Grappling With Central America: From Carter to Reagan

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Book Chapter

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Confronting Revolution: Security Through Diplomacy In Central America


The crisis in Central America has dominated United States policy toward Latin America since the outbreak of the Nicaraguan revolution in 1978. President Jimmy Carter approached the crisis as a liberal Democrat: in assessing the causes of the crisis, he gave greater weight to local conditions and complaints than to Soviet subversion. In seeking a solution, he was willing to tolerate, and in some cases even promote, change in the region. Ronald Reagan approached the crisis differently, seeing it primarily as a Soviet-Cuban geostrategic thrust requiring a primarily military response. Whereas Carter sought stability through progress, Reagan focused on the maintenance of order. Yet despite obvious differences in conception and practical application, the policies of both Carter and Reagan derived from the same basic premise: that to protect the national interest of the United States it was necessary to control the character of Central American governments so as to keep the radical left (i.e., any mass movement seeking rapid and fundamental social transformation) from any share in political power. The corollary to this imperative was the assumption that the power of the United States made the exercise of such control feasible.

Published By



M. J. Blachman, W. M. LeoGrande, And Kenneth E. Sharpe

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