Cuba, the WBC and engagement

I want to follow up on my post on Cuban participation in the World Baseball Classic.

Comment no. 9 to that post makes a number of good points with respect to baseball in Cuba. I also recommend Jack’s comment at no. 7. I am not going to respond further in the comments to that post, which are now closed. But on the commenter’s specific point regarding the views of the Cuban exile community and their influence, two responses: First, no one–certainly not a devoted pluralist like me–would ever “villify” any group of citizens for expressing their views with respect to policy. At the same time, I object to any one organized group dominating policy at the expense of broader interests that may not be so organized or vocal or passionate–dominance by such special interests violates my pluralist-democratic sensibilities even more.

The remark at comment #9–“I don’t see how you can discount those 1.2 million opinions to play a ballgame”–is quite telling. This suggests that engagement with Cuba’s own 11.2 million should be determined by the 1.2 million exiles and desendants of exiles living here–actually, by far less than that, for the anti-engagement organizations (and bloggers) by no means speak for the entire Cuban-American community. Opinion research has shown that the Cuban-Ameircan community is far more diverse in its views that it is sometimes portrayed by those with an interest in keeping the debate polarized. (That last statement is pretty much true as a general rule, and not only with respect to US-Cuba relations.

Rather than imply, as does the commenter, that the views of one group with a a special interest are being “discounted” in order to “play a ballgame,” I would ask why the broader interest of introducing Cuban players to the American public and promoting sporting and other exchanges between people should be held hostage to a minority of American citizens who happen to have a passionate view that goes against the very principle of exchaning ideas and experiences. Such exchanges are, after all, at the heart of the American ideal of pluralism and freedom. These ideals have largely guided our policies towards virtually every other totalitarian regime. This is not an argument about the nature of that regime. We know what it is. It is an argument about how best to prepare the groundwork for the post-totalitarian era: Engagement or embargo. For all but a vocal minority, the answer is clear: engagement.

I am going to end this with something that I just happened to read in the LA Times this morning, that is quite timely in light of this discussion, but is not about baseball. It is about the feckless nature of the US government’s TV and Radio Marti programming, and the use of mltary aircraft to try to defeat Casro’s jamming of program content that evidence suggests hardly anyone in Cuba is interested in anyway. (I would conclude that TV and Radio Mari are little more than a political sop to the anti-Castro forces in this country.) The best part of the article, in my opinion, is the last paragraph, which contains a quote from Senator Max Baucus:

The federal government keeps spending millions in tax dollars and precious military assets to unjam TV Marti… There’s a better way to bring the message of democracy to Cuba: Lift the travel ban and let the American people share about the benefits of freedom face to face.

Indeed. And also:

Play Ball!

0 thoughts on “Cuba, the WBC and engagement

  1. I understand your point about not wanting a minority to dominate policy decisions but it’s what happens all the time. Why do we have farm subsidies? Well it’s because a group of very well connected people have influence over policy. Why do we have certain policies towards Israel (of whom I’m a big backer)? The whole debate about interest groups having “too much” power is absurd. We all belong to one interest group or another. Maybe you’re in a union or you’re a bird watcher or property owner. At some point you belong to a group that is trying to influence policy. My point about the 1.2 million exiles is that unlike the rest of the U.S. population, these people have a lot more knowledge about the truth of what has happened and what is happening in Cuba.

    [MSS: Of course, the above makes a valid point about pluralist interest-group politics more generally. But that it “happens all the time” is hardly an argument for tail-wagging-dog policy-making, for distorting the broader good at the expense of the special interest. The rest of the very long comment that was posted here has been deleted, because it veers well off topic and contains several remarks and accusations that I, as moderator, found inappropriate.]

  2. I’m a big fan of editorial authority and creative control of one’s work. I also follow a fair amount of internet forums and blogs, and therefore realize the import of moderation of said platforms. Keeping profane language, completely off-topic posts, and personal attacks to a minimum are the hallmark of what moderating is.

    But aren’t open dialogue and free speech pillars of whatever it is that freedom means, at least to most people? Wouldn’t tactful and well-thought responses, to whatever it was that was posted, be a more appropriate response. Not having seen the original post, but having followed the scope of the discussion, I’m actually kind of curious.

    That said, I imagine that Dr. Shugart sleeps quite well, with dreams of all those delicious avocados he grows. So…delicious…

  3. For the record, I would love to go to Cuba–if my government gave me that freedom. I have no desire, however, to go to the beaches and I haven’t a clue what a jintera is. (This paragraph was a response to a now-deleted comment. I do not delete or edit comments here lightly, but the specific commentator went far beyond rational commentary, often making personal attacks or other rude comments. Such behavior is not welcome here. He has his own blog, and he can say whatever he wants about anyone or anything there, within the law. But no one is free to make ad hominen attacks at Fruits and Votes. I am leaving the rest of this comment that I originally posted early this morning intact, aside from specific references to comments now deleted. I am also leaving in the preceding one by Antonio, who raised perfectly legitimate questions about my moderation of comments. By the way, the commentator in question is the only one who has ever had any of his comment text deleted from F&V, and I sincerely hope he is the last.)

    On the subject of moderation, some of the material edited out veered off topic (in my assessment) and certainly was not tactful or well-thought out (in my assessment). Some of it I found offensive (some specific terms used for Cuban ballplayers, for example). And much of it was of the nature of assertions about me or other commentators. I consider such comments rude, and I do not like rudeness.

    But if you spend much time on this blog, you will see that there is often spirited disagreement and many comments have changed my view of a situation. Indeed, even some of the commentator’s remarks were enlightening. But many of them were just plain offensive or irrelevant to the topic of the post.

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