In This Review

The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay
The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay
By Michael J. Strauss
Praeger, 2009, 296 pp

Strauss brings international law to life with this technical yet accessible exploration of the U.S. naval station in southern Cuba. For over a century, Guantánamo Bay has raised fascinating questions about rights of sovereignty as amended by state-to-state leases of territory. It is a rare case in which one country forcibly maintains a military installation within a hostile state, and some scholars hold that the 1959 Cuban Revolution invalidated the earlier treaties that provided for the arrangement. (Paradoxically, the hard-line Helms-Burton Act of 1996 requires the United States to negotiate the return of the territory upon Cuba's transition to democracy.) Strauss argues persuasively that Fidel Castro's Cuba has evinced ambiguous, even contradictory views, often denouncing the base as illegal and immoral, yet on occasion seeming to recognize the legality of the lease -- as when it accepts, but does not cash, the nominal annual rent checks or when it allows for low-key military-to-military cooperation. Of most immediate concern, Strauss attacks the Bush administration for seizing on the anomalies and jurisdictional gaps inherent in Guantánamo to circumvent the U.S. legal system in its post-9/11 maneuvers.