impact of the end of the Cold War on inter-American relations: The search for paradigm and principle, The
Deese, David A. (ed.) THE NEW POLITICS OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1994. Index, 285 pp.
Kryzanek, Michael J. US-LATIN AMERICAN RELATIONS (3rd ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996. Index, 283 pp.
Martz, John D. (ed.) UNITED STATES POLICY IN LATIN AMERICA: A DECADE OF CRISIS AND CHALLENGE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1995. Index, 407 pp.
Pike, Frederick W. FDR’S GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY: 60 YEARS OF GENERALLY GENTLE CHAOS. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1992. Index, 394 pp.
Schraeder, Peter J. (ed.) INTERVENTION INTO THE 1990s: US FOREIGN POLICY IN THE THIRD WORLD. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1992. Index, 489 pp.
A major objective of recent scholarship on inter-American relations is to assess both the impact of the new global political order on US foreign policy and the determinant factors of modern inter-American relations. What has the end of bipolarity meant for a regional system molded in the shadow of the Cold War? What is the cumulative impact of the tumultuous events of the decade that preceded the end of the Cold War? Is there an appropriate framework for interpreting the course of modern Hemispheric ties? Has the United States adopted new reference points for approaching its Hemispheric partners? Even though almost all five works assessed here start from the common premise that the Cold War figured prominently in setting both agendas, their diversified content attests to the complexity of plotting future trends. Varying analytical frameworks for Hemispheric relations in the post-Cold War era, and differing judgments about the information-age mechanics of Hemispheric politics, present readers with an intriguing mix of new and old ideas, mirroring, perhaps, the complexity of the era itself. Two of the works reviewed here focus on the broader systemic aspects of US foreign policy, while the final three treat inter-American relations specifically.
For David Deese, editor and contributor to The New Politics of American Foreign Policy, the end of the Cold War has been less crucial in deEming the future direction of US foreign policy than have the international and domestic changes which have taken place since the 1970s. Deese, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the International Studies Program at Boston College, has assembled 13 original, thought-provoking essays that take an “outside-in” approach to the making of US foreign policy. These richly documented, clearly written analyses highlight the changing, and increasingly complex, scenario for planning and conducting foreign affairs. Deese and his contributors argue that US foreign policy is increasingly influenced by a number of new developments: the growing multiplicity of international ties within US society, economy, and politics; electoral changes in the US South which have decreased the number of conservative Democrats on the one hand and increased partisanship within the US Congress on the other; the expansion of those participating in the process (not to mention their varied agendas), particularly in the roles played by public opinion and the media; together with the growing assertiveness of the Congress, both as a collective body as well as by its individual members.
Change- political, social, and economic – has fundamentally altered the foreign policy process. Transformation of the domestic environment in which foreign policy is made began with the Vietnam War, “the single most important international event leading to change in American politics” (p. 6). Since then, the United States has seen foreign forces increasingly brought to bear on its society via (1) the growing prominence of international trade within the US economy; (2) the mobility and size of international capital flows; (3) massive numbers (particularly in the 1980s) of immigrants, both legal and illegal, into the United States; and (4) the crisis wrought by international competition. All of these developments have prompted demands that the US government take action to “soften threats, slow changes, and ease adjustment to social and economic dislocations” (p. 23). Domestic and international politics have become intertwined to an unprecedented degree, creating pressure on the foreign affairs bureaucracy to come up with solutions that will satisfy multiple, and often competing, demands.
The domestic political environment, shaped by the Vietnam-era election of liberal Congressmen and the increasing assertiveness of Congress, has responded to these pressures in increasingly partisan ways. Whereas, during the early 1970s, conservative southern Democrats frequently deserted their party when voting on critical issues, changes in electoral practices and shifts in demography that have occurred since that time have altered the US political scene considerably. Not only has Republican representation in the Congress increased, but the policies of the Democrats have been left largely in the hands of the party’s liberal element. The partisanship that ensued received further encouragement by changes in congressional rules that worked to expand the power of party leaders at the expense of committee chairs. Meanwhile, individual members of Congress have risen to the public fore, either because they are experts in various functional areas or by serving as spokespersons for special causes and/or ethnic minorities. In this guise, they have frequently been able to insert special provisions into law, which then have a broad impact on US policy toward a particular nation or region. Further stimulating debate on foreign policy issues are advocacy groups who lobby for special causes and think-tanks who offer expert, but often contradictory, opinions and the special networks within Congress and the executive branch which these groups have established as avenues of influence.
