Beyond Symbolism, Restoring Ties With Cuba Has Practical Benefits

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"A year ago, it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana," President Obama declared when he announced that Cuba and the United States would establish full diplomatic relations on July 20. "This is what change looks like."

The reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana is symbolic of the change in U.S. policy that President Obama announced on December 17 of last year -- replacing the policy hostility and subversion dating back to the break in diplomatic relations 54 years ago with a new a policy of engagement and cooperation.

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William M. LeoGrande is a co-author, with Peter Kornbluh, of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).