The Hovering Giant: U.S. Responses to Revolutionary Change in Latin America, 1910-1985

The Hovering Giant: U.S. Responses to Revolutionary Change in Latin America, 1910-1985

The Hovering Giant: U.S. Responses to Revolutionary Change in Latin America, 1910-1985

The Hovering Giant: U.S. Responses to Revolutionary Change in Latin America, 1910-1985


In the first edition ofThe Hovering Giant, Cole Blasier analyzed U. S. response to revolutions in Latin America from Madero in Mexico to Allende in Chile. He explained why U. S. leaders sponsored paramilitary units to overthrow revolutionary governments in Guatemala and Cuba and compromised their own differences with revolutionary governments in Mexico and Bolivia. The protection of private U. S. interests was part of the explanation, but Blasier gave greater emphasis to rivalry with Germany or the Soviet Union. Now in this revised edition, Blasier also examines the responses of the Carter and Reagan administrations to the Grenadian and Nicaraguan revolutions and the revolt in El Salvador. He also brings up to date the interpretation of U. S.-Cuban relations. Blasier stresses U. S. defense of its preeminent position in the Caribean Basin, as well as rivalry with the Soviet Union, to explain these later U. S. responses. Seemingly unaware of historical experience, Washington followed patterns in Central America and Grenada similar to earlier patterns in Guatemala, Cuba, and Chile even though the latter had adverse effects on U. S. security and economic interests.


This revised edition brings the account of U.S. responses to revolutionary change in Latin America up to 1985, covering recent events in Grenada, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. I also survey U.S. policy toward Cuba since the Missiles Crisis, as well as the Panama Canal Treaty and armed conflict in Guatemala.

My explanations of U.S. responses are fundamentally the same as in the first edition. While I continue to explain the official behavior of the United States in terms of perceived rival Great Power threats, I now give greater stress to its efforts to maintain control and influence over countries within its sphere. United States leaders (and the U.S. system generally) have consistently been reluctant to give up control in the face of revolutionary challenges. My new emphasis is due partly to a longer perspective on earlier responses as well as to recent experience in Grenada and Central America. I now see these two explanations as different sides of the same coin. Proponents of the status quo need Great Power rivalries to justify their strategies; the threat of a Great Power rival requires the maintenance of control and influence. These and other ideas are developed in "Lessons in History" at the end of chapter 9.

Domestic political considerations seem more important than ever in explaining and understanding U.S. official behavior. Often knowing and caring little about Latin America, most presidents are primarily concerned about the impact of developments there on their own domestic political fortunes. As described at the end of chapter 9, Kennedy's response to Castro, Johnson's to Bosch, and Reagan's to Grenada and Central America appear to have been decisively shaped by domestic political considerations.

While not discounting economic explanations of U.S. behavior, especially those related to multinational corporations, I subordinated them in my earlier treatment to Great Power rivalries. Recent developments have made them seem even less important in this respect. As chapter 9 indicates, that is due to a shift in the patterns of direct foreign investment and changing strategies on the part of governments and corporations.

As far as I am able to judge, my major findings expressed in the first edition have stood the test of time. Chapters 1 through 8 have, therefore, been republished with . . .

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