The Untold History of America's Cuban Outpost
Stephen Irving Max Schwab
Established as America’s first foreign naval base following the Spanish-American War, Guantánamo is now more often thought of as our Devil's Island, the gulag of our times. This book takes readers beyond the orange-jumpsuited detainees of today's headlines to provide the first comprehensive history of Guantanamo from its origins to the present.
Occupying 45 square miles of land and sea, Guantanamo has for more than a century symbolized the imperial impulse within U.S. foreign policy, and its occupation is decried by Cuba as a violation of international law—even though a treaty legally grants the U.S. a lease in perpetuity. Stephen Schwab now describes the base’s role in American, Caribbean, and global history, explaining how it came to be, why it's still there, and how it continues to serve a variety of purposes.
“Schwab unravels the complex past of Guantánamo, Cuba, the U.S.’s oldest overseas base, where so-called enemy combatants in the war on terror have been imprisoned and tortured. . . . Well-researched, sharply written, Schwab’s book fills in the crucial gaps on this controversial base, now as notorious as Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison.”
“This meticulously researched and important book provides fresh historical perspective on a timely subject ... An essential and authoritative addition to any library. Highly recommended.”
—ChoiceSee all reviews...
“[This book] is poised to be the definitive history of this unusual military base. It does what all good history should: it pulls readers out of the present, in which controversies about detention centers dominate, and reminds them that ‘Gitmo’ has been and continues to be so much more.”
“A panoramic history of Guantánamo from Teddy Roosevelt to twenty-first century terrorism. Exhaustively researched and balanced, it will be recognized as the definitive history of America’s most important overseas naval base.”
—Brian Latell, author of After Fidel: Raul Castro and the Future of Cuba’s Revolution
“Schwab has done a masterful job in this up-to-date history of our naval base in Cuba and the ongoing controversies—both domestic and international—its presence has generated from 1898 to the present.”
—Don Bohning, author of The Castro Obsession: U.S. Covert Operations in Cuba, 1959–1965
“A fascinating look at the role of Guantánamo in U.S-Cuban relations that also illuminates the naval base’s impact on Cuban history and politics.”
—Jaime Suchlicki, author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro
“Exhaustively researched, nicely written, and superbly analyzed, this history of the United States’s first foreign base will appeal to all those readers interested in how Guantánamo has been the source of both friction and compromise in U.S.-Cuban relations for more than a century.”
—Howard Jones, author of The Bay of Pigs and Crucible of PowerSee fewer reviews...
Schwab views the base’s creation as part of a broad U.S. strategy of annexations, protectorates, and limited interventions devised to create a strong sphere of influence in the western Atlantic. He charts its history from this early belief that it would prevent European powers from staking imperial claims in the Caribbean and examines the crucial defensive role that Guantánamo played as a convoy hub for strategic goods during World War II. He then looks at clashes over Guantánamo during the Cold War, culminating in LBJ’s decision to make the base independent by firing Cuban workers and building a desalinization plant. Schwab also fleshes out Guantánamo’s ongoing roles as the U.S. Navy's lone forward base in the Caribbean, providing refueling for U.S. and allied ships, as a Coast Guard station engaged in search-and-rescue missions and counternarcotics operations, and as a U.S. facility for processing undocumented aliens.
Even though the Castro government persistently protests America’s presence—and refuses even to bank the rent that the U.S. dutifully pays—Guantánamo remains the only place where diplomatic exchanges between the two countries occur, and Schwab documents how the facility has served mutual interests as both a point of nationalistic frictions and a center for diplomatic compromise. By presenting Guantánamo’s story within its broader historical framework, his book gives readers a greater appreciation of America’s true stake in this controversial Caribbean outpost.