Military Leader Envisions Aiding Cuba In The Future

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Miami Herald
November 8, 2006
The former Southcom chief said the U.S. military can help train and supply the Cuban military in a democratic future.
By Frances Robles
Calling the Cuban military one of the most respected and strongest of the island's institutions, the former head of the Miami-based Southern Command says the U.S. military is ready to work with, train and supply Cuban soldiers when democracy prevails there.
Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, the four-star general who now runs NATO operations in Europe, made the points in an academic article outlining the ways the U.S. and Cuban armed forces could work together in humanitarian, counterdrug, counterterrorism and disaster relief operations.
The article mirrors U.S. policy toward Cuba, and in particular the recent Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba report, but was unusual in that such a high-ranking Army general helped write it.
The article published this month in Cuban Affairs, a University of Miami online journal, was co-authored by Maj. Barbara Fick. Craddock ran U.S. military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean as Southcom chief from 2004 until last month, and Fick serves as Army special assistant to the head of Southcom.
In their article, they underscored that a democratic Cuba could receive the regional military cooperation many countries in the hemisphere now enjoy.
•The Cuban military, known by its Spanish acronym, FAR, could attend U.S. professional military education courses.
•Financing and sales could be offered for equipment modernization and maintenance.
•Cuba's experienced medical community could collaborate with the United States on medical missions.
'A first step'
''If the original intent of the Cuban revolution was to bring freedom and equality to all Cubans, then FAR support for a transition to democracy would be a first step towards finally fulfilling that intent,'' the article states.
Any Pentagon planning for a post-Castro Cuba is likely to be informed by the Bush administration decision to dismantle Saddam Hussein's military. Amid the chaos that has erupted in Iraq, critics of U.S. policy have said Washington should have worked with the Iraqi military rather than alienate it.
But U.S. military contacts with Cuban officers are currently taboo, except for a monthly meeting along the fence that separates the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo from Cuba, where the U.S. base commander meets with a Cuban counterpart to discuss issues of common interest.
''The relationship has been strained,'' Fick said in an interview. ``That may be a challenge to reestablish the confidence and trust that a cooperative relationship would require.''
Cuba's view
The Cuban government has not commented on the Craddock article but would likely view the offers of U.S. collaboration as a slap at the island's sovereignty. ''The Cuban military perceives this kind of talk of assistance and partnerships as a comprehensive effort to destabilize the revolution,'' said Frank Mora, a National War College professor who studies the Cuban military. '`Democracy' is code for 'intervention.' ''
Andy Gómez, senior fellow at the University of Miami institute which published the report, said such a relationship between the Pentagon and Cuba would be mostly for U.S. benefit: They would need the Cuban military's help in avoiding a mass migration crisis.
The article, he added, fails to address variables such as human rights, freedom of political prisoners and elections.
'It interprets things American style: `We are going to export to you our democratic principles,' Have we learned from Iraq a little bit?'' he said.
'I don't think you can say the Cuban military is going to be willing and ready to say `Ok, we're going to create a democratic state.' I just don't see Raúl [Castro] picking up the phone and calling Washington.''