Most accounts of the early Cold War treat the superpowers as the subjects and Third World countries as the objects. Like some other recent scholars, Karabell wants to reverse the balance. As students of the British Empire have noticed, kings are often drawn, to their surprise, into games played among the pawns. Relying on American archives and a wide range of secondary works, Karabell writes well and does a service by combining case studies on American intervention in Greece, Italy, Iran, Guatemala, Lebanon, Cuba, and Laos. He is strongest on Iran and Lebanon, weakest on Cuba and Laos, and includes no studies of intervention by the Soviets, Chinese, British, or French. Karabell argues, easily enough, that internal conditions are decisive -- since intervention needs strong local allies to achieve any enduring success. He also cautions that interventions do not have a lasting effect in changing the political or social order of the affected countries. But one reason why pawns play this game is because they perceive some very large effects, at least if measured by the span of human lives.
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