The contributors to the Deese volume also refine our understanding of the roles that the media and public opinion, both major actors in the process, played in the debate on modern foreign policy. The modern media’s pervasiveness and ability to magnify the intrusions of domestic politics into the foreign policy arena have made dealing with the media into a critical component of every foreign policy initiative. While debate still exists as to the extent of press influence on foreign policy, some of the new literature has been able to illuminate the tendency of the media to seize upon, and magnify, any divisions within the foreign policy elite (especially those between the White House and Capitol Hill) and, in so doing, heighten debate on contentious proposals. Because the press is still highly reliant on officialdom for its sources, techniques of effective press management can help to “overcome the decline of the old foreign policy elite and the rise of domestic political forces,” (p. 185), as evidenced by the Bush administration’s actions during the Persian Gulf War. Meanwhile, public opinion, far from being as passive and pliable as the “elitist paradigm” would have it, has been constantly, and seriously, engaged on foreign policy issues. In fact, because public opinion is capable of exerting a significant effect on a policy debate at various points in its cycle of formulation and execution, the practice has grown up of carrying out continuous polling of the public’s opinion in order to ascertain its support for specific policy options.
An underlying theme of this work is the need for increasingly sensitive and dedicated leadership on foreign policy issues within both executive and legislative branches. No longer is foreign policy the sole prerogative of the president and a small circle of informed advisors huddled at the apex of a compliant bureaucracy. Based upon the example of Jimmy Carter, presidents can, and should, employ “the bully pulpit” to lead, and even political passion, if necessary, to overcome apathy or bureaucratic defiance. Even when the foreign policy cause is unpopular, the executive – with appropriate attention to the powerful role of Congress – can exercise constructive leadership by stressing goals, exhibiting commitment, and building consensus.
However, the contributors to The New Politics of American Foreign Policy do not overlook the impact of the end of the Cold War on the foreign policy environment completely. Predictably, the end of bipolar conflict makes intervention in “peripheral” areas much more difficult to justify, even as the rise of new states and increased ethnic and religious assertiveness increase the tensions in those areas. More important, though, is the recommendation that the end of the Cold War should reverse the priorities between “security” and “economics” (i.e., prosperity) within a presidency divided by separate infrastructures for each. In the opinion of I. M. Destler, Bill Clinton’s observation that “It’s the economy, stupid” might serve as a guide for US priorities in the postCold War world.
Even though Deese (nor his contributors) rarely refers to interAmerican relations (other than to the congressional frustrations with President Reagan’s policies toward Central America), his explanation as to why foreign policy has become more deliberative holds important implications for the future of inter-American relations. It may be, as Deese argues, that more intense discussions of US foreign policy, encompassing a diversity of opinion, may well lead to a broader base for its support; however, at the same time, it also allows a plethora of actors, both formal and informal, to continue participating in the policymaking process. Second, his suggestion that presidents and congressional leaders should choose their foreign policy priorities carefully and then fashion the political strategies for garnering the support of domestic and international audiences, probably implies – when coupled with a reduction in US economic power and an inwardly-focused electorate a necessarily lower level of US government activism in the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere.
Deese’s emphasis on the politics of the foreign policy process may overlook the historic US tendency toward adopting a policy of unilateralism in the Western Hemisphere which is not exercised elsewhere. Neither does it recognize, much less give priority to, the impact which informal actors (like business and financial interests, or even human rights groups) may have on US policy toward any of the world’s regions, including the Western Hemisphere. However, if we apply his observations to the 3 years it took the United States to decide to deploy multilateralized US forces to Haiti, in an effort to restore democracy, perhaps his views may represent a highly accurate, and useful, picture of how ponderously the United States can weigh its commitments in the inter-American arena.
However, according to a synopsis of policy trends and issues in Intervention into the 1990s: US Foreign Policy in the Third World, the edited work by Peter J. Schraeder, US interventionism is unlikely to disappear. Schraeder, who is a professor of political science at Loyola University (in Chicago), has assembled 21 essays, covering a variety of analytical viewpoints, to assess the impact of US intervention in the Third World since World War II. An update of a 1989 work (Intervention in the 1980s: US Foreign Policy in the Third World), this version closes out in 1992, before the defeat of George Bush and onset of the Clinton presidency. It focuses on the origins, tools, and constraints of intervention, offers 7 case studies involving intervention (South Africa, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Iran, the Persian Gulf, Panama, and the Arab-Israeli conflict), and finishes with a concluding essay that suggests guidelines that might be applied to interventions in the future. Although Schraeder de-emphasizes (though does not eschew) the use of military force, he feels that, under certain circumstances, it may be “both a legitimate and useful tool of intervention” (p. 396). Even though only a few selections deal specifically with Latin America, this work – like that of Deese – illuminates the maze of economic, social, and political changes that have rendered recent interAmerican relations more complex.
Schraeder makes a convincing argument that forces favoring US interventionism have survived the Cold War. Like Kryzanek (discussed below), Schraeder and his contributors suggest that the US expansionism of the 19th century was transformed into first regional, and then global, interventionism. The impulse to intervene provided by the Cold War has now been replaced by Low Intensity Conflict Doctrine, which Michael T. Kane describes as one that reflects “a continuing reliance on military intervention as the ultimate US response” to regional conflicts (p. 53). Since the end of World War II, alternating globalist and regionalist perspectives within the foreign policy bureaucracy have either encouraged the propensity to intervene (under the globalists) or discouraged it (under the regionalists). However, the end of the Cold War and the “collapse of the globalist posture” does not necessarily mean less intervention in the Third World, as globalists have embraced a call for “preservation of the world order” to justify US intervention (p. 69).
