In This Review

Images and Intervention: U.S. Policies in Latin America
Images and Intervention: U.S. Policies in Latin America
By Martha L. Cottam
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994, 220 pp

A very timely, clear-headed, and jargon-free analysis of the factors that contribute to U. S. intervention in Latin America and that help explain the methods chosen (if "chosen" is the correct word here, given the pattern of blundering and inadvertent entrapment that historically seems to characterize U.S. military involvement in the western hemisphere). Cottam, who is a professor of political science at Washington State University, looks at a number of case studies of intervention and decision-making patterns, from overt military involvement to covert operations to economic pressure. Her major contribution is to focus attention on the importance of the images policymakers hold of cultures and peoples, and how this influences their policy decisions and choice of policy instruments.

Although the author begins by asserting that Latin America is once again on the bottom of the heap in U. S. foreign policy (somewhere, no doubt, the White House wishes Latin America would remain, given the current Cuban and Haitian imbroglios), her conclusions were prescient, especially as far as Haiti is concerned. "The simplification of domestic political elements has always been part of U. S. perceptions of dependent countries. In the post-Cold War era, the danger in this simplification is much greater. This combined with the Cold War pattern of selecting coercive instruments and lack of an overriding strategy (containment) has the potential to lead the United States into a quagmire in Latin America." How right Cottam was. A valuable and indispensable book for our times.