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The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, the United States, and the Next Revolution Hardcover – October 28, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Erikson, a senior associate at the think tank Inter-American Dialogue, approaches his analysis of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba with the verve of a journalist, filling the book with interviews with dissident leaders and civilians in Cuba and the Cuban-American community. He demonstrates how policy and politics intersect, especially in a U.S. presidential election year, when the voice of Cuban exiles in Miami's Little Havana, a community that has been pushing to keep the U.S. embargo against Cuba in place, sounds especially loud and influential. Erikson turns his attention to the intriguing and unknown future for the Cuban polity; since Castro formally ceded power to his brother Raul Castro Ruz in February 2008, both Cubans and Americans are watching for what comes next. There is a revolution of expectations underway, and Erikson presents the looming political and economic uncertainties, exploring the possibility that since Raul has already allowed for increased consumption and real estate privatization, Cuba—like China—might be gradually opening up to capitalism. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Dan Erikson has made an issue and a set of characters many of us thought permanently frozen dance out from the pages of his wonderfully refreshing look at the recent US-Cuba madness. There are original anecdotes and portraits in this book that I haven't seen anywhere else. Whether writing about Guantanamo, Havana, Miami, or the shenanigans in Washington, Dan's reporting, analysis, and his wry sense of irony make The Cuba Wars a lot more fun to read than the serious title implies. A major accomplishment. (Julia E. Sweig, Council on Foreign Relations, author of Inside the Cuban Revolution)

Dan Erikson unravels the multiple arguments that swirl about Cuba between Cubans on both sides of the Straits of Florida, the governments in Washington and Havana, and those for whom Cuba is the cause of either glorious revolution or brutal repression. He sheds light on substantive policies, stylistic differences, and deeply-held public values in clear, accessible prose, with fascinating stories that illustrate the larger drama. (Jorge I. Domínguez, Professor of Government at Harvard University)

Dan Erikson's comprehensive and insightful book could not have been published at a better time. There is a transition under way in Cuba, as in the U.S., and whether one agrees or disagrees with Erikson's balanced analysis, this volume is an excellent starting point to review and rethink decades of policy failure. Neither nostalgia nor wishful thinking will change the realities in Cuba, and this book explains why. Cuban society is evolving; a new political generation is about to move front and center. Wise policy makers will take Erikson's book as a guide to what to do next. (Professor Riordan Roett)

Erikson achieves what for decades has been so elusive for American observers of the Cuban revolution: he writes with flair and grace, presenting objective, finely nuanced analysis. I like how he weaves in dozens of interviews reflecting a diversity of views. This is a stimulating and valuable read. (Professor Brian Latell, author of After Fidel: Raul Castro and the Future of Cuba's Revolution and University of Miami Cuba specialist)

With this fresh, astute, and compassionate exploration of the past two decades of U.S.-Cuban relations, Erikson emerges as a valuable new voice in Washington foreign policy circles. (Foreign Affairs)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596914343
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596914346
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,324,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Moon Starkey on November 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This great book is refreshing and rare in a number of ways. Unlike so many commentators on the subject of Cuba and Cuba-U.S relations, Erikson not only avoids the traps many others have fallen prey to--blindly supporting the obviously and absurdly unsuccessful U.S. embargo or fawning over a dictator who hardly deserves praise--he soberly uncovers the failings and occasional achievements on both sides of the Florida Straits. Erikson accomplishes this in a way that proves to be immensely compelling: through interviews with key actors--many of them not only very informative but also surprisingly entertaining--on virtually all sides of the issues. Many of those interviewed by Erikson--whether U.S. or Venezuelan generals or Cuban dissidents in Cuba--were shockingly upfront and unguarded with him. Nonfiction is rarely this much fun. You might even laugh out loud on occasion. Indeed, even readers without a strong interest in Cuba may have difficulty putting this book down once commenced. That said, this is an important and serious book that students of U.S. foreign policy and Cuba cannot afford to miss. It should be required reading for the incoming administration in Washington and perhaps even more so for the outgoing administration. Beyond that Erikson is clearly a writer of great talent and one can only hope we see more from him in the years to come.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. C. Greene on November 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As one who edits student writing for a living, I demand excellent style and command of the language when I read for pleasure. In Dan Erikson's new book the content was foreign to me, and became compelling because he is a consummate writer. To be specific: people, places and events were introduced in such a way that they immediately made an impression. This was done through anecdote, first-hand account on the part of Erikson, direct quote, riveting description, or allusion that resonated with the reader. When salient facts reappeared later in the narrative, Erikson reminded you and allowed you to place the facts in a larger context, so that the exposition built in a spiral fashion, facilitating a close reading by even a newcomer to the subject. His use of parallel construction tied the introduced material to the greater context. What appears to be effortless writing is almost always hard won on the part of the author. Erikson's research was personal, emotional, intellectual, and ultimately flowed on the page from years of finding the subject too important to ignore and in need of exposition to a wide audience of initiates in the subject as well as the mass of readers. Both populations will appreciate an author who knows and loves his subject enough to give us a book with necessary facts and balanced opinion, relete with erudite nuances and a style that allows the reader to trust that the author is intimate with the times, the people, and the issues.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By AlexJF12 on July 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book had everything that I needed to know, and things that I didn't even know existed. But the most surprising part was that I never grew bored of the text. The personal interviews and insightful analysis kept the book intriguing when I thought it would fall flat and become dry. Instead of a boring history tome, I read a refreshing and current piece of work.