Nevertheless, finding the proper tool for intervening has become a more contentious issue. Schraeder and his contributors sketch the decline of economic aid, the varying success of economic sanctions, the uncertainties related to paramilitary and/or covert action, and the increasing (or so it seemed in 1992) resort to direct military intervention. Since the end of World War II, the United States has disbursed over $ 1.1 trillion (measured in 1992 dollars) to nearly every other nation on earth, with uncertain benefits. Regional priorities have shifted along with US strategic priorities. During the 1960s, Latin America rose to become the second highest recipient of US aid; during the Central American crisis of the 1980s, high levels of aid went to El Salvador. However, the US willingness to spend dollars for foreign causes dropped precipitously with passage of the Graham-Rudman-Hollings Act (1986) and the growing preference of US voters for domestic causes. An empirical study of the success rate of economic sanctions imposed since 1938 credits sanctions with a 67% rate of at least “partial success” between 1938 and 1972. However, from 1973 through 1990, the success rate fell to only 22%, for several reasons: (1) the decline in US economic power; (2) a shift toward more specific goals (human rights, nuclear non-proliferation) instead of attempting to “destabilize” sitting governments; (3) the growing assertiveness of Congress; and (4) the resort to tools other than (the previously successful) financial ones.
Meanwhile, and simultaneously, the political costs of intervention have risen. Covert action became politically divisive with the revelations of the Church Committee (1976) and remain inherently incompatible with requirements of US constitutional democracy (p. 127). Paramilitary intervention, “economic and military aid designed to foster an armed insurgency against a foreign government” (p. 131), has remained an option into the 1980s and 1990s. The US experiences in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, and Nicaragua have resulted in occasional successes, but such tactics may produce results over the longer term that are even more disagreeable to US policymakers by widening regional conflicts or fostering the rise of radical, fundamentalist governments.
Constraints on intervention are multiple but often overridden. Like Deese, Schraeder and his contributors highlight the role of the Vietnam War in making intervention more politically costly. Though the higher levels of public skepticism that resulted served to complicate political decisionmaking, the example of the Persian Gulf War lent reinforcement to those who supported maintaining an interventionist capability. The military constraints on intervention have their origins in the military’s focus on major wars, a fractionalized command structure, and bureaucratic politics. Superpower intervention during the Cold War helped to cloud the legal principle of non-intervention, which had been expressly codified, in international instruments, ever since the First World War. While interventionism may be legally permissible under certain restricted situations, US interventionism has been largely couched in presidential doctrines that are rooted in realpolitik and expressed in terms of self-defense.
The 7 case studies contained in Intervention into the 1990s offer impressive testimony to the degree of influence which the United States was able to exercise within the Third World even as the Cold War faded from view. The US focus on the bipolar conflict often led it to back coercive governments or to overthrow nationalists, often generating even more ardent nationalistic reactions in return. Peter Kornbluh’s account of Nicaragua and Margaret Scranton’s review of the Panama episode underscore Washington’s frustration at trying to impose its will on small, but determined, national elites. On the one hand, Kornbluh highlights the counterproductive nature of the US involvement in Nicaragua; on the other, Scranton suggests that the US invasion of Panama, though welcomed by many Panamanians, may have perpetuated Panamanian dependence and undermined its democratic development.
Schraeder’s guidelines for future interventions derive from a realpolitik world view where the US pursues “regional and international consensus for its interventionist policies in the Third World” (p. 404). His guidelines require “majority support within the target country,” “majority regional and international support,” and seeking to legitimize intervention by means of international legal vehicles. Since, as Schraeder argues, the United States will persist in intervening when it deems necessary, it would be best to reformulate this practice to rest upon a solid base of domestic and international support, in order to permit the United States to exercise legitimate leadership successfully “both regionally and within the international system” (p. 405).
For the Latin Americanist, the primary value of this work is that it serves as a useful reminder of the global context that influences US intervention in the Western Hemisphere, a context that may be more supportive of interventionism today than in the past, despite the legacy of past mistakes. Schraeder’s highlighting of three examples of the success of US interventionism in the Third World suggests a broader basis of support for “constructive intervention” on non-ideological terms that promote solutions encouraging societies “built upon popular consent and broadly shared development” (p. 400). Indeed, the lack of protest within American society for the “peaceful” invasion of Haiti (1994), despite the US disastrous venture into Somalia the year before, lends support to this view.
On a broader scale, though, implementing Schraeder’s recommendation that the United States should seek regional support for intervention may be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Such a perspective quickly clashes with the Western Hemisphere’s political reality. Even though the United States was able to gather global support for intervention in Haiti, the primary regional organization (the Organization of American States) argued for continuing to rely on non-military measures. The diplomatic uproar caused by the 1995 Helms-Burton Act attests to the difficulty of multilateralizing a bilateral conflict. Support for substantive US intervention elsewhere in the Americas would be even more difficult to achieve, precisely because of the legacy of US interventionism within the region. Could the support of domestic forces combined with that of the international community suffice to overcome resistance from the region itself, thus leading to intervention in a major Western Hemisphere nation? This is a doubtful premise, at best.
