Washington’s Many Policy Failures

Elio Delgado Legon

Illustration: escambray.cu

HAVANA TIMES — When, on December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and acknowledged that the embargo (or blockade) policy applied on Cuba for more than 50 years was a failed strategy that had to be changed, a number of futile international policies pursued by Washington came to mind, even though these were never publicly recognized as such.

In the Americas, the policy of imposing and supporting military dictatorships in many countries, coupled with the systematic murder of many leading revolutionaries met with the resistance of the people. The situation was no longer sustainable and they decided to change the dictatorial system for more or less democratic elections, where they always tried to impose their candidates on these countries, without ever acknowledging that the previous systems had failed.

Only in Cuba and Nicaragua, the dictatorships of Batista and Somoza were overthrown by popular uprisings, despite Washington’s failed military support for these regimes.

The invasion of Vietnam brought incalculable human losses, both American and Vietnamese, and the campaign’s failure was resounding. People still recall the images of US soldiers clinging to helicopters, trying to flee the country anyway they could.

More recently, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States proclaimed it was declaring war on terrorism and, despite the fact that Fidel Castro publicly warned them that a war was no way to combat terrorism, then President George W. Bush decided to start a war that ended in failure. The result of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan completely devastated those countries and made them ungovernable, where terrorists have become stronger, precisely thanks to the weapons supplied by the United States, and now threaten the security of the entire Middle East.

The war on Libya had a result similar to the previous two: a country plunged into chaos, where weapons supplied by the United States ended up in the hands of terrorists.

Despite these failures, the policy of overthrowing governments that do not appeal to Washington was applied in Syria, where terrorist groups received weapons and training to topple the legitimate government of Bashar al Asad. The situation in Syria became more complicated with the entry of other terrorist forces belonging to the so-called Islamic State.

The United States continued to supply weapons and munitions to groups set on overthrowing the government, but these weapons and many of the operatives ended up in the Islamic State, which everyone believes should be stopped. The United States has attempted to combat them, but has maintained its objective of overthrowing the government, not realizing that, this way, it has strengthened the terrorists and worsened the country’s situation, to such an extent that millions of Syrians are emigrating to neighboring countries and Europe, fleeing from the conflict.

Incredibly, after having created and aggravated the crisis in Syria, the United States has approached the Greek and Bulgarian governments to have them deny Russian airplanes carrying humanitarian aid to Syria access to their air spaces.

Meanwhile, only Russian bombers have successfully hit the Islamic State, having worked in coordination with the Syrian government. However, the Western press distorts the facts to minimize the importance of this success. Finally, however, the Pentagon has had to hold talks with the Russian high command to coordinate actions with them. Likewise the Obama government admitted the United States failed in its attempts to overthrow the Syrian government. Yet another failure. Let us hope they finally learn their lesson.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

33 thoughts on “Washington’s Many Policy Failures

  • October 23, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I think it’s safe to say that we won all the battles but lost the war. They were all tactical victories but since we ended up withdrawing I guess you can calm if a strategic defeat. Even the Tet offensive was a military disaster for the North, but in terms of the media and public perception, it was a victory.

  • October 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Read General Giap’s memoirs of the war. In case you don’t recall the name, Võ Nguyên Giáp was the top commander of the North Vietnamese Army. The US generals who fought against Giap considered him a military genius. The Tet Offensive launched by the NVA was intended to overrun US and South Vietnamese positions, driving the US to withdraw from the war. Instead, the US forces held their lines and advnaced. By the end of the Tet Offensive, the US had increased the number of soldiers in Vietnam, while the NVA had been devastated in soldiers and materiel. At the same time, the US was pressing North Vietnam to the negotiating table in Paris.

    General Giap wrote about mood in Hanoi, where the top political & military leaders were discussing how to salvage something out of the devastating destruction of their fighting forces. Then something remarkable happened.

    The North Vietnamese watched US television to try to gauge US public opinion. They saw Walter Cronkite go on TV and announce, “It should be clear by now, the US war in Indochina is lost. It’s time to bring home our soldiers”.

