Rejoice, frozen New Englanders, for you may soon be able to enjoy Cuba’s pristine beaches, vintage cars, and rampant sex industry!

At long last, most of America’s elites can and do recognize the 50  year embargo of Cuba has failed to oust the Castros, overthrow communism, and return Cuba to the U.S. fold.  This final vestige of the Iron Curtain shall be pulled down by the very same Castros who once nearly triggered World War III.  They say old age changes you, after all.

The normalization of relations with Cuba represents the collapse of the last “rogue state” in the Americas outside the U.S.-led international system.  The Organization of American States has long complained about how Cuba’s been excluded, and states from Canada to Chile have never seen much sense in cutting ties with Cuba.  While America doesn’t have awesome relations with a number of Latin American countries, not since the Mexican-American War had a Latin American power challenged U.S. rule in the Western Hemisphere.  Now that challenger is greying and fading.  Notch one for America.

The cliff notes!

1). ‘Rogue state’ is a political term used by the United States to mark a state that doesn’t play by American-written international rules, and is usually small enough to bully around

2). Nearly all of these rogue states are leftovers from the Cold War, and their thinning ranks show that it’s taken some time for the post-Cold War geopolitical reality to assert itself

3). None of these rogue states have ever offered a good alternative to the American-led international system, and so their days have always been numbered

4). The shrunken list is thus: Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Assad’s Syria

So then, what’s a rogue state?  Basically, a state that irritates the United States

“Rogue” conjures up a bad boy doing naughty things on Saturday night, like blowing up discos or hijacking airlines.  This sets it apart from other American enemies like Nazi Germany or the USSR, both of which were very badly behaved but which were also true contenders for world domination.  A rogue state doesn’t get that prestige; it’s a mad bomber at best.

When the USSR died off in 1991, it seemed like everything was a-ok worldwide and that peace and capitalism were going to be the rule rather than the exception.

How a rogue state sees itself.

A handful of states did not rush to embrace the U.S.-led New World Order, however.  In 1994, the Clinton Administration began using the term “rogue state” to categorize nation-states that simply didn’t play by the rules set forth by the victorious West.  At the time, they were Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya, all of whom were small states that had used political terrorism or had invaded American allies (and sometimes had done both).

Although the term isn’t used as widely as it used to be, the embargo against Cuba was partially kept on because it was still seen as a “rogue state.”

And virtually all of them were holdovers in some form or another from the Cold War, but which were not Soviet satellites

Every rogue state minus Iran did big business with the Soviet Union, which was happy enough to leverage these states as irritants against the U.S.  But unlike the Warsaw Pact, none of these rogue states took direct orders from Moscow.  Each acted in their own interest as they saw fit, bothering the hell out of the Soviets from time to time.

None of them minus Iran were naturally powerful places to set up a state, but were instead armed to the knickers with Soviet equipment as part of the Cold War.  They were a threat to their neighbors so long as those arms continued to flow.

Some old T-55 Soviet tanks in the employ of the Syrian army. The first T-55 was manufactured in 1947, so these things probably don’t drive so well.

Since none of these nation-states were under Soviet control, they used these arms shipments, on occasion, to try to grab power for themselves in their regions.  Libya, well-supplied with Soviet weapons, invaded Chad and lost a short war with Egypt.  Iraq invaded Iran as well as Kuwait, while North Korea practiced terrorism throughout the 1970s and 80s.  Cuba, meanwhile, propped up proxies throughout Latin America and even sent troops far afield into Africa.

The end of the Cold War meant the clock started ticking for these rogue states, however

Unlike the 1980s, states that want to oppose the U.S. world order don’t have an automatic superpower ally anymore.  As Syria’s civil war grinds on, a lot of footage shows just how old the Syrian army’s equipment is – their T-72 tanks are Soviet relics.  Russia has been willing to sell replacement parts and what equipment it can, but Russia produces far less conventional gear than the Soviet Union did and therefore doesn’t supply Syria as generously.

Without Soviet aid, each state had a timeline before their regime could not longer keep the treads on the tanks and the lights on in the torture cells.  One by one, these regimes are collapsing and decaying because few are willing to foot their bills.  None of them (minus Iran) are positioned in places where great empires are made and require outside support to survive the pressure from their bigger and more powerful neighbors.

North Korea exemplifies this rather well.  The North Koreans were lucky the Chinese saw use for them; today, it’s widely believed that without Chinese aid, North Korea would completely fail.  Even with that aid, however, there’s plenty of speculation that Pyongyang is rotting apart.

Other regimes like Libya and Syria were unable to get the generous weapons shipments and protection they once got from the Soviet Union to crush rebellions before they went septic.  Iraq was left exposed by the fall of the Soviet Union to the full fury of the United States, which destroyed its rogue state and replaced it with a messy but comparatively compliant regime.

Map o’ rogue states.

One big exception is Iran, but Iran’s a very different sort of place

Iran is the only rogue state that was not a Soviet client and has been forced to slog through tough times on its own.  But Iran is a geopolitically advantageous place that has all the makings of a regional power.  It has a political ideology that gives it form and shape against Western pressure and encroachment.

Even then, however, there’s plenty of evidence of the failure of the Iranian revolution.  As time has gone on, its steam is running out.

So through either negotiation or conquest, America has, one by one, scratched off one rogue regime after another

States that refused to play by America’s New World Order have almost all now been wiped out.  First was Yugoslavia, which the U.S. helped dismember.  Serbia’s rump state was then isolated and finally neutered.  Saddam’s Iraq was annihilated; Ghaddafi’s Libya shattered; Assad’s Syria cracked.  Iran has been hammered by sanctions; now, after decades of isolation, Cuba will be brought into the America-led fold.  Only North Korea stands aloof, but for how long?  It’s been a rather terrible idea to be a rogue state, and regimes are finally waking up to that.

This isn’t to say the world is becoming more peaceful, or even leaning more American

There’s many a challenge to America these days.  But fewer and fewer of them are from traditional states.  The only exception is the resurgence of Russia.

Russia’s conquest of Crimea was a massive geopolitical shake-up and a direct challenge to the U.S.  The U.S. system allows border changes only one condition: when breaking up countries.  Russia’s expansion might not have netted it much in Crimea, but it sets a principle that borders may be changed as great powers see fit.

That may bring a surge of wars and new rogue states into the mix of the international system.  For now, however, the U.S. can savor its victory in Cuba.  The last nation-state in the Western hemisphere outside its grasp is finally returning to its naturally geopolitically subordinate role under its great northern neighbor.

Let the hipsters lament; Cuba’s doors will open soon.  Resisting a superpower is exhausting; throwing in the towel is the smart thing to do.