Schraeder’s work is clearly a byproduct of the Cold War itself, when the needs of bipolar strategy, not economic interdependence, were the watchwords of the era. His extremely inclusive definition of intervention – “the calculated use of political, economic, and military instruments by one country to influence the domestic or foreign policies of another country” (p. 3) – implies that the intervening country can exercise an overwhelming preponderance of power. While all actions from everyday diplomacy to advocacy of trade and investment policies could fall under this broad umbrella, his perspective leads him to concentrate on more spectacular examples of political and military intervention. Accompanying chapters on the Bush administration’s Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (EAI), the World Trade Organization (WTO), or foreign “intervention” in US domestic policies via powerful lobbyists, ethnic group ties, and public pressure groups that further constrain or influence the direction of US interventionism might have provided a desirable balance. The decline of superpower economic and financial leverage suggests that interventionism in the 1990s should be viewed as a multiple-sourced, if uneven, flow of power and influence.
Nevertheless, this work deserves the attention of Latin Americanists, especially those who view US policy towards Latin America solely in regional terms. Recognizing the effect of other factors – i.e., the impact of competing priorities within the foreign affairs bureaucracy, the persistence of the globalist perspective, and an unwillingness to eschew military forms of intervention — should temper those who might interpret the end of the Cold War as a sign of the end of US activism.
Like Schraeder, John D. Martz, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at The Pennsylvania State University, has presented an updated sequel to his previous reader on US foreign policy, which offers important insight into recent trends. His edited United States Policy in Latin America: A Decade of Crisis and Challenge, provides 13 timely essays on policymaking and crisis management in the Reagan and Bush administrations, on the US bilateral relations with Mexico, Brazil, Central America, and Cuba, and reviews the impact which recent developments (the debt crisis, immigration, human rights, drug control policy, globalization, and championing democracy abroad) have had on current US policy and inter-American relations and may continue to have in the future. By seeking to review the “broad problem areas that will endure into the next century” and offer a broad summation of policy interests and perspectives toward Latin America, Martz, like Deese and Schraeder, highlights the complexities associated with formulating and carrying out regional policy in an increasingly global world.
True to its title, much of the work evaluates the events and policies of the 1980s decade. Robert Pastor argues that, ironically enough, Ronald Reagan found himself adopting the tactics of the Communists in his effort to defeat them, accomplishing least where he tried the most (in Central America) and most where he tried the least (i.e., in promoting democracy). Howard Wiarda contrasts the differing approaches of the two US presidents in that decade: on the one hand, the shrewd poker-player Ronald Reagan, on the other, a pragmatic, realist, and centrist George Bush, whose benign neglect of Latin America actually improved relations in that area. Given a US State Department with little interest in Latin America, Bush used his experience in foreign affairs to rack up some major accomplishments in the region, including, among others, strengthening the OAS and resolving the Central American crisis, despite the fact that implementation often lagged behind intentions. Michael Kryzanek assesses the Grenada invasion on various levels, arguing that the Reagan administration was, at one and the same time, protecting US citizens that were stranded there, pushing Marxists out of power, and purging the US of its memory of the “Vietnam paralysis” (p. 76). This episode also served to strengthen Reagan’s resolve to rid the Hemisphere of Marxist influence, leading to intensified efforts in that direction. Steven Ropp’s analysis of the US invasion of Panama (1989) shows how the “fits and starts” of US policy yielded to military action with the installation of a group of war-minded commanders and the onset of an international environment favorable to the use of force.
In the bilateral realm, George Grayson reviews how Mexico’s President Carlos Salinas de Gortari undertook a bold effort to integrate Mexico’s economy into that of the United States, with the adroit assistance of George Bush, who was instrumental in obtaining the necessary fast-track negotiating authority from the US Congress. Writing from a mid-1994 perspective (i.e., before Mexico’s later peso crisis), Grayson forecasts that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will exert a profound effect upon US-Mexican relations and Mexico’s domestic politics, raising expectations and placing great pressure on Salinas’s successor. For Eul-Soo Pang, the 1980s marked the end of the era of a special relationship between Brazil and the United States, as Brazil opted for an independent foreign policy. Contention replaced cooperation as each nation pursued different interests. Pang suggests that, during the 1990s, both nations will suffer from opportunities lost due to the absence of a “frank agenda that fosters cooperation” (p. 176).John Booth chronicles the prominent role of US security interests toward Central America, socially and economically devastated by a decade of conflict, and suggests that the “cycling down” of US security concerns may presage an era of neglect that would be “anything but benign” (p. 208). Enrique Baloyra argues that Latin America seeks either to minimize US-Cuban conflict whenever possible, or else to remain detached from it. Cuba’s efforts to sustain close ties with Nicaragua, Mexico, other nations, and friendly non-state actors have been tempered by political change on the Central American isthmus and by Mexico’s close ties to the US economy. Even though it may become increasingly difficult for Latin America to ignore Cuba’s human rights practices, at the same time, the US efforts to impose democracy on Cuba from outside the island are also counter-productive. In Baloyra’s opinion, Cuba will pursue an activist, if erratic, international agenda and pursue practical economic benefits.
