In 2000, the then presidential candidate George W. Bush declared “Our future cannot be separated from the future of Latin America” . The remark referred to the development of a free trade area between the two Americas. However, the strong hemispheric ties which link the two Americas surpass the economic sphere. As early as the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, stating that the United States would fight to protect Latin America's independence from European colonizers, the United States adopted an active role in the leadership of an American alliance. The twentieth century presented numerous challenges: two world wars, the Cold war and the recent period of globalization. In 1939 US Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace declared: “We are challenged to build here in this hemisphere a new culture which is neither Latin American nor North American but genuinely inter-American.” What has been the nature of this relationship? How have the changing world orders affected the United States' foreign policy towards Latin America? Our study will concentrate on one major period: the shift from the Cold War to a world supposedly free of international threat. I will first measure the evolution of ideology in US foreign policy, before concentrating on the impact of economic and national security concerns, and finally evaluating how these considerations determine the strategies used by the United States towards Latin America.
With the end of the Cold War, there ended a period of international tension, marked by ideological conflict between the Soviet model and the liberal capitalist democracies led by the United States. However other challenges have since arisen leading to the United States once again taking a leading role to establish a new world order. The Cold War is traditionally seen as an ideological conflict between East and West, mainly between the Soviet communist model and the United States' liberal democracy. The impact of the “Red Scare” on the minds of American citizens was considerable, as can be observed through phenomena such as McCarthyism in the 1950s . This growing anti-communist fever was accompanied by strong measures in foreign policy, notably leading to the Containment Doctrine initiated by George Kennan, working for the State Department, in 1946 to fight the spread of communism . To many observers, it was essentially ideology that guided US foreign policy in Latin America at the time of the Cold war conflict . The US felt it had a responsibility to protect Latin American countries against the subversion of communism. Representative Gardner Withrow in 1957 stated to Congress: “We owe it to Christian and anti-Communist governments to help search out and expose the Communists and their plans.” The US had a moral responsibility towards Latin America. With the end of the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 Western liberal democracy can be said to have triumphed. Authors such as Fukuyama see in this development a decisive and final step in the evolution of mankind: “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War [...] the final form of human government.” Although we have seen that the end of the Cold War ended a significant world order, this has not meant the end of conflicts throughout the world. On the contrary, as expressed by one US defense attaché in 1994: “We are now faced with a world that is somewhat gray and blurred, in which fear of communists has been replaced by fear of international terrorism, drug corruption, organized crime, contraband arms trafficking, and even industrial espionage.” These new wars have special relevance in the United States' relationship with Latin America. In the case of drug trafficking, at the turn of the new millennium, Colombia was the source of 80% of the cocaine used in the United States and Europe . This has lead successive US governments to fight “narco-guerillas”, associating drugs traffickers with left-wing guerilla groups such as The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia , described as leading “a campaign of terror against Colombian and US citizens” by the US attorney General John Ashcroft. With 514 million dollars directed to Colombia in 2002 , under the Andean Regional Initiative, notably through military aid, the US has clearly committed itself to fighting what it sees as the source of drugs and terrorist movements. We will now see that more than democracy it is a whole new world order which is being built by the United States in an ideological call for universal liberal democracy. With the end of the Cold War many scholars see a rise in instability and a need to construct a new equilibrium in international relations. As expressed by Kenneth Waltz: “The longest peace yet known rested on two pillars: bipolarity and nuclear weapons.” In order to face these new challenges the US must be ready to fight and consequently to re-arm. This has been the call of neoconservatives, as illustrated in the report “Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources” of 2000, advocating a strong military to face the challenges of the post-Cold War world. This is part of a broader Project for the New American Century, and the Bush Doctrine presented by the scholars Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly as “A reassertion that lasting peace and security is to be won and preserved by asserting both US military strength and American political principles.” They claim that it is the US's responsibility to lead the world to peace and prosperity. Similarly, the Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich affirmed at a foreign affairs conference in March 1995: “The United States must lead. There's no replacement. I didn't say dictate. I didn't say dominate. I said lead.”
