BN.com Gift Guide

U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua

Overview

As President Carter?s ambassador to Nicaragua from 1977?1979, Mauricio Sola?n witnessed a critical moment in Central American history. In U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua, Sola?n outlines the role of U.S. foreign policy during the Carter administration and explains how this policy with respect to the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979 not only failed but helped impede the institutionalization of democracy there.

 

Late in the 1970s, the United States took issue ...

See more details below
Hardcover
$52.69
BN.com price
(Save 12%)$59.95 List Price
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (13) from $4.35   
  • New (8) from $22.30   
  • Used (5) from $4.35   
Sending request ...

Overview

As President Carter’s ambassador to Nicaragua from 1977–1979, Mauricio Solaún witnessed a critical moment in Central American history. In U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua, Solaún outlines the role of U.S. foreign policy during the Carter administration and explains how this policy with respect to the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979 not only failed but helped impede the institutionalization of democracy there.

 

Late in the 1970s, the United States took issue with the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. Moral suasion, economic sanctions, and other peaceful instruments from Washington led to violent revolution in Nicaragua and bolstered a new dictatorial government. A U.S.-supported counterrevolution formed, and Solaún argues that the United States attempts to this day to determine who rules Nicaragua.

 

Solaún explores the mechanisms that kept Somoza’s poorly legitimized regime in power for decades, making it the most enduring Latin American authoritarian regime of the twentieth century. Solaún argues that continual shifts in U.S. international policy have been made in response to previous policies that failed to produce U.S.- friendly international environments. His historical survey of these policy shifts provides a window on the working of U.S. diplomacy and lessons for future policy-making.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The Historian

“Among the many accounts of the 1979 collapse of the Anastasio Somoza Debayle regime in Nicaragua, this book stands out. It is the most intimate report of the dictator’s mind in the regime’s last months, and yet it is broadly based theoretically. . . . The book is an extraordinary contribution to an understanding of the Somoza regime and to U.S.-Nicaraguan relations in the critical years 1977-1979.”—Charles L. Stansifer, The Historian

British Bulletin of Publications

“A detailed and useful analysis that gives us the perspective of an insider.”—British Bulletin of Publications
Hispanic American Historical Review

“Specialists will find Solaun’s highly detailed book invaluable, for never before have we had such a scathing insider critique of the contradictions marring Carter’s Nicaragua policy.”—Hispanic American Historical Review

Latin American Politics and Society

“[The book] provides the audience with an extremely rich and detailed account of the relationship between the U.S. embassy and Nicaraguan political actors in the closing years of the dictatorship. . . . Solaún’s experience offers a valuable cautionary tale that can help students begin the process of removing those rose-colored glasses and approach the decision more maturely and with realistic expectations.”—Latin American Politics and Society

Latin American Politics and Society

“[The book] provides the audience with an extremely rich and detailed account of the relationship between the U.S. embassy and Nicaraguan political actors in the closing years of the dictatorship. . . . Solaún’s experience offers a valuable cautionary tale that can help students begin the process of removing those rose-colored glasses and approach the decision more maturely and with realistic expectations.”—Latin American Politics and Society

Hispanic American Historical Review

“Specialists will find Solaun’s highly detailed book invaluable, for never before have we had such a scathing insider critique of the contradictions marring Carter’s Nicaragua policy.”—Hispanic American Historical Review

British Bulletin of Publications

“A detailed and useful analysis that gives us the perspective of an insider.”—British Bulletin of Publications

The Historian

“Among the many accounts of the 1979 collapse of the Anastasio Somoza Debayle regime in Nicaragua, this book stands out. It is the most intimate report of the dictator’s mind in the regime’s last months, and yet it is broadly based theoretically. . . . The book is an extraordinary contribution to an understanding of the Somoza regime and to U.S.-Nicaraguan relations in the critical years 1977-1979.”—Charles L. Stansifer, The Historian

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803243163
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2005
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Mauricio Solaún is an international consultant and lecturer who taught sociology and Latin American studies at the University of Illinois. He is the author of several books, including Sinners and Heretics: The Politics of Military Intervention in Latin America.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua


By Mauricio Solaún

University of Nebraska Press

Copyright © 2005 University of Nebraska Press
All right reserved.