In the final section of the Martz compendium, Riordan Roett offers insights regarding both the general context of, as well as multilateral issues that cloud, US-Latin American relations. He reviews the painful course of the 1980s debt crisis, gradually mitigated by (1) successful negotiations between the banks and Mexico and (2) the stimulus for reform contained in the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (announced in June 1990). Roett judges that the challenge of the 1990s will be how to link new investment capital with social investment, so essential to political stability and social peace. Christopher Mitchell fully explores the ties between human rights abuses and US immigration policy in the 1980s, concluding that both Reagan and Bush sought to limit immigration in the face of conflicting pressures from ideology, broader foreign policy concerns, and the high cost of policing the border. Continuing political conflict in Latin America, mass media coverage of the abuse of individuals by the state, and the relative ease of population mobility will continue to force difficult policy choices in the future. William Walker delivers a resounding critique of US drug policy, arguing that tying drug control to security policies has encouraged Latin American leaders to devise autonomous anti-drug policies of their own. The US unwillingness to aid alternative development has helped jeopardize the sovereignty of drug-producing and drug-transiting nations and raised the specter of US intervention. Walker forecasts that, as Latin American democracies grow stronger, they may subsequently mount successful challenges to US drug control tactics and strategy.
Joseph Tulchin reviews the trajectory that US-Latin American relations have followed in the post-Cold War era to underscore the reemergence of a number of traditional US attitudes that were characteristic of earlier periods of US hegemony, the importance of geography as a factor in determining how much latitude the United States is willing to grant its neighbors in formulating their own policies, and the pervasive role played by US domestic politics. The relative inattention of the United States to the region, plus growing ties with other regions of the world, combine to provide the Latin Americans with a historic opportunity to define “their own positions with regard to the emerging global agenda” (p. 350). Editor Martz concludes the volume with a stirring essay on the theoretical and practical difficulties associated with the US “deeply entrenched” impulse to export democracy. Differences over how to define the political rights and institutional aspects of democracy, including the rights of the individual, contain the seeds of continuing discord. US support for democracy within the region has been ambiguous, often tolerating authoritarian regimes and taking less than assertive action when democracy was threatened (or nonexistent). Because, as Martz concludes, democracy’s fate in Latin America “can be influenced but by no means dictated from Washington” (p. 380), support for democracy needs to come from Latin American individuals and states themselves. Sounding a pessimistic note, Martz cautions that the “myriad conceptualizations of democracy” remain “hollow rhetoric,” with no impact on millions of Latin Americans.
The collection of essays provides valuable synopses of the major issues of US-Latin American relations within the limitations of a crisisoriented, multiple-author approach. The absence, by Martz’s own admission, of a “royal road to understanding” or the “resolution of controversy” (p. xviii) may mirror the frustration of many Latin Americanists who must grapple with multiple issues captured by domestic politics or long ignored by US administrations whose foreign policy priorities were soundly rooted in Europe and Asia. In questioning the level of the US commitment to democracy in the region, not to mention the transferability of its own vision of that democracy (despite its place as centerpiece of current US policy), Martz reinforces the observations of other contributors which suggest that US-Latin American policy may continue to be, for some time to come, long on rhetoric but short on accomplishment.
The magnitude of the challenges identified by the various analysts suggests that a true US-Latin American partnership, of the type idealized at the 1994 Summit of the Americas, may be more difficult to achieve than the smiling faces of the nations’ democratically-elected leaders then suggested. Even though Martz’s volume offers a clearly US perspective, with a decided lack of Latin American contributors, its concise, well-documented treatment of the last decade makes it a valuable tool for the classroom and undergraduate research. In his present, updated US-Latin American Relations, originally published in 1985 and revised in 1990, Michael J. Kryzanek has focused specifically on the impact of the Cold War. In short, this work consists of three long essays. The first presents a brief historical overview of the “Political, Economic, and Social Setting,” encapsulating a history of US political and economic ties to the region. The second, entitled the “Human Element in Latin American Policy Making in the Region,” covers the actors, both governmental and non-governmental, who take part in or influence the process. The third essay discusses “Key Issues of US-Latin American Relations.” While this work contains many updated statistics, much information, and concise recommendations for US action in Latin America in the post-Cold War world, its impact is weakened by numerous editorial oversights and failure to mount a convincing argument in its conclusion.
Kryzanek, Professor of Political Science at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, views the 1990s as offering an opportunity for the United States to right historic wrongs in its relations with Latin America. Employing a dependency framework, Kryzanek argues that this relationship has been “based on inequality of power and frequent [US] intervention to preserve political and economic interests” (p. 6). US arrogance, condescension, and a massive economic and cultural presence generated a nationalistic reaction within the region that converted the relationship into a “love-hate” syndrome.
