HISTORY abounds with twists so dramatic that they inspire an ironic vision of human character. Two thousand years ago, according to Thucydides, Athens -- the birthplace of democracy -- crushed, in the name of its empire, the democracy of Melos. Two centuries ago, the French Revolution, launched against the despotism of a king, ended by enthroning an emperor.
In the latter case, posterity preserves the sarcastic comment of French Gen. Antoine-Guillaume Maurilhac Delmas during Napoleon's imposing coronation ceremony. The old Republican declared: "What a shame that the 300,000 Frenchmen who died to overthrow one throne are unable to enjoy the superb fruit of their sacrifice."
We need not delve so deep into the past for such ironies. Fifty years ago, Germany and Japan were at war with the United States and its ally, the Soviet Union. Twenty years later both nations were allies of the United States against the Soviet Union. Today, they are the most powerful economic rivals of the United States, and all three nations are helping to reconstruct Russia.
The evolution of the Cuban crisis appears headed toward similar high drama. Fidel Castro, who now denies knowing the meaning of his "zero option" or how much Soviet money he wasted, preaches that, like Jesus, communism will rise again on the third day, or the third year. And that the resurrection will find him seated not at the right hand of God but on His throne, judging the living and the dead.
The only thing Castro needs to accomplish such a marvelous ascension is an economic respite to free him from the hell to which he has descended. But President Clinton, facing demons of his own, appears disinclined to lift a finger, let alone the embargo, on Cuba. For its part, Russia, once the nurturer of Castro's absurd enterprises, can do no more than extend partial credit to its separated son, still lost within the pagan temple of communism. Meanwhile, potential foreign investors vacillate at the smell of misery and violence emanating from the island.
Where has Castro left to turn? He looks to the north and sees the exiles, those despicable "worms" who escaped his regime and now possess the prodigious manna known as the dollar, capable of resurrecting the Lazarian communism. Castro coldly realizes that they empathize with the misery he has caused their homeland. His solution is simple: Open the doors to the exile's money and let it refill the dried veins of his regime -- an icy calculation. Thus could we witness a new, dramatic historical twist. The most anti-Communist exiles ever would replace the Soviet Union as nurturer of the last bastion of communism. And the most dedicated enemies of Castro would give Fidel his most desperately needed respite.
Very recently, a newly arrived Cuban balsero asked an innocent yet disturbing question: Listening to some exiles discuss how best to prevent a final catastrophe in Cuba, the balsero scratched his head and humbly demanded:
"What's worse, sirs -- a final catastrophe, or a catastrophe without finality?"
© 1996 The Miami Herald.