For Latin America, the Cold War was anything but cold. Nor was it the so-called “long peace” afforded the world’s superpowers by their nuclear standoff. In this book, the first to take an international perspective on the postwar decades in the region, Hal Brands sets out to explain what exactly happened in Latin America during the Cold War, and why it was so traumatic.
Tracing the tumultuous course of regional affairs from the late 1940s through the early 1990s, Latin America’s Cold War delves into the myriad crises and turning points of the period—the Cuban revolution and its aftermath; the recurring cycles of insurgency and counter-insurgency; the emergence of currents like the National Security Doctrine, liberation theology, and dependency theory; the rise and demise of a hemispheric diplomatic challenge to U.S. hegemony in the 1970s; the conflagration that engulfed Central America from the Nicaraguan revolution onward; and the democratic and economic reforms of the 1980s.
Most important, the book chronicles these events in a way that is both multinational and multilayered, weaving the experiences of a diverse cast of characters into an understanding of how global, regional, and local influences interacted to shape Cold War crises in Latin America. Ultimately, Brands exposes Latin America’s Cold War as not a single conflict, but rather a series of overlapping political, social, geostrategic, and ideological struggles whose repercussions can be felt to this day.
An outstanding book, well written and extremely well conceived in its coverage and structure. This is a major contribution to cold war history, and will undoubtedly become the standard work on Latin America and the cold war. Brands has produced an important study that provides a real service to readers.
In an entertaining yet rigorous book, Brands walks the reader through the key events of the cold war in Latin America. Contrary to the thesis that revolutions are inevitable throughout Latin America, he shows that they are actually rare, and that conservatism more nearly reflects the trajectory of Latin America than revolution. This intelligent, sensible, and convincing work argues that Latin America's international conflicts require a comprehensive understanding of the perspectives of all the key actors, not just the United States.
Based on prodigious research in twelve countries, this feisty volume challenges dominant trends in the literature and moves the debate to a new level by questioning the hegemonic status of the United States, attributing real menace to the Soviet threat, and ascribing a large measure of agency to Latin Americans. Brands tells their story with perspicacity. Specialists and general readers alike will find this book illuminating.
Brands takes aim at those mainstream historians writing on Western Hemispheric relations who have portrayed the United States as an overwhelmingly powerful hegemon whose destructive interventions are responsible for the region's sufferings. Delving into Latin American archives, Brands counters that Latin Americans have been active participants in their own history--in both their domestic politics and international diplomacy. During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow often had poor understandings of these local dynamics, so their ill-designed policies frequently failed; even those strategies that momentarily succeeded generated blowback and unintended consequences. As Brands persuasively argues, the true story of Latin America's role in the Cold War lies in the dynamic interactions between international forces and domestic actors. Tragically, both the United States and the Soviet Union exacerbated the region's already polarized politics, and the ensuing violent clashes rendered asunder fragile democracies. Fortunately, today many citizens in Latin America and many in Washington policy circles have drawn the right lessons from history, seeking to strengthen democratic institutions--and not overreacting to the provocations of the latest crop of neopopulists.
Globally, analysts claim that the Cold War provided stability and structure. Brands finds a different outcome in Latin America of the four decades of the Cold War (i.e., the 1940s through the early 1990s)...Brands's study will stand as the definitive work in the years ahead.
- 408 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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