Thank God They're on Our Side: The United States & Right-Wing Dictatorship, 1921-1965

Article excerpt

THANK GOD THEY'RE ON OUR SIDE: The United States & RightWing Dictatorships, 1921-1965, David F. Schmitz, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1999, 400 pages, $45.00.

Political strategies invariably require compromises, some of which involve accepting the lesser of any number of unsatisfying options that trigger endless speculation-"what if' or "if only." David F. Schmitz's Thank God They're on Our Side applies this approach to US foreign policy that between 1921 and 1965 supported right-wing dictatorships in developing countries.

Schmitz views such policies as a betrayal of the US commitment to freedom and democracy. He contends that policy makers consistently resorted to political expediency in favoring the political stability offered by authoritarian regimes over the more turbulent, less-predictable, democratically inspired revolutionary movements. As Schmitz sees it, the options were to endorse ruthless dictators, limit support to minimal diplomatic recognition or indirectly support democratic movements.

Schmitz sees US foreign policy after World War I as being influenced by the threat of global communism. There is no doubt that the "Red scare," as well as US Senator Joseph McCarthy's 1950s inquisition, exaggerated the threat. However, recently available Soviet documents confirm that the threat was real. …