Washington, Somoza and the Sandinistas: Stage and Regime in US Policy toward Nicaragua 1969-1981

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This study makes extensive use of personal interviews and recently declassified U.S. government documents to cast fresh light on various aspects of American policy toward Nicaragua during the period from dictatorial to revolutionary rule. It concludes with a provocative argument rejecting the notion that there was a dramatic policy shift in the transition from Carter to Reagan. This is the first book to place U.S. policy during the Somoza crisis in a compelling and rigorous analytical framework. American policy toward the crisis of the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua centered on the goal of securing a change of regime that ensured the continuity of the existing state institutions, especially the National Guard. The Carter administration's willingness to dump Somoza after decades of U.S. support for the family dynasty was triggered by the appearance of a mass-based social movement led by radical nationalist guerrillas posing a challenge to both the regime and the state. Determined to prevent a Sandinista-dominated victory over the dictatorship, the White House actively supported those sectors of the opposition movement perceived as most supportive of U.S. interests in Nicaragua and prepared to coexist with the Somoza state. The failure to broker the desired outcome did not weaken the centrality of the state-regime distinction in American policy deliberations on Nicaragua. Rather, it testified to the fact that Washington is not omnipotent - it cannot assume that what it "wills" it can "realize". In the absence of a viable alternative, the Carter administration adopted a policy of conditional accommodation with the new Sandinista-dominated regime and state, and began formulating strategies - political, economic, covert - to promote a political base within the regime that could eventually challenge the state.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In its discussion of the differences US officials drew between regime and state, it provides a reasonable approach to gaining a clearer understanding of the often roller-coaster relationship between the Somoza dictatorship and the US government....ground-breaking research....an important and thought-provoking contribution to one of the most debated and misunderstood events in recent US-Latin American relations." Canadian Journal of Latin American and Carribean Studies

"...Morley presents a most compelling argument that demonstrates Carter's failed policy was more than that of a short-sighted visionary." Pacific Historical Review

"Scholars concerned with United States policy in Central America, in particular with its policy toward the Sandinista Revolution, will find this book of interest....[it] presents useful information regarding United States policy during this important period." The Americas

"Washington's reaction to Nicaragua's transition from a repressive dictatorship to revolutionary rule is brilliantly examined in Morris H. Morley's Washington, Somoza and the Sandinistas: State and Regime in U.S. Policy Toward Nicaragua, 1969-1981." COHA's Washington Report on the Hemisphere

"...based on careful research and thorough, varied documentation,,,Morely...is a long term critic of U. S. policy with considerable knowledge of Latin America." Thomas Walker, American Political Science Review

"Although the outlines of this story have been told before, they have not been recounted with the detail and persuasiveness found in Morley's 'Washington, Somoza, and the Sandanistas.'" Thomas M. Leonard, Latin American Research Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521450812
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/1994
  • Pages: 455
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Permanent and transitory interests in U.S. foreign policy 1
2 Washington and the Somoza dynasty: From consolidation to crisis of a client dictatorship 33
3 Supporting Somoza: Substance and symbol in American policy during the Nixon-Ford era 62
4 The Carter administration and Nicaragua: Human rights and the politics of accommodation 88
5 The Carter administration and Nicaragua: Mediation and the politics of frustration 120
6 Washington ruptures a historic relationship: Dumping the dictator to save the state 172
7 The Carter administration and revolutionary Nicaragua: Containing Sandinista power 218
8 Conclusion 308
Bibliography 319
Index 329
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