I can only hope that he writes a follow up to cover some of the things that Obama has done.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kim Burdick on August 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"The Cuba Wars" is a fascinating and impartial look at America's foreign policy by a professional American public policy analyst. Daniel Erikson traces the history of Cuban and USA relations from the onset of the Castro administration until present day.

Erikson makes a number of good points in "The Cuba Wars."

A few particularly thought-provoking sections include:

(1) the important role of the well-placed Cuban exiles in Miami in impacting American political decisions and public opinion related to Cuba (2)the story of little Elian Gonzales (the 1999 photos of a soldier pointing a gun at the child hidden in a Florida closet are still circulated widely) (3) the curious relationship between Cubans and Americans living in and on Guantanamo (4) the appalling lack of control over OFAC, a little-known agency of the US Treasury Department, that handles a wide range of sanctions programs, including those against Iran, North Korea, and Cuba.

OFAC's role in Cuba was particularly shocking to me. Erikson writes of a 2006 conference of oil companies held in Mexico City. A distinguished Cuban delegation that was specifically invited to present papers and be part of the discussion, was thrown out of the hotel and its hotel deposit confiscated by the United States government. The reason: Washington called. The conference hotel, Sheraton, is an American-based chain. We do not do business with non-American Cubans.

This interference in a conference held in another country was politically stupid, giving Mexico and Cuba, and the delegates from other countries including our own, plenty of anti-American fodder.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Griner on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Cuba Wars has something for everyone. If you are an avid follower of the island, the book will bring you up to date on the latest travails to promote democratic change in Cuba. While author Daniel Erikson's position is quite clear (and few could argue with the logic his analysis), he does not characterize those who support and shape U.S. policy, particularly the embargo. If you are a recent student of Latin America, this book will provide you with a quick, but entertaining review of the Revolution and its aftermath, both in Cuba and the United States.

Erikson's chapters shift from Cuba to Miami and Washington, D.C., as he interviews average citizens, military officials, political leaders and opinion makers in the polarized world of Cuban politics. Erickson shows the folly of U.S. policy, but does not pull any punches in describing the political contradictions and economical distortions of the Revolution, which has fallen short of its rhetoric on almost all accounts. He weaves a nice narrative and conveys an acute sense of observation and humor.

A case in point is the chapter on Guantanamo Bay, "The Least Worst Place," Donald Rumsfeld's characterization of the U.S. naval base as a holding place for enemy combatants from Afghanistan. Erikson links the war on terror with the politics of the island and in the process uncovers an unlikely dialogue taking place between the militaries of the United States and Cuba. Bimonthly "fence meetings," address local, military-to-military issues in an attempt to avoid any misunderstandings that could exacerbate a tense situation.

Unfortunately, these little known encounters constitute one of only three areas of sustained official communications between the two countries.
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