Rift and Revolution: The Central American Imbroglio

By Howard J. Wiarda | Go to book overview

Preface

It is only after we have committed ourselves, and then found ourselves trapped in a perplexing morass with no way out, that we begin to understand those third-world societies in which American power and prestige have recently been engaged. Such was the case in Vietnam, it was the case in Iran, and it is now the case in Central America. All of these wrenching events spawned a hindsight literature that, after the fact, enabled us much better to understand these areas than before. We often only weakly comprehend the societies and internal dynamics of third-world, non- or partially western nations; and by the time the serious books and scholarly analyses come out which enable us to discern clearly the nations in which we are committed, it is often too late. We are by then heavily involved in such murky situations that they defy all American notions of rational and ethical political behavior, unable or unwilling either to commit sufficient resources to see the policy through or to withdraw with a degree of honor and selfrespect.

This book seeks to provide that necessary background and analysis. The contributions are by long-time experts in the field who have done extensive field work in Central America, who see the longer and larger historical picture, and who bring to their analyses reasoned and careful scholarly assessments. Some of the nation's foremost Central America scholars, historians, and political scientists are here represented. The book thus stands in contrast with the many "instant analyses" of Central America by "instant experts" to which we have, unfortunately, become accustomed and which prevail far too often in policy-making discussions. The perspectives provided here are probing, analytical, carefully researched, interpretive, and informed by a sense of history. For the problems in Central America are deep-rooted and historical; they did not begin, as we sometimes seem to think, with the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1979 or the rape and murder of the four religious women in El Salvador in 1980. With the exception of Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick's important statement, all the chapters here included were written expressly for this volume.

While longer on description and analysis, this book is purposely rather shorter on prescription. As with other AEI volumes on such

-xiii-

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Rift and Revolution: The Central American Imbroglio
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Contributors xvii
  • PART ONE Introduction 1
  • PART TWO Domestic Dimensions of the Crisis 25
  • 2: The Historical Legacy and the Failure of Union 27
  • PART THREE International Dimensions of the Crisis 195
  • 11: U.S. Security and Latin America 329
  • 12: The Apple of Discord 360
  • Index 383
  • A NOTE ON THE BOOK *
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