The rapprochement between US and Cuba could have much stronger consequences than what we can think today.
After 13 years since Bush’s Axis of Evil North Korea remained the only “evil” in the world (at least until Kim Jong-un will be alive in a way or another): Iraq, Syria and Libya are failed states in the chaos of Middle East, Iran is tamed and Cuba is back in business. The last Obama’s action in foreign policy did what Carter could not do in his time even if he tried hard, as the times were not ripe yet (1). Obama realized finally the long overdue détente with Cuba, after starting the one with Iran last year. The ‘war on terror’ that started with ‘old style’ American wars can be said to be evolved with ‘new style’ American alliances, making the US living up again to its values and trying to integrate states that in a globalized world cannot be left out. The US can still lead the world but only with the example, the soft power, not with the coercion of the hard power, and not alone anymore. Obama will probably be remembered as the first President to start this new strategy.
As George Friedman, together with other geopolitical strategists, argues (2), America is the continent out of the two big land masses of the Planet Earth that have the advantage of having access to the two oceans, and this give to the countries of North America the leverage that no other country in the world, neither China, have: the possibility of trade with the big land mass, “Eurafricasia”, on both sides, the Eastern and the Western one. The world economy will be guided mostly by who has the control of the trade and so of the seas, and the US is the first candidate in this (followed by Mexico, that according to Friedman will also become an important force on the geopolitical stage). Therefore the Western Hemisphere, or if you want the Americas (as Obama said: ‘todos somos Americanos’) will be the crucial continent in the future world if will be able to become united. Otherwise China, if able to united at least economically the Eurasian continent, with its population and its ability to project long visionary policies because of not having the burden of dealing with government changes, will represent the future leader.
After almost two centuries since the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine, it is time for the US to not only avoid a foreign power to extend its influence in the Hemisphere (like they did with the Soviet Union in Cuba) but also to avoid its impositions on the continent (as it did in the past with the support to authoritarian regimes) and instead allow its natural integration through dialogue and cooperation. Cuba could be one of the most important countries for this strategy, as it was for the strategy of isolating the Communist menace: this small country, with 11 million inhabitants, plays a fundamental role in the geopolitical bridge between North and South America and also in the collective imagination of America and the entire world. It is the country of Che Guevara myth and Castro strength, the country that stood against the capitalist giant, resisted with an alternative development to capitalism and could survive for almost six decades without failing or imploding as even the Soviet Union did. To reintegrate a country like Cuba it means much more than just a rapprochement, it means the possibility of reintegrate all the countries of the Western Hemisphere in the US economic might, with a new approach based on dialogue and soft power.
Nevertheless we could not understand deeply the consequences of this act, that after 55 years transforms two enemies if not in friends yet at least in non-enemies anymore, if we don’t analyze the role of the Pope Francis and of the Catholic Church in this new American integration and consequent influence in the construction of a new world order. As Pope John Paul II was crucial in the process of undermining the grip on the stronghold of Soviet world, Eastern Europe, helping the implosion of Soviet Union, Pope Francis could be crucial to include the Latin America ‘third way’ of social state in a new America, that would become a continent of prosperity for the XXI century. Pope Francis is the pope of the poor and the marginalized, the religious version of the Cuban revolutionary ideals and therefore Cuba accepted his intercession in order to avoid to abandon itself completely in the hands of the “Empire”. Pope Francis is the pope that could allow the US to talk again also with the countries of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua) that are proposing an alternative development to the one of Western capitalism. If “Eurafricasia”, at least in its Western side, is experiencing a new relation with Islam, struggling at its interior between the crimes of the religious terrorism and the potentialities of political Islam, the Americas could experience a new dawn, with Christian values as the ethical glue for a new economic and political development, more just and equal for all, and a new converged leadership, more shared and inclusive for the rest of the world.
New and evolved forms of capitalism and democracy is what the West needs today, we are not at the end of history for the world but at the beginning of it. Future will say but if Middle Eastern people are feeling humiliation, Europeans fear and Asians hope, as an interesting book of Moisi argues (3), Americans could feel soon a new trust and optimism in their possibilities, a trust that will be fundamental for their future evolution and the one of the world. This century, instead of an Asian one as many are expecting, could be a new American century, but in the real term of America, the whole Western Hemisphere, and in the real values of America, the ones of justice, pluralism and tolerance.
1) Carter played a role behind the scene in this rapprochement between the US and Cuba, being the only ex President of the US to have visited Cuba twice, last time 3 years ago (See: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2011/0330/In-rare-visit-with-Castro-Jimmy-Carter-attempts-to-restart-US-Cuba-relations)
2) George Friedman, The Next 100 Years. A Forecast for the 21st Century, Doubleday, 2009
3) Dominique Moisi, The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World, Anchor, 2010.