    The Vietnamese Generals were stunned. They knew the US military had triumphed. And yet the US public was being told by Cronkite they had lost, and US politicians were repeating this baseless charge. So Giap reasoned, if the American politicians are so stupid they think they lost, then lets go to Paris and meet with the Americans. We will pretend we won and see what they give us. The US government wanted out of the war for domestic political reasons, not military.

    The political mood in the US had set against the war, for a variety of reasons. As a means to ending the war, the politicians decided to insist the war was lost, which made continuing to support South Vietnam less attractive.

    The deal the US & North Vietnam agreed to at Paris included the pledge by North Vietnam not attack South Vietnam and not to re-arm the Viet Cong guerrillas they operated in the South.

    Vietnam remained relatively peaceful during the ceasefire period while US troops withdrew. Back in Washington, Congress voted to cut funding for South Vietnam. Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese had rearmed and smuggled materiel along the Ho Chi Minh trail into South Vietnam. In 1975, the NVA launched a major offensive against the South, in violation of the Paris Peace Accord. The US refused to help the South, a betrayal of the promise Kissinger had given President Theiu.

    South Vietnam fell to the Communist North Vietnam two years after the US had left the country. More Vietnamese died in the fighting after the US left, than during the whole time the US was involved in the war.

    There is a common misunderstanding in the US that the Vietnam War began with the first large units of US troops to landed in the country in 1963 and ended when the last US troops withdrew in 1973. Not true. The war began as soon as the Japanese were defeated in WWII and French soldiers attempted to reconstitute their old colonial regime. The fighting didn’t stop until 1975, more than 2 years after the US had withdrawn.

    Militarily, the US defeated the NVA, but then for domestic political reasons gave up and went home.

    By the way, as this is a Cuban themed blog, Fidel Castro supported the North Vietnamese by sending Cuban troops to fight alongside the Viet Cong. Senator John McCain and others have claimed that Cuban interrogators tortured US POS’s in North Vietnamese prisons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War#Cuba

    In very similar fashion, the US military succeeded in Iraq, but then for domestic political reasons (i.e. the election of Barack Obama), the US give up and pulled out of Iraq before the new Iraq government was stabilized and the new Iraqi army was fully ready to defend the country. Shia militias seized control in the south. Kurdish groups controlled the North. In the western part of the country, the remnants of the Saddam regime joined up with radical Islamists to form what is now known as ISIS.

    In Afghanistan, against the advice of his generals, Obama ordered an early withdrawal of US troops. He compounded that strategic blunder by pre-announcing the date the US would leave Afghanistan. In recent days, Obama has had to order the last 5000 US troops to extend their mission in Afghanistan because of the now resurgent Taliban seem set to attack Kabul again.

    You asked why does the US not support the winning sides in these wars they get involved in. The better questions would be, “Why does the US decide not to win these wars?” In Vietnam, Iraq & Afghanistan, the US was militarily dominant and successful. Final victory was lost because the US governments of the day decided, for domestic political reasons and not based on any military consideration, to give up, quit and leave a mess behind.

    I argue the reason is because the US Democratic Party, or at least the left wing of that party, does not want to win. They want the US to lose, because losing confirms their ideological view of America. Obama declared he “ended the wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is a lie. All he did was pack up the US troops and quit a war while the enemy remained dangerous. The enemy regrouped, rearmed and kept on fighting.

  • October 21, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    I never said their cause was noble, nor did I say the picture was rosy. Just that the US military was winning until domestic political pressure compelled the US government to withdraw before the job was done. Russia & China do not have those concerns. They can invade and conquer countries without the problems of a nagging free press or political opposition.

  • October 21, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    “We were winning in Vietnam”? I know what defeat looks like. Bit of a stretch to blame it on the media. After 12 years of intervention and war we were succeeding in Afghanistan and Iraq? Don’t think so. We’ll eventually have to give it up and get out.

  • October 21, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Actually, it wasn’t “Russia”. At the time it was the USSR. How did that work out for them?

  • October 21, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Griffin, you have made my day with your rosy picture of the US military in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan before the lefties made the tables turn on their noble causes.

