Martin Kettle writes: During the signing of the Versailles treaty in 1919, it is said that a delegate left the conference muttering: “What on earth will the historians say about all this?” When the remark was reported to the French prime minister, Georges Clemenceau produced a characteristically good retort – Clemenceau was, after all, a journalist. “Well, one thing they won’t say is that Belgium invaded Germany.”
A modern version of Clemenceau’s robust comment applies equally pointedly in the context of this week’s news that the United States and Cuba are finally to normalise their relations. It is tempting to treat the half-century standoff across the Florida Straits as a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. Yet one thing the historians cannot say is that Cuba ever attempted to invade or annexe the US. As in the first world war, the big power takes the big responsibility.
That’s why I think the Guardian and others got it wrong when they headlined the normalisation of relations between Washington and Havana as an invitation to Cuba to come in from the cold. The truth was the other way around – and more of a break with history. For it is not Cuba that has decided to rejoin the modern world this week. It is the US. [Continue reading…]