The end of the Cold War certainly represented a revolution in the ideology of the United States Foreign Policy. The US has seen its position evolve to that of the leader of a “Pax Americana” promoting peace and democracy in a new world order, concentrating on its war on terror and drugs. Although the public discourse has evolved, we will now see that behind these announced aims, there often remains an important, if not primary goal of US Foreign Policy, that of national interest. Opposed to the orthodox conception of the Cold war as an ideological conflict between East and West, the revisionist movement, best incarnated by scholars such as Noam Chomsky or the historian Gabriel Kolko who inspired him, denounce it as just another example of the United States' battle to preserve its interest in a world order which it dominates. Their bottom-line argument is that “US Foreign policy is overwhelmingly driven by the geoeconomic interests of US capital and the construction of a world order conducive to those interests.” According to this train of thought the post-Cold War period would mark continuity, as both periods are marked by the domination Capitalist economies exerted over developing countries. Kennan, an important figure in the definition of American foreign policy during the Cold War, declared in 1948, referring to the strong inequalities in world wealth: “Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this position of disparity”, ending his speech with “The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.” It is here clear the aim of the battle is an material one. This clearly counters the concept of the Cold War as ideological. The revisionist theory can be backed by numerous events such as the US backed coup in 1954 in Guatemala against President Jacobo Arbenz, led by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. The tension between Guatemala and the US originated in the 1944 “October Revolution” and the many reforms such as a new Labor Code which threatened United Fruit, an important American corporation with strong political ties. Although the Eisenhower government refused to associate US fears about Guatemala with United Fruit, it clearly saw these new reforms as a threat. When John Foster Dulles became Secretary of State he declared: “The current political situation in Guatemala is adverse to US interests.” If the Cold War represented a menace to US economic interests, the primacy of US national and economic interests post-Cold War is also relevant. Bill Clinton, the first American president after the Cold War, declared in his budget message of 1994: “We have put our economic competitiveness at the heart of our foreign policy.” The role of foreign policy as a means to protect US economic interests is also apparent today as the Bush administration has invested 98 million dollars solely to form a brigade for the protection of the Cano Limon oil pipeline in Colombia , thus guaranteeing its access to oil sources in Latin America. Because of the proximity of Latin American countries, the accent on national security is especially relevant in the US' foreign policy. This has a major impact on the US population, as expressed by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs John Bushnell in 1980: “The thing that tends to worry most of your constituents and most of the American people is that they have learned enough geography to know that these places are pretty close to us.” (before a House Appropriations Subcommittee). Two examples illustrate this need to constantly reassure the American people by keeping any menace away: Kennedy dealing with the Soviet threat in Cuba, and Clinton handling the immigration challenge in the 1990s. When in February 1960 Cuba and the Soviets arranged an important trade deal, this was seen as a clear threat to the US public, in the heat of the Cold War . The reaction was immediate: a plan to overthrow Castro with the 50 million dollar budget Operation Mongoose, and eight failed assassination attempts against Castro. As Roberto Campos, a Brazilian economist and diplomat described: “I found that Saxons are not as rational as they claim to be. In this particular instance of Cuba they were extremely emotional and quite irrational.” Clinton perhaps best represents the importance of domestic pressure influencing foreign policy, as seen through his immigration policies. Although in his 1992 presidential campaign Clinton had denounced Bush's heartless attitude towards Haitian refugees, he rapidly reversed his position once in power, thus revealing “the importance that the refugee problem would play in the new administration's foreign policy calculations.” Clinton would adopt even stricter measures to avoid floods of “boat people”: the secret agreement with Cuba on May 6th 1995 declared Cuban migrants would no longer automatically be considered refugees . Robert A. Pastor resumed Clinton's international intervention policy: “the Clinton administration seemed to make these decisions by weighing the different pressures from domestic constituencies.” Domestic considerations thus seem to be the final argument in foreign policy, whether under the threat of the Cold War or when facing new challenges.
Having established that national interest is a major concern in US foreign policy, how are the strategies employed by the US to protect these interests affected by the evolving ideological discourse? The ideological shift mentioned in the first part of the essay has forced the US to limit its coercive means and to develop more consensual ones, notably in the promotion of its liberal democratic ideals. We will now see, however, that although the threat has evolved, the US still assume a leadership role. Not only does this reveal a form of paternalism, it also serves to justify a form of economic and military domination, which has led to Latin America's underdevelopment. In 1821 Secretary of State John Quincy Adams said about the leaders of rebelling Latin Americans: “I wish well to their cause; but I have not yet seen and do not now see any prospect that they will establish free or liberal institutions of government.” The United States' feeling of political superiority to, and responsibility for Latin American development started early, and has been a constant throughout the Cold War and the following era. The US foreign policy makers justified their involvement in Latin America during the Cold war by describing Latin American countries as completely immature and a logical prey to communism. Secretary of State Dulles characterized them in 1958 as “peoples who have practically no capacity for self-government and indeed are like children in facing this problem.” Today, the US's leadership role in terms of democracy still seems to be an understood reality. As we have already seen, many in Bush's administration believe in the US's responsibility in spreading democracy. Strong criticism is made of this approach not least because of the superficiality of the “low-intensity democracies” imposed by the United States. The scholar William Robinson denounces what he sees as the instrumentalisation of democracy in US foreign policy. According to the author, the US have promoted a narrow vision of democracy closer to polyarchy defined as “a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation in