In This Review

Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations
Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations
By Peter H. Smith
Oxford University Press, 1996, 377 pp

Smith, Simon Bolivar Professor of Latin American Studies at University of California, San Diego, and former president of the Latin American Studies Association, has written one of the most ambitious books in recent years on U.S.-Latin American relations. He presents three general "systems": the 1790s to the 1920s, characterized by the balance of power, multilateral rivalry, and imperial pretentions; the Cold War, when the U.S.-Soviet bipolar rivalry was preeminent; and the current period, marked by U.S. "hegemony by default," in which Latin America is diminished as a U.S. political asset but enhanced in economic importance. Smith remains skeptical about the new wave of market-oriented reform and democratic instaturations and worries that Latin America has fewer options within the current post-Cold War context. He compares the new "age of uncertainty" to the imperial era and urges Latin America to maintain "collective solidarity," reject "individual advantage," and "revitalize the Bolivarian dream of Latin American unity." But this view seems oddly old-fashioned when the accelerating cross-penetration of culture, peoples, and capital within the western hemisphere seems every day more characteristic of the world now unfolding. It is curious how U.S. Latin Americanists tend to be more Latin Americanist than the objects of their study, who have learned the hard way to know a dead end when they see it.