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Topics: Imperialism. Places: Latin America. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a historian, writer, teacher, and activist. The evening before the invasion of Iraq, I was giving a talk at our main leftist meeting place in the San Francisco Mission District.
Of course, the long planned topic for the evening—looking back on the s antiwar movement—was sidelined by anxious discussion of the imminent invasion of Iraq. I was stunned when an admired leftist comrade began fervently invoking similarities between the Bush administration and the Roman Empire, analogizing Roman legions and the U.
Others piled on, developing the comparison further, also talking hopefully about the ultimate fall of the Roman Empire. I interrupted the ancient history discussion, asking why not look at U. Silence met my remark, and the discussion of Rome continued. Grandin expresses what many Latin Americanists and Latin Americans have been saying, not only for the past five years, but also for decades.
I complained three years ago in Monthly Review July—August that although laudatory acknowledgments of U. Bush was way outside U. Soon after 9—11, editors Tom Engelhardt and Steve Fraser, who are also historians and writers, launched the publication project in conjunction with Metropolitan Books. None of the books in the series provides a systematic analysis of imperialism and its relationship with capitalism, nor do they go back beyond a half-century in tracing U. The authors are nearly all Cold War intellectuals, except for Chomsky and Klare of course, and except for Grandin whose book expands and deepens the scope of the project, but also fails to deal with imperialism as an extension of and inherent to capitalism.
Grandin dates U. Maybe it was manifest destiny. The development of the U. Marines captured a French privateer in the Caribbean. Between the first and second the attack on Algiers Barbary wars, the U. Navy invaded Spanish Mexico on the Pacific ; operated out of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico against Spanish and French privateers —10 ; seized Spanish western Florida ; attacked Spanish east Florida ; built a fort in the Marquesas Islands —14 ; took Pensacola, Florida ; and engaged pirates in the Caribbean — Engagements in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean were continuous and U.
The United States raided the slave trade in Africa during —26; began tormenting Spanish Cuba and Puerto Rico in ; and landed in Greece in Not until the middle of the book does Grandin get to the crux of imperialism, that is, capitalism. The first was the Spanish conquest; the second by U.
Grandin sees this process as circular rather than linear, that is, the present phase as a regression to the first phase of unbridled, raw looting of treasure and installations of governments.
While most studies of U. He also notes the continuum in U. It bound the Americas together in a series of political, economic, military, and cultural treaties and led to the creation of an assortment of multilateral institutions…. The withdrawal of troops from the Caribbean, the renegotiation of treaties, and the increased tolerance of economic nationalism gave Roosevelt a better claim to legitimacy as he advocated for an end to colonialism and militarism elsewhere….
Despite its many lapses in practice, the Good Neighbor policy replaced such a holy writ with not only tolerance but pragmatic pluralism. Nostalgia for the New Deal era during the past decade is perhaps the principal barrier to the formation of a true left opposition in the United States. Many Latin Americans also pine for the good old days of soft imperialism. In fact, successful imperialism operates without colonies and occupations.
There may have been less tension between the United States and its indirect colonies ruled by dictators and oligarchies during the Roosevelt era, but the impoverishment of the majority of people continued to grow, while the rulers got richer. Grandin does this extremely well. He writes:. Over the course of my writing this book, as the troubled occupation of Iraq dragged on, Central America kept showing up in the oddest ways.
Here was Elliott Abrams—the man who in the s so twisted the concept of human rights that it could justify the homicidal activities of the Contras and the Salvadoran military—being appointed by Bush to lead a global crusade for democracy [and since has taken up a post on the National Security Council for Middle East affairs].
There was Dick Cheney in the vice presidential debate telling the electorate that El Salvador, with 50 percent of its population below the poverty level, was a model for what his administration hoped to achieve in Iraq.
Instead it is a typical trade book by a veteran correspondent, published by a major commercial press Times Books. Imperialism is of course never connected to capitalism. Still, he is such a good journalist that his book contains lots of surprises. On the evening of March 19,shortly before announcing that the United States was about to launch its long-expected invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush sat behind an antique desk in the White House and practiced reading his speech…in the Treaty Room, at the same desk from which he had announced the invasion of Afghanistan seventeen months before.
It was one of his favorite rooms in the White House, at least in part because of the imposing painting that is the first thing visitors see when they enter. It was a document of surrender that the United States forced on Spain after defeating its army in Cuba.
More important, it was a declaration that the United States was now able and willing to depose foreign governments. That made it especially appropriate for Bush to use the Treaty Room as he prepared to launch the invasion of Iraq. Stephen Kinzer is a veteran journalist, likes a good story, and is quite a creative writer, with often gripping but sometimes purple prose.
By doing so he is able to skip the first century of U. It poses and tries to answer two fundamental questions. First, why did the United States carry out these operations? Second, what have been their long-term consequences? Kinzer does not answer those questions satisfactorily. Imperialism, much less capitalism, is not considered, although Kinzer does argue that the motive for overthrow was nearly always economic.
That answers his question, why. As to long-term effects, he claims the obvious: they were destructive. This book treats only cases in which Americans played the decisive role in deposing a regime. Chile, for example, makes the list because, although many factors led to the coup there, the American role was decisive. Indonesia, Brazil, and the Congo do not, because American agents played only subsidiary roles in the overthrow of their governments during the s.
Nor do Mexico, Haiti, or the Dominican Republic, countries the United States invaded but whose leaders it did not depose. He does not explain why the Greek coup in that installed the Generals is not included even in his explanation of the exceptions to his rule. CIA operative Gust Avrakotos was instrumental in destroying Greek freedom, based there from toand went on to arm and organize the Afghan Mujahadin during the s.
The section on the CIA coups overthrowing the democratically elected presidents of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh and Guatemala Jacobo Arbenz are the best researched and solid — Strong tribes and nations have been attacking weak ones since the beginning of history.
That was not the case with the emergence of the United States as a world power. In discussing the of the invasion of Grenada, and apparently contending that U. Kinzer reveals his shallow understanding of U. British and U. However, exhibiting his journalistic skills, Kinzer has dug up many damning quotations from U.
Another was uttered at the moment of occupying Puerto Rico by the U. Kinzer also fails to understand the vital necessity for occasional displays of extreme exemplary violence to deter resistance. Yet, the goal of regional blocs makes perfect sense. The five small countries that make up the former Spanish colonies in Central America, which under pre-Spanish order and under Spanish rule made up a unified territory, liberated themselves as one nation, the Central American Foreign woman german french Grandin North Dakota latin american, which Anglo-American intervention factionalized and destroyed.
Since then, each of those small countries have competed with each other in the U. Never have the armies of the North brought peace, prosperity, or democracy to the peoples of Asia, Africa, or Latin America. Dear Reader, we make this and other articles available for free online to serve those unable to afford or access the print edition of Monthly Review.
If you read the magazine online and can afford a print subscription, we hope you will consider purchasing one. Please visit the MR store for subscription options. Thank you very much. Topics: Imperialism Places: Latin America.
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