In This Review

Condemned To Repetition: The United States and Nicaragua
Condemned To Repetition: The United States and Nicaragua
By Robert A. Pastor
Princeton University Press, 1987, 392 pp

A good blow-by-blow account of policymaking toward Nicaragua during the Carter Administration, in which the author served as chief Latin Americanist on the National Security Council staff. Painful but salutary to read, this balanced, even detached examination of what went wrong is motivated by the desire to offer advice on how to avoid another such failure. The author underscores the United States' propensity to repeat errors by drawing many parallels between "losing Cuba" and "losing Nicaragua." But most interesting here are the particulars of the latter debacle: the attachment of President Carter (and some top advisers) to nonintervention despite the pleas of moderate Nicaraguans and Latin American leaders for early action to remove Somoza; the Administration's inattention at a crucial late phase (Iran, China and the Soviet Union were formidable competitors for attention); and finally, the U.S. officials who wanted firmer action earlier but lost the internal policy debate despite the fact that they were, in retrospect, right. As Pastor writes, regarding the decision not to press Somoza: "The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the two key people implementing U.S. policy [Vaky and Bowdler] should have served as a warning signal. . . ."