Chapter One

Introduction

This book is a detailed inside story of the role played by U.S. policy in impeding the institutionalization of democracy in Nicaragua and of its 1979 revolution. In the late 1970s, under the human rights banner, the United States launched a humanitarian, politically destabilizing crusade against a friendly dictator, a man who wished to remain a faithful American client but who refused to relinquish his personal political sovereignty. His rule was destabilized by the U.S. government and overthrown by a broad national and international coalition with which Washington was not fully comfortable. Washington's well-meaning, reformist policy sought democratization through moral suasion, minor economic sanctions, and peaceful instruments, yet there was violent revolution, and as the revolutionary regime groped to institutionalize a new form of authoritarian government and carve a new international role for itself, Nicaragua formed political alliances with self-professed adversaries of the United States. With their assistance Nicaragua militarized itself and even intervened in the affairs of some of its neighbors by backing revolutionary uprisings. The result was a dramatic escalation of violence in the region. The United States became involved yet again, attempting to overthrow the new government. This required asecond war, this time in support of counterrevolution against the Sandinistas. To this day Washington remains involved in trying to influence who rules Nicaragua.

The real issue lies in the philosophical difference between the naked self-interest advocacy of "pragmatism" and moralistic "humanitarian interventionist crusades." Realpolitik justifies policy by saying that although democracy is the best form of government for Americans, the objective of foreign policy is to further the national interest. It is not up to the United States to promote a form of government-to preach democracy or try to impose it on a foreign people. In contrast, democratic crusades make the promotion of such a regime a policy goal on ethical grounds, though the pursuit of other interests need not be repugnant to the pro-democratic rationalization. Because in the twentieth century the principal adversaries of the United States were not democratic powers, it was not that difficult for the U.S. government to explain crude Copyrighted Material U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua strategic interests, say the balance of power in realpolitik interests, as being pro-democratic ones-that is, to check the advance of authoritarianism.

There is a third rationalization: isolationism, the notion of a Fortress America that should not be involved in foreign adventures, that the United States does not have fundamental interests in given foreign regions, and so it should not or need not interfere or intervene in their domestic political affairs. This interpretation, however, has been less predominant in American governing circles involved in Latin American affairs.

Central to the ongoing debate is the issue of "international clientelism," the participation by a government (or combination of them) in determining a foreign government. Should the United States intervene or not (unilaterally or joined with others), supporting or opposing with various means foreign governments? Should the principle of non-intervention, of the absolute sovereignty of states to determine their own governments, be a sacred prohibition?

The facts are that foreign client patterns continue and that, as I document, U.S. policy toward Latin America has historically oscillated between realpolitik and democratic crusade rationalizations. Why? The United States, a powerful democracy, operates in an international environment constituted by sovereign states; its citizens, whose interests must be ultimately reflected in policy, favor friendly, peaceful relations with other nations; and its government is compelled to have relations and exercise influence in the international community. But in the absence of a world government to adjudicate conflicts of interest, states project force in their relations. Furthermore, in the absence of consensus within nations to sustain democratic governments under the rule of law, more or less violent fights to determine their form of government tend to take place. In such settings there is no workable domestic, internal agreement on a form of government, but rather a tendency to participate in revolutionary processes, in government overthrows, and the repression of oppositions.

Regardless of the principal motive(s) for exercising international influence, whether it be, say, economic gain or in self-defense against others who could curtail U.S. sovereignty (i.e., its "liberty" or "welfare"), the United States seeks friendly, cooperative relations with other governments. Such "normal" ties involve allocating public and private resources. These transfers can take multiple forms (e.g., economic or military links; income to the foreign government accruing from trade, investments, or assistance; symbolic manifestations of friendship, of "liking" the foreign government, etc.).

