Courtesy Reuters

Revolution in Central America?

On President Reagan’s first inauguration day, revolution appeared to be spreading across Central America. The Sandinistas were consolidating their hold over Nicaragua and guerrillas in El Salvador and Guatemala were on the move. Americans began thinking that Central America could become "another Vietnam." Six years later, Central America is going much better for Washington than Southeast Asia did—and with much less effort. Revolution has not spread, and the leftist guerrillas of Central America are not faring well, without the deployment of U.S. troops.

II

To assess the current status of revolutionary forces in Central America and U.S. policies for dealing with them, one must begin with Nicaragua. The Sandinista regime in Nicaragua has not been overthrown, but it has been contained. The Sandinistas, with their huge army and highly effective security and intelligence apparatus and their reservoir of youthful support, will not be overthrown anytime in the foreseeable future unless the United States decides to mount an all-out war. The Nicaraguan rebels have been unable to dislodge the Sandinistas, and by year’s end the U.S. policy of backing them was the subject of renewed controversy in Washington.

In fact, the most important developments concerning Nicaragua in 1986 occurred in Washington, where, after a high-pitched public campaign by the Administration, President Reagan finally convinced Congress to go along with his policy of giving military aid to the rebel forces. On June 25 the House of Representatives approved $100 million in aid for the Nicaraguan rebels.

The White House version of Central American affairs, as stated by President Reagan in a nationally televised address on March 16, 1986, warned the American people of "a mounting danger in Central America that threatens the security of the United States. This danger will not go away; it will grow worse, if we fail to take action now." Furthermore, he said, "Using Nicaragua as a base, the Soviets and Cubans can become the dominant power in the crucial corridor between North and South America. Established there,

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