  • October 21, 2015 at 8:16 am

    The US supported the winning side in WWI, WWII, & Korea. The US was winning in Vietnam, until the American Left & media stabbed the US troops & the Vietnamese people in the back and abandoned them. The US won the first Gulf War, kicking Saddam out of Kuwait. The US backed Israel which won when it was attacked by the Arabs in 1967 & 1973.

    The US was succeeding in Afghanistan & Iraq, until Obama pulled the US troops out too soon, (against the advice of his generals, by the way) allowing both nations to spiral back into war. Now the US has sent troops back to Iraq and will be reversing his planned withdrawal and keeping 5000 troops on in Afghanistan.

    In retrospect, backing the Shah of Iran looks like a bad choice, but the situation in Iran at the time was highly volatile. The terrorist organization Fadayan-e Islam was assassinating public figures and plotting to install an Islamist regime. The pro-Soviet Tudeh was pressuring Mossadeq to improve relations with the USSR. In that chaos, the alternative was to allow Iran to fall into the Soviet orbit, or to a radical Islamist regime, which would have been a far worse options. We don’t know how the alternative history of the region would have gone if those other events had happened.

    The “problem”, if you want to call it that but it could also be considered a virtue, is that the US has a lively free press and a viable political system which allows for open debate about policies. This includes opposition to military interventions the US government may authorize. Neither Russia nor China have to worry about that. They do not allow a free press nor is there any viable opposition to their authoritarian governments. What Moscow or Beijing orders their armies to do, they do it. The state controlled media praises the leaders and hides any troubling news from the people.

    The fact that Russia supported the winning sides in several wars does not make them morally superior, as the winning sides have committed horrendous atrocities against their subject populations, in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Angola, Ethiopia and so on. Mao slaughtered tens of millions of Chinese in his will to impose Communist rule on China. Yes, the Russians backed him. Does that mean the US made a mistake in opposing Mao? I don’t think so.

    Today, the Russians are supporting the brutal regime of Bashir al-Assad, whose forces committee atrocities and mass rapes of civilians, drop barrel bombs on civilians and have even used poison gas. For now, Assad’s forces seem to have the upper hand against the Syrian rebels. According to many reports, the Russians are not attacking ISIS, but the Fee Syrian rebels. They are using SIS as a cover and an excuse to expand the territory controlled by Assad. He is willing to allow ISIS to control the eastern part of Syria, so long as the western provinces remain in Assad’s control. The Russian built naval port of Tartus, on the Mediterranean coast, is the strategic asset the Russians are protecting.

  • October 20, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    The difference is that the Russians supported the winning side in China and the winning side along with the Chinese in Vietnam. We can’t seem to align ourselves with the eventual winner. Aligning ourselves with the Shaw Of Iran was not a good move as history has shown. Military aid and support to the Contras in Nicaragua .was a poor choice . Lots of other examples.

  • October 20, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    I don’t know what your definition of poverty is John but after seeing some of the photos of people living in Havana and the far distinct cities throughout Cuba, I see a whole lot of poverty. I also see a nation that should be able to feed itself but the system is totally fallen down and can’t get up! When you’re earning, on average, 25.00 bucks a month, there’s no incentive, no motivation and most of all no passion so either you’re going to have a change peacefully or it could get ugly. I certainly wouldn’t be sitting still knowing that my country is held hostage by an elite bunch of Marxists who are doing exactly today what Batista did over 60 years ago! Dictatorship and disgraceful so called leadership that doesn’t exist.

  • October 20, 2015 at 8:59 am

    The US was not the only country to intervene in China. Mao receive a great deal of support form the USSR. Japan intervened causing destruction and millions of deaths. Mao avoiding fighting the Japanese, preferring to follow in their wake and pick up the territory the Japanese had ravaged. Millions more Chinese died after Mao came to power during his disastrous Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

    Likewise, in Vietnam, the French, the Russians & the Chinese all intervened at different times, as did the Americans. It’s worth noting that more Vietnamese died in the fighting after the US left Vietnam than during the US involvement. Millions of Vietnamese fled their homeland to escape the victorious Communists.

