THE weekend criticisms in the British national press of American action in aid and comfort of the Cuban rebels seems to us to miss the point completely. It is still far from clear just how niuch help was in fact given to the rebels from the resources of the US government and it is noticeable that much of the heavier armament brought into the breaches came from the South side and therefore not, presumably, from Florida. But as we noticed last week in a stop press footnote, there is in any case a world of difference between American intervention as practised in many countries in the world and Communist inter ference, especially when the latter is backed by armed forces.
In Laos, Vietnam and Formosa, US money and armaments are there by invitation from legitimately constituted governments. In Laos on the other hand, the Russian. Chinese and Vietminh troops and supplies have arrived by the invitation of no-one other than the rebel Pathet Lao. Vietminh troops have been on Laotian soil for a number of years with no conceivable right or title to be there.
United States troops have not moved in to Cuba; the only help given was asked for by Cubans themselves, anxious to save their country from an oppressive regime. 'To the extent that unofficial help was given or that the U.S. authorities turned a Nelson eye to what was going on in Florida by way of preparation for an offensive. it seems more than arguable that the United States was doing no more than to permit a movement to develop which would among other things protect her back door against Communist influence in Cuba. It is not even so complex a question as the application of the Monroe doctrine. It is quite simply that the United States is quite entitled to take or encourage measures which will secure her from the subtle manoeuvres of Communist agents only a few miles across the water.
T"great tragedy, however, can be summed up in terms of the word image. When the Cuban bishops properly indicted the Marxist tendencies of Dr. Castro's land reform programme they were unfortunately being compelled in justice to attack a programme which in fact is supplying food to the hungry, housing to the homeless and schools to the uneducated.
So often this kind of thing has happened in history and has held up to the world an image of the Church as an organisation always opposed to the progressive, to the young. to the energetic, to the imaginative, to those who are trying to make changes, and always on the side of the rich, the wealthy, the vested interests, the oppressors. Yet in truth all the Church is concerned to do is to safeguard the principle of private property, to teach the truth, and to condemn error.
The same sort of thing may be said of anything that President Kennedy personally may now try to do in Latin America. It will be said that his interest in Cuba is to restore the dispossessed American capitalists to the properties which Dr. Castro's nationalisation programme took away from them. It will be said that he wants to use his Latin American aid programme to enlarge his country's commercial empire, that his anti Communist ideology is merely a charter for big business. In the case of President Kennedy personally this would be blatantly untrue. Intelligent Latin Americans, who, while sympathetic to Castro, do not want to import his programme, will doubtless accept the genuinness of Mr. Kennedy's motives.
Unfortunately, it is the semieducated and the ignorant who will sec him simply as the man who blocks progress in the name of capitalism, just as the Church blocks it in the name of clerical domination.
* * TO some extent America
this trouble on herself. United States aid has always been directed to governments and to the people with the know-how for organising large commercial enterprises.
Fr. Paul Crane, S.J., recently pointed out in these columns the folly of helping the Laotian government to build up an army of heavy artillery when the Communist rebels are stashing the country to pieces by guerrilla tactics. It is the old story of Drake and the Armada. The same sort of thing has been happening on the level of business enterprise. American aid always seems to move in at the top. Businesses expand, exports -increase, money flows in. but the man in the street derives disproportionately low benefits.
The only answer to this is for the Church and for the great non-Communist powers te• bring the ordinary people into face-toface encounter with Christ Incarnate in society. If the Church and the United States government were identified in Latin America today with a reform of the social order comparable to the Jesuit reductions of 300 years ago, the false image which is worrying us so much at present would disappear.
As a recent Fordham report underlined, the priest throughout the mission territories has to be a catalyst for socioeconomic experiment. He is the link between his people and the technician with the know-how. United States activity in much the same way should be geared not merely to helping national exchequers but to operating on local levels throughout the underdeveloped countries, financing and assisting the growth of voluntary and "municipal" cooperative enterprises such as the Jesuit co-ops in the Pacific islands and the West Indies or the Antigonish type scheme now being tried out in a country like Uganda.
WHETHER in terms of the cold war the Americans are wise to open a training ground for anti-Communist fighters in the Panama Canal zone may be open to question. The plans they have announced. however, show that they have learnt the lesson that what the anti-Communist forces need in the far east is training in resisting guerrilla tactics and not heavy tanks.
On the other band it would be vastly more to the point if the United States should set up a centre, comparable to the St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, from which experts could be sent out all over the world to carry the Christian co-operative movement into countries which would then be able to make an act of faith in the genuine concern of President Kennedy and his Government with the well-being of all the people as opposed to the governing class. So far as the training of guerrillas is concerned, however, the news that guerrilla forces, probably inspired to some extent by Communist influence, arc building up in Angola suggests that something has to be done. America's membership of international organisations surely does not prohibit her from all unilateral military measures to protect herself and the weaker powers of this world against Communist aggression.