Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy
   Development & Aid
   Regional Influence
      Latin America
      Middle East
      North America

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

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The Monroe Doctrine proclaimed that just as the United States would abstain from intervening in Europe (a promise not kept), it would also prevent Europeans from intervening in the Americas. As implemented, it became a rationale for the U.S. government to keep order in its “own backyard”—even against internal change seen as contrary to its interests or the interest of politically connected American firms. Consequently, Latin America has been the scene of repeated (and often unsuccessful) U.S. military intervention, in places such as Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama. In recent years, the “war on drugs” has furnished rationalizations for intervention in Colombia, Panama, and Peru. Nonmilitary intervention, including military assistance and “foreign aid,” was common throughout the region.

This longstanding policy of assuring the existence of friendly regimes and access to resources has cost the people throughout the Americas dearly in money and freedom. It has also guaranteed a stream of military and political crises to which a beefed-up U.S. government could respond, accumulating even more power in the process.

Throughout the 20th century, U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America moved largely between two poles: direct intervention and condescendence. Intervention spans everything from military occupations in the early part of the century to the current “war on drugs” in the Andean region. Condescendence had its pillars in Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, John F. Kennedy’s Alliance For Progress, foreign aid and International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailouts in the 1990s. These various policies failed to strengthen civil society in Latin America vis-a-vis the various Governments or political factions they were supposed to help or undermine, and made it difficult for Latin Americans to distinguish between authentic capitalist reform and “crony capitalism” of the sort that keeps recurring throughout the region. None of this should make us lose sight of the fact the the primary responsibility for Latin America’s backwardness lies with Latin Americans themselves.

Also, click here for Bibliography for Crisis and Leviathan.

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General: Latin America is the offpsring of many cultures and traditions, all of which contain elements that, under different political institutions, could bring prosperity to those countries.

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Hanke, Lewis. All Mankind Is One: A Study of the Disputation Between Bartolom de Las Casas and Juan Gins de Sepulveda in 1550 on the Intellectual and Religious Capacity of the American Indians. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1974. The early pioneers of classical liberalism in the Spanish School of Salamanca not only developed advanced economic theories of markets but the ethics of individual rights.

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Guatemala: Guatemala enjoys a rich cultural heritage as the home of a large population of Maya descent. For much of its independent history, it was not able to break away from a succession of strongmen and military rulers and, in the latter part of the 20th century, Marxist guerrillas seeking to impose state socialism. U.S. intervention in 1954 helped strengthen military rule, which directly or indirectly held the country in its grip until well into the 1980s. When democracy was established, it was not accompanied by deep political and economic reform. The resurgence of a party led by a former military dictator has postponed hopes of such reforms and brought corruption back on the agenda.

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Informal Economy: The informal economy (“black market”) is the creative, market response of the poor to legal and political obstacles placed on ordinary citizens by a system based on privilege.

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Mexico: Mexico is currently the United States’ second most important trading partner but its potential remains unrealized. Many Mexican public figures have exposed the country’s flawed political institutions, and reform has stalled after an impressive period that saw the end of rule since 1929 by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

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Nicaragua: In few countries has U.S. foreign policy aroused so many passions, going back to the 1930s. During the Cold War, Nicaragua became a bloody theater of war and atrocities in the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Sandinista regime gave way to democracy in 1990, but the policies of socialism and a culture of corruption that reached its peak with the recent government of the Liberal Party have kept Nicaragua from developing its potential.

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Panama: The Panama Canal is one of the earliest symbols of U.S. interventionism in Latin America in the 20th century. After failed attempts by the French to build the canal, President Theodore Roosevelt bought the construction rights and pressured Colombia to accept a $10 million offer for the land strip across the isthmus. When Colombia refused, a local revolt backed by a U.S. battleship and a detachment of U.S. Marines forced Panama to break away from Colombia. Roosevelt immediately guaranteed Panama’s independence and leased the canal zone in perpetuity for $10 million and an annuity of $250,000. He also secured other sites for defense and seized sanitary control of Panama and Colon City. Throughout most of the 20th century, the Panama Canal remained a focal point of U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America. Most of the Panama’s politics came to be defined in terms of support or opposition to foreign interference and control, a factor that contributed to strengthening authoritarian tendencies on both sides of the divide. It would take almost a century for the canal to revert to Panamanian control.

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Peru: A long history of corporatism, mercantilism and institutionalized privilege has kept the country from achieving widespread prosperity.

