America/Americas: Myth in the Making of U.S. Policy toward Latin America

America/Americas: Myth in the Making of U.S. Policy toward Latin America

America/Americas: Myth in the Making of U.S. Policy toward Latin America

America/Americas: Myth in the Making of U.S. Policy toward Latin America

Synopsis

In examining the subtext of the discourse that U.S. leaders reproduce unconsciously, Kenworthy explores the boundary between discourse analysis, which rarely moves beyond texts, and policy analyses that emphasize rationality.

Excerpt

In surprisingly few years Latin America passed from being a contentious issue in United States foreign policy to one scarcely discussed. While "trouble spots" remained, the deep ideological and diplomatic rifts that characterized the 1970s and 1980s vanished in a 1990s consensus on democracy, privatization, and free trade. a Democratic president carried forward policies initiated by his Republican predecessors while scholars heralded "a new era of U.S.--Latin American relations," "a new paradigm" of "partnership." (Chapter 1 offers citations.)

There have been similar moments in the past, for example immediately following World War II, when the White House and its Latin American counterparts seemed to share a basic consensus. Those moments have not lasted. When rhetoric must deal with new realities political elites throughout the Western Hemisphere discover, after all, that they understand "democracy," "development," and "independence" differently. Beneath those elites lie class-cleaved societies with yet more divergent understandings.

Rather than read each new situation afresh, Washington traditionally has refurbished its historic rhetoric regarding a common project that all "Americans" share. Such language comes naturally to U.S. leaders inasmuch as it evolved over centuries of use within the United States. For decades now Washington has attempted to unify Latin America behind U.S. leadership by employing the same discourse of identity and common purpose earlier used to pull the colonies together, to send the pioneers west and the marines south. (Chapter 2 fleshes this out.)

This book seeks to raise that discourse to full consciousness and to ask whose purposes it serves today. I write for those who see in the present moment an opportunity to reevaluate the underlying perception of the Americas that infuses U.S. policy. As Edward Said, writing about the Middle East, sensitized Western readers to strategies of control-

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