According to Kryzanek, the United States has historically sought to dominate the region in ways consonant with its own historical development. While the United States supported Latin American independence, and the Monroe Doctrine proclaimed its interest in protecting the Hemisphere from foreign intervention, US aggression was made manifest by the US-Mexico War, indicating that the United States was the real threat in the Hemisphere. Following the Civil War, the United States turned expansionist eyes toward the Caribbean, and the SpanishAmerican War made the United States the “unquestionable force” in the Hemisphere (p. 41) Despite its tendency to wrap its policies in “lofty and humanitarian” Wilsonian rhetoric, the United States continued to embrace a course of expansionism and intervention in the 20th century that made the region politically dependent upon the United States. Most Republican presidents were especially antipathetic toward the region: Herbert Hoover, in particular, turned his back on the economic needs of his neighbors during the Depression; Eisenhower ignored and failed to address the root causes of unrest; Nixon employed Watergate-style tactics in undermining Allende in Chile; while Reagan extended support to authoritarian regimes, focused on terrorism instead of human rights, and failed to normalize relations with Cuba. Kryzanek looks upon the policies of George Bush with greater favour on the grounds that they were “responsible for turning the region toward market principles and further solidifying democratic governance” (p. 110). In Kryzanek’s opinion, most Democratic presidents have appeared to treat the region more benignly: Roosevelt “meant what he said about being a good neighbor;” the Kennedy/Johnson Alliance for Progress stimulated significant social progress (even if Johnson condoned authoritarianism in his anti-Communist fervor); Jimmy Carter exhibited “a mix of high principle, human compassion, belief in negotiations, and a reluctance to intervene in leftist revolutions” (p. 82); while, more recently, Bill Clinton has stressed economic issues and intervened in Haiti only when “there were few options left to the United States” (p. 114).
Kryzanek’s section on the “Elements of Latin American Policy Making” highlights constraints on US activism as well as the role that presidential personality plays in formulating that policy. Nevertheless, the bulk of this section is given over to summary descriptions of the various actors, both governmental and non-governmental, who have a part in making policy, complete with an organizational chart of a typical embassy. Business interests are well represented in policymaking, for “the relationship between government and the corporate sector in Latin American policy development has long been recognized as critical” (p. 159). Meanwhile, as the human rights lobby presses for a foreign policy founded on moral principles, other organizations (official as well as NGOs), the media, think-tanks, and public opinion have varying degrees of impact. If US policy toward Latin America is to be effective in the future, leaders from both the public and private sectors must rise “above narrow interests and personal prejudices” to meet regional and US needs (p. 203).
Like Martz, Kryzanek views the need to bolster “the fragile hold of democracy” and to adapt to rapid change as “Key Issues in US Latin American Relations.” Given that “Latin America has been unable to sustain a democratic tradition” (p. 207), supporting democracy becomes an especially difficult task. The United States has been forced to choose between “steadfast support of democratic principles” and toleration of authoritarianism, especially in the Central American conflict of the 1980s. Building stable economies and strong institutions must be complemented by developing a leadership that is committed to modernization, compromise, and reform. Even so, Kryzanek argues, the United States must recognize the limits of its influence in instilling democratic governance.
Analyzing contemporary trends, Kryzanek cites the many changes that have taken place in US-Latin American relations as weakening both the US desire and its ability to dominate its traditional sphere of influence. The United States finds its activism restrained by such things as: increased independence on the part of Latin Americans; foreign competition; economic diversification; the end of Communism; a US domestic political climate less supportive of unilateral interventionism; and decreased US economic resources. In Kryzanek’s opinion, the US response is reminiscent of the early years of the century, when “American capitalists roamed the region in search of new opportunities” (p. 254); today, however, US ties to the region are “driven by corporate interests and shaped by private rather than public contacts” (p. 254). To replace this approach, Kryzanek argues that the United States should recognize its “enormous responsibility to provide the leadership and resources to sustain stability” (p. 260) by committing itself to meaningful economic and social change, a “new humanitarianism” featuring constructive uses of US military power, and a new partnership based upon friendship and mutual respect.
Unfortunately, Kryzanek’s argument is weakened by numerous editorial oversights. Proofreading errors are common (pp. 27, 106, 132), commas are often missing, and two different versions of one paragraph appear on pages 114-115. There is only a partial updating of a previously published chapter and an egregious error on the timing of a major event. A 1982 article on US public opinion is cited to substantiate a conclusion that the “US public is basically cautious about a major commitment in El Salvador,” contributing to “the growing debate in Congress over the correct approach to stability in this vital region” (pp. 180-181). Clearly these statements should have been placed in a proper historical context for a work published in 1996. Equally difficult to understand is dating the coup against President Aristide, by the Haitian military, as occurring in 1992 (p. 113) when, in fact, it actually took place the previous year, on 29 September 1991.