decision-making is confined to leadership choice in elections carefully managed by competing elites” . Though replacing coercive means of control by consensual ones, the US would remain in a position of dominance through the establishment of a local liberal elite in power . The image of a democratic model, long established in US foreign policy has thus been put to use to serve US national interest. We will now see that economic foreign policies have often destabilized Latin American countries, and advantaged the already powerful US economy. This domination in the economic sphere was built with trade or aid agreements which gave the US a clear advantage, and at times an image of neo-colonizer. Kennedy announced the need to win the “hearts and minds” of the poor in Latin America , and so wanted to build the “decade of development.” , through a 20 billion dollar aid project starting in 1961: the Alliance for Progress. This was in line with modernization theory according to which prosperity is accompanied by stability . As expressed in 1963 by Alberto Lleras the Colombian President this caused resentment amongst Latin Americans “towards the end of 1962, when the enormous rehabilitation enterprise of Latin America began to be talked of as a new form of imperialism...” . Another example of economic domination is the North American Free Trade Agreement initiated under Bill Clinton in1993, which installed free trade between Canada, the United States and Mexico. This led to massive protest against what was seen as yet another form of Northern exploitation, denounced by the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, led by Subcommandante Marcos . Legitimate causes for discontent were the growing inequalities not only between the Northern countries and Mexico, but also within the country. With the imposition of capitalist infinite search for profit, in Mexico 1.4 million workers from the agricultural sector lost their jobs . The collapse of the Mexican economy rapidly disillusioned Latin American countries about the possibility of economic cooperation with such giants as the United States and Canada. Finally we will see that the military remains a major aspect of the US' “aid” to Latin America, sometimes at the limit of international law, and certainly in contradiction with the core values defended by American liberals. One of the major legacies of the Kennedy administration was the development of the counterinsurgency doctrine, or the training of Latin American forces to fight communism by “specialists in UW, (Unconventional Warfare: note added by the author) warfare at or beyond the margin of the permissible under the rules of war.” However, this reinforced military coups in Latin America, and in a single year, 1962-3, military regimes overtook leadership in Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic . The 1980s were marked by the aspiration of Latin American countries to democracy , and this became a central theme in US foreign policy. However President Reagan famously intervened to shape the forming democracies. The examples of El Salvador and Nicaragua, where Reagan fought against a supposedly communist menace by helping the military regimes in place, are particularly revealing. An estimated 110,000 Nicaraguan and Salvadorian people were killed under the Reagan regime . Reagan's attitude and his desire to make the Sandanistas in Nicaragua “say uncle” showed that this was a form of military domination and a demonstration exercise. Although the Cold War could to some extent justify military presence in Latin America, military support today with for example Plan Colombia seems in contradiction with the general trend to promote democracy. After the Cold War ended Clinton committed himself to a fight against “narco-guerillas” with “Plan Colombia” . Doug Stokes basing his analysis of Plan Colombia on the work of Noam Chomsky, strongly criticizes the protection of US interests in Latin America through the support of paramilitaries which, although they have important ties with drug traffickers, present the advantage of receiving orders from the US, unlike the FARC guerillas. His concluding remark: “This repression serves to criminalise any form of civil society resistance to US-led neoliberal restructuring of Colombia's economy” is explicit. We have seen that there has been some continuity in US strategies towards Latin America, through its maintenance of a position of force. To that extent, the evolutions in the ideological debates are irrelevant as these ideological arguments only serve to justify US responsibility for Latin America, which in turn allows the US to legitimately defend its interests in the Southern part of the hemisphere.
Ideologies, although they have evolved since the Cold War, are still used as a justification for intervention, notably in the public debate. We have seen however, that US interests remain at the core of foreign policy, and that this explains the harsh, at times illegal, measures adopted towards Latin America. What lies behind this is a deep conviction of US superiority towards Latin America, helping justify paternalistic attitudes, and straightforward exploitation. The end of the Cold War has not marked a watershed in the strategies used in US foreign policy. Only with the real independence of Latin American countries will US and Latin America relations really evolve. We have seen however that a tight grip is held economically, politically and militarily rendering this a slow and chaotic process.
Books : -Carothers, Thomas, In the name of democracy: U.S. policy toward Latin America in the Reagan years, University of California Press. -George, Alexander, Western state terrorism, Polity Press, 1991 -Kolko, Gabriel, Another century of war?, New Press, 2002 -Lieber, Robert J., Eagle adrift : American foreign policy at the end of the century, Longman, 1997 -Alan McPherson, Intimate Ties, Bitter Struggles: The United States and Latin America Since 1945, Potomac Books, Inc, 2006. -Lowe N., Modern World History, 3rd ed. Palgrave, 1997 -Robinson, William I, Promoting polyarchy globalization, US intervention, and hegemony, Cambridge University Press, 1996 - Schoultz, Lars, Beneath the United States : a history of U.S. policy toward Latin America, Cambridge, Mass. ; London : Harvard University Press, 1998 Journal Articles : -Chrimes p., Review: [untitled] of The Most Dangerous area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America. by Stephen G. Rabe in International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) > Vol. 75, No. 3 (Jul., 1999), p. 698). -Fukuyama F., The End of History? in The National Interest., 16, 1989 -Koonings , K and Kruijt, Di., Latin American Political Armies in the Twenty-first century. in Bulletin of Latin American Research., 22(3), 2003, pages 371-384 - Lleras A., Report on the Alliance for Progress (Washington, D.C: Organization of American States, June 15, 1963), v-x. -Stokes D., Why the end of the Cold War doesn't matter: the US war of terror in Colombia. in Review of International Studies., 29(4), 2003, pages 560-585
Websites : - A report of the Project for the New American Century, September 2000: Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategy, Forces and resources for a New Century http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf