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twain_quoteMy work holds up a mirror to American history, juxtaposing the nation’s claim to be the beacon of liberty and the rule of law to its checkered record in upholding these principles at home and abroad. The first fruit of the this labor, The Lost Promise of Patriotism (Chicago, 2003), explored early 20th-century debates about what it means to be “American” and about America’s role in the world. My next book, Guantánamo: An American History (Hill and Wang, 2011), examined post-9/11 Guantánamo in the context of the nation’s liberal political economy, with its unslakable appetite for land, labor, resources, and markets.

Like these previous books, my current project, Young Castro, is a tale of lost promises and dashed dreams, tragic on personal, national, and global levels. It tells the story of a young nationalist leader naturally drawn to the United States–and with much to benefit from allying with it –struggling to realize the century-old dream of a Cuba free and independent of foreign rule.

It’s no mystery how this turned out. But why things turned out the way they did remains open to debate. Without absolving Castro of historical responsibility, I view his growing extremism as at least in part a reflection of U.S. designs on Cuba reaching back before America’s founding.