to influence political culture of the masses or taking action to reduce the sense of threat felt by the strategic culture elites. Or in other words should the U.S. continue spending millions to convince the Cuban people that we are their friends, or should we loosen the noose around their neck and start acting like their friends? What seems like such a simple question might indeed be a difficult one for someone working for a joint FIU-SOUTHCOM project but a simple one for anyone living in Cuba, including several "dissidents" quoted by Maingot who remind readers that just because Cubans may not unconditionally love their government, it sure doesn't mean that they want the United States involved.

Despite these perspectives from U.S.-supported "dissidents", Maingot seems convinced that the U.S. has something to offer the Cubans that no other nation has: "tourists, remittances, a marketing and refining capacity for its oil and, critically access to the capital and know-how of the Cuban diaspora" (41). Of course, he's wrong here too. Cuba has done fine with tourists from Europe and Canada; Cubans living in the United States have found ways to get money to their families on the island despite US restrictions; and the Cuban government has found willing investors in oil and gas exploration in Europe, Russia and China. As for the Cuban–American expertise, I doubt the Cuban government is interested in outside meddling, even by people who speak Spanish with a Cuban accent (as evidenced by their jamming radio and TV Marti signals from the US for decades).

Other things that would offend Cubans:

On page 8 he implied that the US freed Cuba from Spanish rule.

On page 13 he characterizes the Cuban constitution, written under the military occupation government in 1902 as, being "the most evident product of a nation's sovereign will" although "challenged by US demands". This first constitution was a product of the US military occupation of the island and U.S. military governor who wrote it and is about as far from the product of a sovereign nation as possible.