Conversations with Sean Penn

This was a much more thorough and interesting (though fawning) foreign policy essay by Sean Penn than I expected; it is based on interviews with two leftists heads of state, who are viewed as (lukewarm) enemies by the U.S.

I've noticed Penn's political activism; certainly his campaign to Iraq immediately before the invasion in 2003 had the potential to end his Hollywood career. 

But clearly, based on the quality of this article, and on his friendship with Iraq-war enabler Christopher Hitchens, with whom he and historian Douglas Brinkley travelled to Caracas and Havana, he is likely among the leading foreign policy minds in Hollywood.

Maybe that doesn't say much. But based on the media reverberations of his article in the Nation, he may be among the U.S.'s leading foreign policy instruments in the Americas. 

He quotes Joe Biden -- no right wing ideologue -- as calling Chavez a dictator. While Fidel Castro is a dictator, clearly Chavez is no more a dictator than was Bush or Pierre Trudeau for that matter. Penn also appears to be take the most significant step toward resolving US-Cuba relations of anyone in the last 30 years. Fidel is writing his memoirs and Sean Penn is granted the first interview by Cuba's new president, who took office earlier this year. In the interview Raul reveals that the U.S. military itself has long dropped the ideology driven agenda the U.S. formally has held against Cuba. According to Penn, the U.S. State Department and military meet with Cuban officials (not the president) every third Friday, a tradition that began more than a decade ago. According to Penn, the U.S. views Cuba as a key strategic player in their campaign against drugs.

Penn also raises the concern that Columbia is viewed now as the U.S.'s Monroe Doctrine ally -- sort of an Israel in Latin America. So we get into the question of whether rightest human rights violations are better than leftist ones.

Personally, I am very comfortable with the ethics of Canadian business people, so that increased  trade with, say, China, will necessarily and almost organically work toward resolving issues of human rights -- though not necessarily democracy itself. I feel the same about Cuba. Though there our only trade barrier is a mass of land, 48 states wide.

At any rate, what a surprise to read that Sean Penn not only has a brain, but is himself acting as a subtle instrument for change.

That said, let me be clear that Cuba is still a dictatorship, though warming under Raul, that it imprisons non-violent political protesters, and that it needs to not be/do both of these things. I love the tale of Che Guevara's youth on a motorbike, but he very clearly murdered many innocent poets and intellectuals -- not in battle but kneeling on the ground. His silk screen is no icon for me.