More seriously, Kryzanek displays a certain lack of balance and reasoned argument that is unsettling for a work apparently designed as a text for undergraduates. Not only does the author’s focus on US arrogance fail to take into account the fact that many segments of Latin American society openly admire US culture (as Frederick Pike, discussed below, so carefully documents), but his assertion that the Nixon administration normalized US-Chilean relations after the Pinochet coup fails to acknowledge the years of official antagonism that followed. Even-handedness is equally absent from a 6-page treatise on death squads in El Salvador and Haiti that fails to mention the excesses of the Salvadoran guerrillas, including the cold-blooded killings of many rural mayors. Nor does he mention the mass assassinations of Fidel Castro and trampling of human rights in Cuba. His concluding argument – that US policy toward the region is being driven by US economic interests begs elaboration and documentation rather than a 2-page pronouncement based upon historical analogy. Such a working out of this thesis might shed light on how various features of US policy and actions lead to such a conclusion, including the decision to invade Haiti (peacefully or otherwise); the Clinton administration’s reluctance to admit Chile (or other nations) to the NAFTA; the US antagonism toward Colombia, in particular and as opposed to other nations, in pursuit of higher levels of cooperation against drug trafficking; and the relationship between goals of the business community on the one hand and objectives of the US environmental and sustainable development policy on the other. Neither does Kryzanek explain the process by which the United States delivers its Latin American policy to business interests. In short, even in the 1990s, critical readers still expect arguments to be reasoned if they are to be persuasive.
Meanwhile, Frederick Pike offers an entirely different perspective on inter-American relations. Like others before him, Pike seizes upon this point in history to review and revise impressions of the past era. According to FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy: Sixty Years of Generally Gentle Chaos, the factor that had the greatest influence over US policy towards Latin America was not the Cold War but, rather, the increasingly strong cultural exchange and interdependence that grew up between the United States and its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. He credits the Good Neighbor policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in particular, as playing a crucial role in defining the relations between the United States and Latin America today, some 50 years after FDR’s death. The Good Neighbor policy, which Pike portrays as the willingness of the United States to “at least go through the motions of becoming better neighbors,” created a new empathy for the United States within Latin America, facilitated a post-World War II marriage of convenience, and accelerated cultural change by “making the gringo appear less the ogre whose ways had to be rejected.” By laying the foundation for eventual Latin American acceptance of an “American Century,” the Good Neighbor policy fundamentally transformed relations between the Colossus of the North and its neighbors in the Hemisphere.
Pike borrows from both chaos theory and his close personal experience with contemporary cultural and economic developments to depict a Hemisphere that was undergoing cultural metamorphosis. Cultural changes in the 1920s and 1930s were so pronounced that they led North Americans and Latin Americans to the same point, although by different paths, breathing life into the spirit of Good Neighbor policy. A propitious environment for broader ties was created by the following: (a) changes within a “Latin Americanized” United States (including fragmentation within Protestantism and Catholicism alike), (b) disillusionment with capitalism on the one hand and “excessive individualism” on the other; (c) the rise of new intellectual currents (including agrarianism, nativism, corporatism, and Herbert Eugene Bolton’s theory of a common American history); (d) the increasing respectability of second-generation Mexican immigrants; together with (e) recognition of the cultural accomplishments of newly-prominent Americans of a variety of races and creeds. Exposed to the new currents, Latin Americans became more amenable to US designs and took every opportunity to portray their culture in a more positive light. At certain crucial junctures, this convergence was facilitated by the character of Roosevelt himself, whose aristocratic, populist, and personalistic style of governing struck a responsive chord in his Latin American counterparts.
Pike especially credits the Depression with creating a “common culture of economic adversity” that served as a catalyst to break down rigid stereotypes and culturally-defined conventions. The hardships of the Great Depression inspired widespread disillusion with capitalism, undermined the notion of the Protestant ethic, increased sympathy for the poor, dark-skinned, and primitive within the United States and, in general, spawned a newfound sense of fraternity among the American peoples. The Depression rekindled the “utopian strain of American thought,” allowing corporatists and Left-leaning Latin American intellectuals to establish a level of mutual respect that broke down their previous mutually-antagonistic views. The European dimensions of the Depression also stoked a profound disillusionment with the Old World that fed American isolationism and a willingness to detach all of the Americas from the “Old World contagion.”
The conduct of the Good Neighbor policy reflected Roosevelt’s uncanny ability to impose order over a chaotic bureaucracy by balancing “hard” forces, eager to impose capitalism in its most severe form, with “soft” forces, who believed in a common history, or mystical bonds, that “set apart all occupants of the New World.” Though Roosevelt promised to support the non-intervention policy he had inherited, he continued to exercise US influence by whatever means necessary, including the presence of troops. On economic issues, he supported moderation when it served his purposes, ignoring the pleas of big business to confront the Mexicans over the oil expropriation of 1938 and responding to the rumors of a coup backed by US business interests by sending his vice-president to attend the inauguration of President Manuel Avila Camacho in 1940. Far from evidencing a romantic altruism, these actions reflected FDR’s willingness to compromise in order to assure the United States continued access to markets and preserve its long-term economic influence. Another key to the longevity of the Good Neighbor policy resided in FDR’s facility in manipulating major bureaucratic actors in his administration via his remarkable ability to bring opposing viewpoints and personalities into accommodation.
