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From Eisenhower's toppling of Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 to Bush's overthrow of Noriega in Panama in 1989, Grow casts a close eye on eight major cases of U.S. intervention in the Western Hemisphere, offering fresh interpretations of why they occurred and what they signified. The case studies also include the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983, and JFK's little-known 1963 intervention against the government of Cheddi Jagan in British Guiana.
Grow argues that it was not threats to U.S. national security or endangered economic interests that were decisive in prompting presidents to launch these interventions. Rather, each intervention was part of a symbolic geopolitical chess match in which the White House sought to project an image of overpowering strength to audiences at home and abroad-in order to preserve both national and presidential credibility. As Grow also reveals, that impulse was routinely reinforced by local Latin American elites-such as Chilean businessmen or opposition Panamanian politicians-who actively promoted intervention in their own self-interest.
LBJ's loud lament -- "What can we do in Vietnam if we can't clean up the Dominican Republic?" -- reflected just how preoccupied our presidents were with proving that the U.S. was no paper tiger and that they themselves were fearless and forceful leaders. Meticulously argued and provocative, Grow's bold reinterpretation of Cold War history shows that this special preoccupation with credibility was at the very core of our presidents' approach to foreign relations, especially those involving our Latin American neighbors.
A wonderful and refreshingly clear-eyed book. (Howard J. Wiarda, author of The Soul of Latin America)
A stunning account that defines for our lifetime the meaning of the term 'hegemony,' with a graceful, inviting style that foregoes the strident tone of much of the literature on intervention. . . . Should be at the top of Washington's reading list. (Lars Schoultz, author of Beneath the United States: A History of U.S. Policy toward Latin America)
An important addition to the literature on U.S. policy toward Latin America and the general literature on U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War. (William LeoGrande, author of Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1993)
1 Guatemala, 1954 1
2 Cuba, 1961 28
3 British Guiana, 1963 57
4 Dominican Republic, 1965 75
5 Chile, 1970 93
6 Nicaragua, 1981 114
7 Grenada, 1983 137
8 Panama, 1989 159
Essential Sources 253