These conditions lead us into the intractable aspects of international clientelism and to the notion of the client-state. The United States decides to have friendly ties with a dictatorship of a less powerful state. That state does not have a consensual regime-its opponents classify it as abhorrent and wish to terminate it; in the absence of institutionalized elections, some force is thought necessary to change the government. Inherent in this situation is the interpretation that the powerful nation is supporting its friendly dictatorship, for the regime is not based on broad domestic support but rather on (various degrees of) repression or force. Intrinsic to these friendly cooperative ties are relations of dependency in which the United States engages in the business of supporting foreign governments, determining them, or carrying out foreign "intervention," because in fact it is providing resources to them. The historical zigzags between realpolitik and democratic crusades were fundamental to the problems that haunted us in Nicaragua.

A client-state, then, consists of a formal or informal alliance between technically independent states with different resources and power, in which the more important nation provides some services, giving resources to the foreign government and thus "supporting" it. In exchange, the client provides its patron with a political following and counter services. It is a mechanism to achieve political influence-support for objectives of the principal and for aspirations of client governments-in an international environment constituted by formally sovereign states. The client status is a variable, with some friendly governments not deserving the classification. Some nations are politically more dependent than others. At one extreme we can envision puppet governments, a simple mouthpiece; at the other extreme, truly interdependent allies. Client-states are placed somewhere in between, for their governments are supported by a foreign power that participates in the clientelistic game of determining a foreign government. Most significantly, this political dependency is related to the nature of the client's regime: it is not stable because of shortcomings in support by its own people. A tendency of client-state politics is for its citizens, for local factions, to look for international alliances, garnering political support from other nations in their pursuit of their own partisan interest to form a government. These processes tend to be exacerbated as domestic polarization increases in the absence of regime consensus. Clientelistic determination of foreign governments partly results, therefore, from the projection of power or influence by friendly governments in an unstable regime environment; it can also involve insufficiently supported democratic regimes and oppositions, which can seek clientelistic alliances. Clientelism tends to involve the United States in nasty processes of human rights violations.

Why the historical alternations between realpolitik and pro-democratic policies? U.S. support of a dictatorship need not result in its institutionalization. Client dictatorships-against Washington's wishes-can be destabilized even by rebellions of their nation's own democratic forces. Such crises place in relief the abhorrent nature of the authoritarian regime and the deficient character of its ruler. How can a self-respecting democracy continue to abet the dictator's gruesome repressive patterns? Within the United States, movements develop to withdraw support from the friendly autocracy and cause its demise. Why not support and contribute to local democratic forces?

But neither does U.S. support guarantee democratic institutionalization, though in some countries with mixed democratic-authoritarian cultures a pro-democratic American policy can make the difference. The more full-blown the U.S. intervention, the more costly it is. Obviously the United States does not possess the resources to impose democracies around the entire world; the need to have friendly international ties to preserve national interests always results in cooperating "realistically" with some authoritarian regimes, thus reducing the coherence of pro-democratic policies. In the absence of local democratic consensus, regime survival may require a degree and frequency of more or less costly foreign interventions that make a mockery of idealistic, do-gooder interference-democracy implies self-government. In the past the United States abandoned pro-democratic policies toward Latin America in the face of regional opposition against American "intervention" in the region. You can observe empirical factors that render both realpolitik and pro-democracy prescriptions untenable as a universal principle of foreign policy.

On the other hand, client-state dependency on a foreign power, combined with its common problems of legitimacy, contributes to the notion that the client government is very weak. Of course, the problem is compounded if the principal power has disproportionate resources, as in relations between the United States and the small countries near it. Such dictators tend to be fallaciously dismissed: a word from the American ambassador, and the strongman would resign and a new regime be created, as the saying went in Nicaragua. The history of U.S. interventions in Latin America has contributed to the thesis, even among some mainstream social scientists, that American foreign policy caused the region's absence of democratic institutionalization. Nicaragua provides an uncomfortable example of lasting authoritarianism coupled with long-term U.S. clientelistic policies.