During the last years of the Roosevelt administration, the Good Neighbor policy took a back seat to the exigencies of World War II and the concomitant restoration of US hubris. While the Good Neighbor policy had been instrumental in furthering US security interests during the early stages of that war, the growing globalism of US interests in the last years of the war gradually relegated Latin American policy to the “minor leagues.” The removal of Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles (1943) and the challenge to Argentina’s Juan Per6n, first by Secretary of State Cordell Hull and then by Ambassador Spruille Braden, symbolized the waning of the moderating influences that had governed the Good Neighbor era. FDR’s replacement by an “archetypical gringo” – Harry S. Truman – and Latin America’s postwar demands for exceptionalism allowed the former Good Neighbor approach to be superseded by more critical, and pejorative, North American attitudes.
The effect of the Cold War was to give rise to a modern variant of the old FDR policy that Pike terms the “new Good Neighbor” policy, a modus vivendi that rested, even more than the original version, on “feigned civility and charades of mutual respect.” Much like the 1930s, the post-Cold War era has revived the importance of Latin America to the United States, brought momentous cultural changes within the United States, and witnessed the continuing conflict between corporatism and private enterprise within Latin America. A North-South synthesis marked by an “unmistakable and ineradicable Latin presence in the United States” and an “irreversible” US cultural and material presence in Latin America is well underway.
The strength of FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy lies in its richly provocative interpretive framework. Pike has cleverly reconstructed political events within the framework of a Hemispheric social and cultural rapprochement in a masterful, entertaining fashion. Did the North American protest at the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti (1927) forecast the vitality of an inclusionary strain in the US polity that would be favorable to better US-Latin American ties? Did FDR’s mischievous grin conceal a Machiavellian manipulation of the political agenda that included his Latin American policy? Did the vast increase in cultural exchanges – in art, entertainment, and intellectual dialogue – have a decisive impact on the course of political events in the Americas? If so, Pike’s account suggests that the Good Neighbor policy – and, by implication, relations between the US and Latin America today – were, and are, far more dependent upon broader currents of cultural change than has previously been acknowledged.
Equally provocative is Pike’s unwillingness to distinguish between appearance and reality in the conduct of the Good Neighbor policy. Pike implies that the Good Neighbor policy may have been an elaborate ruse to convince weaker partners in the Hemisphere that the United States really cared about their destinies when, in fact, the United States was primarily safeguarding its own economic and security interests. Pike leaves the reader to speculate on whether he considers the Good Neighbor policy a ploy designed to foster only the appearance of good intentions, or whether it represented a genuine desire to pursue a less imperious approach to the rest of the Americas during a time of special trial and hardship. This dichotomy is epitomized by Pike’s treatment of FDR himself: an enigma who might (or might not) have really cared about his Latin neighbors. While Pike’s philosophy of realpolitik may make such a distinction unnecessary, the reader is still left to wonder whether Pike views the Good Neighbor policy more as a “noble lie” or as a mutually beneficial convergence of forces, events, and personalities.
Some may find themselves uncomfortable with Pike’s whimsical style, which allows him to toy with ideas without listing references, and to ponder several hypothetical situations that could have, but did not, occur. For example, Pike speculates that had Fidel Castro gained control of Cuba in 1929, instead of 1959, he would have been hailed as the “new Bolivar” by a Latin America that had yet to experience the Good Neighbor policy, instead of being largely ignored. Others may cite extensive US interventionism (both overt and covert) during the Cold War to counter Pike’s suggestion that the Good Neighbor policy served to moderate Cold War extremism. Nevertheless, such inferences, far from implying intellectual irresponsibility, may well be the duty of a senior scholar intent upon sharing the insights gained from a lifetime of grappling with complex cultural, economic, and political changes in the Americas.
This masterful treatise fulfills the author’s wish to place a capstone on a lifetime of work, representing nearly five decades of research and writing about Western Hemisphere relations. Such a thought-provoking synthesis merits the careful review of every serious observer of US-Latin American relations.
Together, these works suggest that the end of the Cold War provides an important opportunity for scholars to discern new directions, or rediscover old truths, regarding the dominant forces in interAmerican relations. Given the dynamic developments that take place daily in the areas of trade integration, environmental degradation, the drug traffic, democratic development, indigenous and peasant activism, and globalization of commerce, the opportunity for modern scholars to contribute to constructive dialogue regarding the region’s future has never been more promising.
Richard Downes is Senior Research Associate at the North-South Center, University of Miami (FL). A specialist in inter-American security issues, he formerly served as a Latin American specialist with the US Air Force, which included assignment to the Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. He is the author of several articles on US-Latin American relations.
Copyright Journal of Interamerican Studies Summer 1997
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