Dick wonders whether John and I are drawing the right conclusions about Cuba and - mentioning Franco-era Spain, Turkey, Kenya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China, even the democratic Republic of Congo! - suggests that:
if we’re going to boycott Cuba, we might as well be consistent and boycott half the rest of the world as well.
The first thing I’d like to say is that my original point was a much narrower one: The extent to which Castro’s Cuba is not just passively tolerated but actively lauded - You will find considerably fewer people in Ireland enthusing about Mao’s cultural revolution than celebrate Fidel and Che’s revolucion - additionally, that Fidelphilia is not the sole preserve of the left, as evinced by the PD’s missive.
As for the notion of “boycotting”, it is worth remembering the purpose of such a practice. Those who “boycotted” Captain Boycott didn’t do it to make themselves feel better, they didn’t do it because they didn’t want to be “tainted” by any association with him. They did it, to achieve concrete results. Thus, a boycott of apartheid-era South Africa may have had the side-effect of making some smug people feel morally superior but it also served a more noble purpose: pressure on the SA government to change.
In evaluating whether to boycott a country, one good way of avoiding Dick’s conundrum - which recalls Dr King’s “paralysis of analysis” - is to select an appropriate candidate based on the likely effect of the boycott on that country’s regime. A boycott of China, however morally satisfying, is a waste of time. Saudi Arabia may benefit from selling oil to the west but we also benefit from buying that oil. It would be very difficult to effect a ban on Saudi Arabian oil. It would be quite easy for a rogue country to repackage Saudi Oil to sell on. Despite the famed incuriosity of our holidaymakers, often blissfully unaware that the Canaries or the Balearics are not on the Spanish mainland on their third or fourth visits to those islands, it would be a very brave travel company which would repackage a Cuban holiday and claim it was in Spain.
There are two major features about Cuba which elevate it above other boycott candidates. First, it is a communist state, this means that a boycott of trade hurts the regime to a much greater extent than would be the case for a less economically-interventionist country. Secondly, its size and vulnerability means a boycott has a greater chance of success.