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544 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 23 halftones, notes, bibl., index

Cloth
ISBN  978-1-4696-1763-3
Available: October 2014

Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana

By William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh


Challenging the conventional wisdom of perpetual hostility between the United States and Cuba--beyond invasions, covert operations, assassination plots using poison pens and exploding seashells, and a grinding economic embargo--this fascinating book chronicles a surprising, untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. Since 1959, conflict and aggression have dominated the story of U.S.-Cuban relations. Now, William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh present a new and increasingly more relevant account. From John F. Kennedy's offering of an olive branch to Fidel Castro after the missile crisis, to Henry Kissinger's top secret quest for normalization, to Barack Obama's promise of a "new approach," LeoGrande and Kornbluh reveal a fifty-year record of dialogue and negotiations, both open and furtive, indicating a path toward better relations in the future.

LeoGrande and Kornbluh have uncovered hundreds of formerly secret U.S. documents and conducted interviews with dozens of negotiators, intermediaries, and policy makers, including Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter. The authors describe how, despite the political clamor surrounding any hint of better relations with Havana, serious negotiations have been conducted by every presidential administration since Eisenhower's through secret, back-channel diplomacy. Concluding with ten lessons for U.S. negotiators, the book offers an important perspective on current political debates, at a time when leaders of both nations have publicly declared the urgency of moving beyond the legacy of hostility.

About the Author

William M. LeoGrande, professor of government at American University, is the author of Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992, among other books.

Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C., is the author of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, among other books.


Reviews

"An exceedingly well-written and well-documented account. . . . Essential for libraries that support research into the political and diplomatic history of America foreign relations with Cuba in the latter half of the 20th century."
--Library Journal Starred Review

"Told in clear prose, this richly detailed book underscores how diplomacy makes headlines, but many exchanges happen far from official negotiation tables."
--Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"LeoGrande and Kornbluh have analyzed thoroughly the history of dialogue between two countries locked in a contradictory relationship for five decades, with each side skeptical that the other truly wanted improved relations. With continual change in Washington, and continuity in Cuban leadership, the authors draw important lessons from the efforts of every administration since Eisenhower to negotiate with Cuba."
--President Jimmy Carter

"Back Channel to Cuba tells a dynamic, expansive, and anecdote-rich story drawn from compelling primary sources, interviews and declassified documents. Generational change in the ranks of Cuban leadership and transformation on the ground and in the Cuban diaspora in the United States make Back Channel to Cuba a particularly timely contribution: history can and should serve as a guide to present and future decisions about the art of the possible by Cuban and American leaders, policy makers, and citizens."
--Julia E. Sweig, author of Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know

"A prodigious achievement--a truly exceptional examination of perhaps the most vexing relationship in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Based on vast numbers of documents, many rarely seen before, plus firsthand interviews with nearly every one of the important participants, including Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro, Back Channel to Cuba is the equivalent of a 9' high jump when the world record is 8'04" (held since 1993, incidentally, by a Cuban). Nothing else even comes close."
--Lars Schoultz, author of That Infernal Little Cuban Republic: The United States and the Cuban Revolution

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