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Revolution: The United States has pursued a long-standing policy of covert and military interventionism in Latin American affairs in order to impose proxy regimes loyal to U.S. interests. Despite being fueled in response to the widespread corruption, hardship, and repression of oligarghic rule, most subsequent revoluntinary movements in Latin America have brought economic and social misery to the citizenry as a result of a misguided quest for state socialism and a campaign of mass terrorism. The effects have only compounded domestic and international support for authoritarian solutions and “crony” capitalism.

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Hagopian, Mark N. The Phenomenon of Revolution. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1975.

LaFeber, Walter. Inevitable Revolutions: The United States and Central America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.

Williams, William Appleman. America Confronts a Revolutionary World. New York: William Morrow & Company, 1976.

U.S. Empire: Its economic and military might places the United States in a unique position vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Its efforts to impose its will across Latin America and other less-developed nations have had entirely counterproductive results and created many enemies.

Chomsky, Noam. “Intervention in Vietnam and Central America: Parallels and Differences,” Monthly Review, 37, 4 (September 1985), pp. 1-29.

Haring, Clarence H. South America Looks at the U.S. New York: The Macmilan Company, 1928.

Kwitny, Jonathan. Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984.

Maingot, Anthony P. The United States and the Caribbean: Challenges of an Asymmetrical Relationship. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

Musicant, Ivan. The Banana Wars: A History of United States Military Intervention in Latin America From the Spanish-American War to the Invasion of Panama. London: Macmillan, 1990.

O’Shaughnessy, Hugh. Grenada: An Eyewitness Account of the U.S. Invasion and the Caribbean History That Provoked It. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1984.

Pastor, Robert A. and Jorge Castañeda. Limits to Friendship: The United States and Mexico. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1988.

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Raico, Ralph. “Review of the book Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World since 1776 by Walter A. McDougall, The Independent Review, Vol. III, No. 2 (Fall 1998), pp. 273-278.

Rangel, Carlos. The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship With The United States. New York: Harcourt, 1977.

Rodó, José Enrique. Ariel. Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1991.

Scheman, Ronald. The Alliance For Progress: A Retrospective. New York: Westport and London, Praeger, 1988.

Vargas Llosa, Alvaro. “Back from the Dead—With U.S. Help,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 18, 2002.

Williams, William Appleman. Empire as a Way of Life: An Essay on the Causes and Character of America's Present Predicament Along With a Few Thoughts About an Alternative. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Venezuela: Venezuela is a classic example of how statism and mercantilism can squander a nation’s wealth. After the 1930s, the country experienced an oil-based boom that put it well ahead of most of its neighbors. By the 1960s, despite ever-increasing oil production, the nation began its decline. Democratic politics came hand in hand with interventionism and corruption. More than $300 billion (U.S.) worth of oil have been wasted since then. Today, Venezuela is in the hands of an authoritarian government and grinding poverty.

Ellner, Steve and Daniel Hellinger, eds. Venezuelan Politics in the Chavez Era: Class, Polarization and Conflict. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003.

Gomez, Emeterio. Salidas Para una Economia Petrolera. Publicaciones CELAT, Editorial Futuro, 1993.

Sabino, Carlos. De Como un Estado Rico Nos Ilevo a la Pobreza: Hacia una Nueva Politica Social. Caracas, Venezuela: Editorial Panapo, 1994.

—. Empleo y Gasto Publico en Venezuela: Una Aproximacion al Estudio de la Influencia del Estado Sobre la Estructura Social. Caracas, Venezuela: Editorial Pampa, 1988.

Sabino, Carlos and Jesus Rodriguez. Social Security in Venezuela. Caracas, Venezuela: CEDICE, 1992.

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—. Perfiles de America Latina: Ocho Visiones Venezolanas. Caracas, Venezuela: Monte Avila Editores Latinoamericana, 1992.

World Bank and International Monetary Fund: Many of the policies that have contributed to Latin America’s stagnation, instability and misery have been inspired or supported by multilateral bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Caufield, Catherine. Masters of Illusion: The World Bank and the Poverty of Nations. New York: Henry Holt & Company, Inc, 1997.

Reynolds, Alan. “Imperial Rule: Distant and Out of Touch, the IMF Ruins Economies Great and Small,” National Review, November 9, 1998.

Schuler, Kurt. “A Currency Board Beats IMF Rx,” Wall Street Journal, February 18, 1998.

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