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Overthrow By Stephen Kinzer - Essay Example

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In his work Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer documents what he calls “the most extreme set of cases [of regime change]: those in which the United States arranged to depose foreign leaders.”…
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Overthrow By Stephen Kinzer
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The first thing one must do to understand the series of regime changes represented in Overthrow is to note the ways and reasons the methods of regime change differed throughout history. The first set of regime changes during the Imperial Era, were marked by a unique combination of willingness to use military force and a frankness about the fact that the United States had in fact orchestrated the changes in power. One can see an example of both principles in the regime change orchestrated in Panama in the early 20th century. At the outset of the 20th century, Panama was a colony of Columbia, and the Columbian government was unwilling to allow Americans to build a canal across part of their country, and rejected a treaty that would have given America the right to build one. In response to this America undertook military action in support of a rebellion it started, including sending warships to blockade ports in Panama. This rebellion, with American military support, was eventually successful, leading to a pro-American government in Panama. When questioned about this forceful ousting of the Columbian regime, then president Roosevelt simply said that it was Columbia’s own fault for ignoring “the plainest warnings” that America would take power if Columbia did not capitulate. This shows the way that in this Era, America was more than happy to use military force, and was so bold to even freely admit it would depose regimes who opposed American interests. Following the close of the Second World War and the outbreak of the Cold War, America had to start becoming more discreet about the ways it took power. During this period, the Soviet Union “limited [American] freedom of action,”4 because America could not risk undertaking activities which could bring on a Soviet reaction, which could possibly escalate to a war between the Soviet Union and America – a “cataclysmic” nuclear war neither side would truly win.5 These meant American operations were driven underground – covert operations such as financing opposition rebels or political parties (as Nixon did when trying to oust Allende)6 or secret assassinations (such as the “several times the CIA has tried to kill” Fidel Castro).7 Following World War II America could no longer openly attack foreign leaders, and could no longer admit to their actions publicly. With the winding down of military tensions and the eventual downfall of the Soviet Union, the major restriction on American military might was removed. The United States responded by engaging in an ever more forceful foreign policy, Probably the first instance of this new willingness to engage in full blown military conflict was the American Invasion of Grenada, conducted in 1983.8 One of the major distinguishing features of Warfare during the era of Invasion was that, though militarily America could once again act with impunity, the ideology of both the world and American ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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