Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) once noted, "There are two levers for
moving men--interest and fear." This must have been the exact sentiment
of the man who used these two levers in giving direction to people and
creating history. Which lever was it that moved aging Cuban leader Fidel
Castro from within when he decided to step down on Tuesday?
The 81-year-old revolutionary explained why he would not seek another
term as president of the Council of State: "My first duty was to prepare
our people both politically and psychologically for my absence."
Castro's decision was necessitated by his own advancing years and
failing health, which even his power could do nothing about.
In the mid-20th century, Cuba was a semi-colony with its mainstay
industries, especially the sugar industry, under U.S. control. As an
angry young lawyer, Castro led a failed armed rebellion. He went into
exile in Mexico, where he met Ernesto "Che" Guevara, another hero of the
Castro re-entered Cuba in 1956 with 81 fellow revolutionaries aboard an
old yacht. Since overthrowing the Fulgencio Batista regime in 1959,
Castro has led the nation for nearly half a century, much to the dudgeon
of the United States.
In a country with no freedom of the press nor an opposition party, the
"retirement" of its charismatic leader is a very rare occurrence.
By carelessly ceding control, the leader could well find himself at the
mercy of his political foes and dissidents. Holding on to his position
is the only way to protect his present interest and keep any future fear
at bay. However, many leaders have been dealt fatal blows from history
and fell from power because such "internal levers" did not function.
Napoleon was said to be always on his guard against attempts on his
life, and never allowed anyone to give him a shave. In a sense, he
himself was being moved by fear. But his luck eventually ran out. He was
exiled, and was in his coffin when he passed through the Arc de
Triomphe, which he had commissioned for construction.
Leaders in positions of extraordinary power are extraordinarily lonely.
Anything can cause them to distrust their aides and even their blood
Castro is fortunate, in that he is resigning in favor of his younger
brother, Raul. As for his own future, he told his people, "My only wish
is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas." He must have judged
this to be the only way to live his final years in peace, having fully
scrutinized his "fear and interest."
--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 21(IHT/Asahi: February 22,2008)