THE BLOG
10/02/2014 04:01 pm ET Updated Dec 02, 2014

It's Time to Talk About Cuba, Part 2

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks it's time to talk about Cuba.

On Tuesday the New York Times published previously confidential contingency plans to strike Cuba in 1976. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, provoked by Cuba's military presence in Angola, wanted to stop its military from spreading to other African countries and organized the Washington Special Actions Group to draw the plans.

After ten hours of reading the declassified documents, I had some serious questions for Secretary Kiss, which I present to you below in fairy tale format. The original documents are now posted online through the National Security Archive and are published in a book called Back Channel to Cuba by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh.

Please note that Secretary Kiss's responses to KAO's questions are extracted from the contextual declassified documents drawn up by the Washington Special Actions Group in March and April of 1976.

KAO: Secretary Kiss, we have been informed that you have convened a special group in Washington to draft contingency plans to strike Cuba. Is this true?

Secretary Kiss: Sooner or later, we have to crack the Cubans.

KAO: What is your main objective?

Secretary Kiss: To prevent a pattern in which Cuba and the USSR arrogate to themselves the right to intervene with combat forces in local or regional conflicts.

KAO: Right, because only the United States can arrogate to themselves the right to intervene with combat forces in local or regional conflicts.

Secretary Kiss: We want our warnings to be taken seriously.

KAO: Then let's talk levels of provocation. What kind of problems would Cuban provocation in Africa present?

Secretary Kiss: Special problems.

KAO: What type of situation will the United States encounter, if Cuban intervention is not clearly established in Angola, or anywhere else in Africa?

Secretary Kiss: An ambiguous one.

KAO: And how troublesome will these ambiguities be, in trying to rally congressional support in a strike against Cuba?

Secretary Kiss: Particularly troublesome.

KAO: How then, will the United States rally support to strike Cuba?

Secretary Kiss: I, the secretary, can send letters to colleagues in NATO countries and Japan, plus Sweden and Spain and appropriate African countries to alert them of Cuban military adventures in Africa.

KAO: And how do you anticipate the NATO countries and Japan will respond?

Secretary Kiss: If we genuinely consulted our allies, they would probably take the position that Cuban intervention is not worth going to the brink.

KAO: Do you think you will have UN support?

Secretary Kiss: A large majority of the UN would vote against us. The US would risk being branded as the aggressor.

KAO: Is there any economic pressure that the United States can exert over Cuba?

Secretary Kiss: The United States has little bilateral economic leverage which it can exert on Cuba. The US began restricting trade on Cuba on October 19, 1960. US trade with Cuba is virtually nil; Cuba gets practically no funding from international organizations of which the US is a member.

KAO: What are the risks involved if the United States were to establish a maritime quarantine in order to prevent the import or export of military logistic support and troops to Cuba?

Secretary Kiss: A serious risk of losing Guantanamo through Cuban reprisal action and high risk of Soviet retaliation in support of Cuba.

KAO: How would the Soviets regard a quarantine or direct military action against Cuba?

Secretary Kiss: In the US-Soviet understanding of 1962 between Kennedy and Khrushchev, our non-invasion pledge was given in return for withdrawal of Soviet missiles under UN verification. The Soviets indicated on March 25, 1976 that they regard the 1962 understanding as still in force. Direct military action against or a quarantine of Cuba would be regarded by the Soviets as a major challenge to their prestige. Actions focused on Cuba could rapidly assume the proportions of a global crisis.

KAO: So, best case scenario, what is the result?

Secretary Kiss: If successful, Castro would refrain from intervention elsewhere in the world and would withdraw his troops from Africa to defend against the increased threat.

KAO: Right because as history has taught us, Fidel Castro always surrenders to the United States.

Secretary Kiss: We want our warnings to be taken seriously.

KAO: Secretary Kiss, what is Cuba's political position at this moment?

Secretary Kiss: One of Cuba's main foreign policy objectives has been to normalize relations with the countries of this hemisphere.

And that is where we were, in 1976.

Cuba? Your move.