  • October 19, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    And who exactly guarantee’s all those things you mention? Perhaps the question best asked is who actually delivers on all those things? …certainly not Cuba!

  • October 19, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Wow John. ….lets see, I’m a father to a beautiful little girl. I own a business, so I guess that makes me a Capitalist. I support my government. Yet I would say I have a better grasp of democracy than you ever will John.

  • October 19, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Hey, John. Thanks for the comment and your puerile attack. You were right. I did not attempt to challenge anything that Elio wrote. Everyone else in this thread was challenging him. Why add to anything? Everything had already been said. Why beat a dead horse. I was merely making a point. I think that my point – and not the challenge – was lost on you. Again, thanks for commenting. “Out of the mouths of babes . . . “

  • October 19, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Civil War and Revolution is a nasty and costly business in terms of treasure and human lives lost. It can drag on for years, especially when there is foreign intervention and interference. As examples , I’m sure the Chinese Civil War and Revolution would have ended much sooner without the American support given to Chaing Kai-shek, who eventually lost and fled to Taiwan and the military and economic support given to Diem and his bunch, which prevented the re-unification of Vietnam for many years.

  • October 19, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Since you have finally admitted that your definition of socialism/communism is of your own personal construction, what right have you to judge another person’s opinion regarding the same? What is indisputable is that your definition has never existed in real life and likely never will.

  • October 19, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Why can’t you discuss issues without resorting to personal insults? People can have differences of opinion. Words can have different meanings. Political terms can have different definitions.

    TO clarify on NJ Marti’s point: he was remarking on what Communism has historically been. You are insisting on a definition of Communism that has never existed in reality nor ever will.

  • October 19, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Christian, capitalist, and Dad. Guilty as charged. As far as what I know about democracy, I know that there are a lot of places in the world a helluva lot worse off than the US. That includes Cuba. The democratic utopia that you yearn for does not exist and likely never will.

  • October 18, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Yup, Cuba, like all poor Third World developing countries can be a big success if they adopt neo-liberal capitalism .
    They can then join the 4 billion or so without healthcare, without a guaranteed diet , without a guaranteed education , without a guaranteed roof over one’s head .
    In the USA , the leading capitalist nation there are 40 million people living in poverty .
    You are recommending that Cuba adopt a fantasy.
    You seem to forget that they already have been there and done that and they are NOT likely to make that same mistake again.
    Your debating by comparing the very rich US to Cuba is obviously sad.

  • October 18, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Your post was pure drivel that so very clearly demonstrates that you do not know what communism is.
    You have no intellectual shame.

  • October 18, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    You’re a Christian
    You’re pro-capitalist
    You’re in favor of the unelected dictatorship of money that you call the U.S. government
    I would have to assume that you are also heavily in favor of the male -dominated nuclear family structure since the other three legs of your belief set are totalitarian .
    My question, given those facts and that your entire belief set is totalitarian and it is how you live : WTF do you know about democracy aside from the fact that it is a word in the dictionary?

  • October 18, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    I noticed that you did not attempt to challenge any point made by Elio and made only a puerile name-calling attack.

  • October 18, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    The true cost was in the Chinese and Vietnamese lives exterminated by the Communist rulers of those two countries. Tens of millions of people perished in the name of socialist utopias.

  • October 17, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Why are we giving this guy any credence by commenting on his “essay”? Having
    lived in Cuba for his entire life, what knowledge does he have to write this drivel? How can he be taken seriously? He is a relic of the past. I guess like most humans, He wants his last hurrah, regardless of the cost. A poor, ill-informed bumpkin. Poor bugger is in the checkout lane. “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

  • October 17, 2015 at 11:31 am

    I might add that the final bill for the loss of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria hasn’t come in yet.

  • October 17, 2015 at 10:31 am

    I can also remember, when shortly after the successful Chinese Revolution of October 1949, the American Congress was is a fit, each Party accusing the other of ‘loosing’ China. The cost, of course, was not as great as ‘loosing’ Vietnam.

