A Tale of Two Dictators
March 31, 2002
by Bruce Walker
Fidel Castro is an old man, and he will soon leave this world - doubtless destined to a place much hotter than the hottest summer day in Havana. As President Bush ended his tour of Mexico and Central America last week, it is astounding how bad Castro-run Cuba looks now compared to nations in the region which once looked to Cuba and Castro as the wave of the future.
The political left idolized Castro almost from the moment of his conquest of Cuba. Congressmen wrote him "Dear Comrade" letters. American New Left teenagers traveled to Cuba to harvest the sugar crop. This infatuation with Marxism south of Florida still exists in parts of America: snatching of Elian Gonzales is ample proof lingering nostalgia for Fidel.
His dictatorship has lasted more than forty years. What will be left when he dies? Cuba was once the richest Hispanic nation on Earth, blessed with a sunny climate and close proximity to America, Cuba was poised to become the first Hispanic nation to enter the ranks of modern affluent democracies. Today Cuba is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere except, possibly, Haiti.
Castros forty year reign as dictator of Cuba has similarities to the thirty-six year rule of another dictator of another Spanish speaking nation, General Francisco Franco. Both men gained power by force of arms and both men were helped into power by totalitarian allies and both governed their nations as autocrats for very long periods. But there the similarities end.
When Franco died in 1975, he left Spain with a growing economy and a monarch carefully groomed by Franco to lead Spain into a free, democratic society. What Franco hoped for Spain was becoming real. Many objective observers have simply called the blossoming of Spain in the last forty years the most miraculous improvement of any nation in modern history. This has happened very quietly, but its impact has affected every single aspect of Spanish life.
Spain has a standard of living ten times higher than that of Cuba, even though when Franco won the Spanish Civil War, Spain was in abject poverty and Cuba modestly affluent. Spain has a democracy that works as well as any in the world, and freedom is secure for Spaniards.
Franco was hated to his grave by liberal elites. They routinely called him a "Fascist" dictator, even though he rejected Fascism, as well as National Socialism and Communism. Liberals portrayed Franco as worse than Stalin or Mao, although he never had to build an Iron Curtain or a Bamboo Curtain to keep people from leaving Spain.
The contrast between Castro and Franco speaks volumes about what really matters to liberals. Castros own daughter despises him, and calls for his overthrow. The family of Franco cherish his memory, and although he did not bequeath them great wealth, they have lived peacefully in Spain since his death. Respected King Juan Carlos, after Francos death, bestowed titles of nobility on his widow and daughter.
Castro brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and then he sent thousands of Cuban troops to foment and support wars throughout Latin America and Africa, to the general misery of all. Franco kept Spain out of the Second World War, and he kept his homeland at peace for the thirty-six years of his reign.
Castro aligned himself with the Evil Empire and supported an ideology utterly opposed to human liberty. Franco kept Spain from falling into the hands of Stalin (for which liberals have never forgiven him), but we all owe Franco much more than just that good deed.
Franco kept Spain out of the clutches of Germany in the Second World War, which was vitally important to the ultimate victory of the democracies over Hitler. Had Franco simply allowed German troops to cross his territory, as the socialist government of Sweden - who were fawned upon by liberals - actually did during the Second World War, then Gibraltar would have fallen to the Nazis and Hitler would have stayed in power.
Franco alone could frustrate Nazi plans by giving as little as possible to keep German military forces out of Spain. As Hitler said after meeting with Franco in 1940, "I would rather spend two hours in the dentists chair than have another meeting with him." The weak Spanish Army would have resisted the Germans even less effectively than Yugoslavia or Poland, which were each overrun in weeks, but the tenacious Spanish dictator kept the Germans out for five years. During the Cold War, Spain was a NATO ally. Franco sided with the good guys, not the bad guys.
This Tale of Two Dictators involves more than just prosperity, peace, and good diplomacy. The differences go to the very heart of both men. Castro was infatuated with Mussolini and Hitler, and he carried around a copy of Mein Kampf. Franco accepted aid from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during the Spanish Civil War, but he never embraced either system. He saw two futures for Spain: the deathly illness of Communism or his dictatorship. He opted for the latter, which was much better than the former.
If liberal plaudits of Castro ignore his love of all hateful ideologies - Nazi, Communist, or Fascist - then liberal diatribes against Franco ignore one of the most noble deeds in modern history. Franco, dictator of Spain, saved more Jewish lives during the Holocaust than anyone else. He saved Jews when it looked like Germany would win the war. He saved Jews without demanding bribes in return. He saved Jews when it not only placed his own life in danger, but also the lives of his family and the people of Spain.
What is the difference in the Tale of Two Dictators? Franco was no saint, and Spain under Franco was no paradise. Yet from these tree came good fruit, and from the tree of Castro came poisonous fruit. Why?
Oh, for the most politically incorrect of all reasons! Franco, for all his sins and flaws, was a serious Christian. Castro, like Hitler and Mussolini and Stalin and Mao, believed in nothing greater than himself. With Franco, there was always hope; with Castro, there was never hope.
Dictatorship is bad and dictators are not good - Spain was a better and happier nation when it blossomed into the free democracy that it is today - but not all dictatorships and not all dictators are the same. Men like Francisco Franco, who always understood that he would answer to a Greater Power than himself, are ever pulled towards Heaven, almost in spite of themselves. Men like Fidel Castro, who considers himself a living god, are ever dragged towards Hell, whatever proud convictions they might have that they are doing good.
A Tale of Two Dictators? Yes, and no backhanded apology for any dictators is intended. But there is a lesson which we all in our hearts already know: God is the final answer to every political question. Trust God, and you will be pulled towards saving Jewish families from Nazis. Ignore God, and your sunny island paradise will turn into ghastly prison.
Bruce Walker has been a dyed in the wool conservative since, as a sixth grader, he campaigned door to door for Barry Goldwater. Bruce has had almost two hundred published articles have appeared in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Law & Order, Legal Secretary Today, The Single Parent, Enter Stage Right, Citizen's View, The American Partisan, Port of Call, and several other professional and political periodicals.
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