It’s often assumed, or even taken for granted, that U.S. policy on Cuba is not dictated in Washington but in Miami by Cuban exiles who would rather die than allow Washington to negotiate with Havana. This interpretation holds the politics of a single Florida county responsible for a conflict that has lasted more than half a century. That may be one factor, but the real explanation is more complex.

Since the end of the Cold War, Cuba’s profile on the United States’ strategic radar has diminished. The island no longer has the significance it did nearly a quarter of a century ago when it had 50,000 soldiers in Angola and maintained a political alliance with the Soviet Union...



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