  • October 17, 2015 at 8:48 am

    After 50 years, it has come to our attention that a revolution based on envy and jealousy of the most productive was a mistake. We need more successful people, not less. Taking other people’s property is not the answer. The dictators deliver on take and redistribute, but it works once, and then the wealth is gone. Communism does not build wealth of a nation.

  • October 16, 2015 at 11:27 am

    As obvious as the answer to your rhetorical question is, for the benefit of the pro-Castro mouth-breathers, allow me to answer you. The ONLY interest the Castros and al-Assad have in common is their fear of authentic democratic rule. One of the fruits borne of this fear is their anti-American policies.

  • October 16, 2015 at 9:15 am

    In what way is the regime of Bashir al-Assad “the legitimate government”?

    Bashir inherited power from his father, Hafez al-Assad. Assad senior forged a particularly ruthless path to power. He participated in the 1963 Syrian coup d’état which brought the Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party to power, and was appointed Commander of the Syrian Air Force by the new leadership. In 1966, Assad participated in a second coup, which toppled the traditional leaders of the Ba’ath Party, and brought a radical military faction headed by Salah Jadid to power. Assad was appointed defense minister by the new government. In 1970 Assad seized power by toppling Jadid, and appointed himself the undisputed leader of Syria in the period 1970–71.

    During his iron fisted rule, Hafez al-Assad ruthlessly crushed all opposition, including the infamous Hama massacre, which took place in February 1982 when the government crushed an Islamist uprising. Helicopter gunships, bulldozers and artillery bombardment razed the city. Estimates of 20,000 people were killed in the uprising.

    Is this Elio’s idea of how legitimate governments are formed, by coup upon coup and mass murder?

    Bashir al-Assad continues in his father’s style, slaughtering humoured of thousands of Syrians, his gunships dropping barrel bombs on civilians, using chemical weapons and countess war crimes.

    This is the Syrian regime which Raul Castro received in Havana a few months ago, and to which he pledged his support during his first ever speech to the UN last month.

    Russian airforce pilots are flying missions against non-ISIS rebels. It suits Assad’s purposes to paint all opposition to himself as ISIS, who have moved into areas the Russians have bombed clear of Free Syrian Rebels. There are reports of 3000 Iranian Revolutionary guards fighting alongside Assad’s army.

    It is worth pointing out that in recent months, diplomatic & military representatives of Syria, Iran & Russia have all visited Cuba in the past few months. Each time, Raul Castro pledged is support of these ruthless regimes. What is the common interest between Syria & Cuba?

  • October 15, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    When Elio has to crumple up the Granma newspaper in lieu of toilet paper, in that moment (well actually later after he has washed his hands) I would love to ask him what he thinks about the revolution.

  • October 15, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Well I can set the clock when Elio posts and Moses responds. Elio reminds me of my dear departed Irish Uncle Tim who would come over to our house once a year, have a belt or two and than yell every obscenity you can think of against the British (there was a little war going on at the time!) We really didn’t care much for the craziness but after he calmed down, usually a couple of hours or so, he’d have an Irish Coffee and start singing Beatle songs. You talk about scrambled brains. Elio, you’ve thrown everything but the kitchen sink with the latest post but how about the Buena Vista Social Club playing at the White House? Independents, free thinkers and wow the White House! No political agenda just great Cuban music. That’s what you should focus on and expand that, with an open society, a million times. Did you know that with American ingenuity and more than a 40 hour work week we in this country can have cell phones, pay $40.00 a month and call our parents, grandparents, children and get up to date information? Imagine if you had that when Batista was around? I don’t think a revolution would have been necessary for that piece of garbage! Individual freedom and initiative can create a much better world than what I’m seeing in Cuba.

  • October 15, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    News from dimension X.

  • October 15, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Its funny because even Cubans don’t believe this drivel. You should see the comments on the Spanish site! But seriously, I don’t even think Elio believes what he writes.

    On another note it “…People still recall the images of US soldiers clinging to helicopters, trying to flee the country anyway they could.” Apparently Elio does not recall because it wasn’t the Americans hanging off the Helicopters.

  • October 15, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Obviously, Elio gets his information from Russian news sources. Russian “humanitarian” aid? Hahahahaha!

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