But there were domestic reasons to presume the inherent weakness of the Nicaraguan regime. Prior to the Somoza family, dynastic rule had no precedent in the country. Actually, although a few Latin American regimes seemed to have had a dynastic intent, the phenomenon was an anomaly. The Nicaraguan regime's longevity was also exceptional. In the 1960s the Copyrighted Material U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua most lasting regional regimes, other than Nicaragua's, were characterized by frequent changes in their rulers through elections, not by the continuation for decades of real power in the hands of a strongman or a ruling family. In fact, the then relatively frequent coups d'état were often triggered in response to the ruler's attempts to continue in power indefinitely. In Nicaragua these manipulations were successful: they had always resulted in the continuity of the Somoza rule while maintaining the loyalty of the army. This paradox, mechanisms that precipitated regime breakdown in many countries versus the same mechanisms functioning to maintain the regime, deserves to be studied. The regime's endurance, with its recurrent cycles of unsuccessful uprisings followed by regime re-equilibration, is also of note.

In order to understand why, against U.S. government objectives, a large-scale popular revolution took place, this book explores how the regime remained in power in earlier periods, to establish comparative grounds to explain its rapid, subsequent collapse. This requires determining the regime's nature, its organization of power, its sources of support and opposition, and its modes of dealing with stress and recurrent crises.

Our attempts in Nicaragua to obtain a relatively peaceful democratic transition were stopped by the ruler's refusal to cooperate with our project and his retention of the loyalty of his civilian and military cadres, who reinforced the dictator's hubristic obduracy. We faced a dramatic paradox: the ruler and his group keeping control of the state's apparatus, amid their loss of control of the society at large that was in rebellion against them. In contradiction to the noted "theories" about Nicaragua's regime weakness, Somoza proved very difficult to unseat.

This issue of the retention of loyalty within the state's organs is significant: it shows limits to pro-democratic crusades. Widespread popular protests can be unsuccessful in changing an authoritarian regime unless foreign countries provide the military resources needed to defeat the regime's repression and overthrow it; such assistance was provided in Nicaragua by a coalition of Latin American nations, as opposed to the United States. In effect, so-called peaceful revolutions precipitated by unarmed citizen protests succeed if the dictator decides to abdicate, if the dictator is persuaded to step down and the regime is changed by actions involving the ruling cadres, or if the intransigent ruler is forced out by the state's cadres (often by a coup d'état). Thus democratic crusades risk failure vis-à-vis a regime that maintains the loyalty of its own group, even if they consist of small organized numbers. In fact, U.S. pro-democratic policies even in Central America and the Caribbean have met several failures in changing targeted dictators unless Washington used its troops. Democratic crusades can prove costly. To succeed, one may have to be prepared to "intervene," which the Carter administration that I served was unwilling to do.

In sum, our failed campaign faced insufficient support for democracy. Not being authentic democrats, the Somocistas in power felt no moral compulsion to submit to the popular will. But authoritarian forces were strong within the opposition, and the moderate opposition was still poorly organized, reinforcing the Somoza group's self-perception as the best government. Miscalculations and excessive dependence on U.S. policy also blurred the stark alternatives. Foreign crusades can operate with naive assumptions about democratic readiness at particular times.

Finally, the unified inability of Nicaragua's ruling, decayed regime to meet the internal and external challenges that eventually destroyed it is interpreted focusing on its irreplaceable, although nontotalitarian and not truly charismatic, leader, who exercised unconditional control over his team and organizations. History accepts the essential role played by some special men. General Anastasio Somoza Debayle's personality, political beliefs, and mentality-which included a traditionally based disbelief in Nicaragua's democratic viability and a belief in his own messianic invincibility and irreplaceability-blocked an opportune transition. We failed to persuade him to step down; nor were we able to break the absolute dependency of his cadres on him. Their seemingly irrational loyalty had grounds other than individual materialistic bases (e.g., careerism) and errors in judgment. There were deliberately created organizational or structural bases for dependency on the ruler, including formal and informal rules and roles worked out over the years among the followers and in the state's hierarchical organizations.

The story of my experiences as U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, from July 1977 to February 1979, seeks to clarify these issues of foreign policy, and the theories of revolution and democratic transition.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua by Mauricio Solaún Copyright © 2005 by University of Nebraska Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 9
2 The Somza Garcia legacy 33
3 The golden years 54
4 The Anastasio Somoza Debayle period 79
5 Neutrality 92
6 Meditation 188
7 Partial withdrawal 279
8 The failure of U.S. policy 285
Epilogue : lessons 297
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)