Latin America's Wars, Vol. 1: The Age of the Caudillo, 1791-- 1899; Latin America's Wars, Vol. 2: The Age of the Professional Soldier, 1900 -- 2001

In This Review

Latin America's Wars, Vol. 1: The Age of the Caudillo, 1791-- 1899

By Robert L. Scheina
Brasseys, 2003
569 pp. $59.95
Purchase

Latin America's Wars, Vol. 2: The Age of the Professional Soldier, 1900 -- 2001

By Robert L. Scheina
Brasseys, 2003
531 pp. $34.95
Purchase

This encyclopedic and pioneering work illuminates a topic that is so central to Latin American history that it is astounding no one has brought this story together before. There is much to ponder in these succinct yet definitive, well-documented, and thoughtful volumes, the result of more than two decades of research and close collaboration with Latin American scholars. The first volume covers the wars of independence and wars of conquest by the United States and the United Kingdom, culminating with the War of 1898; the second looks comprehensively at the twentieth century, starting with the U.S. invention of Panama and concluding with the ongoing conflict in Colombia.

There are some striking conclusions. In the nineteenth century, Scheina argues, Latin American wars had a shocking impact, with casualties dwarfing those suffered by the United States; only at the end of this period did professional militaries emerge, as the quasi-feudal caudillo tradition, damaging to economic growth and social development, began to subside. In the twentieth century, casualties in Latin America continued to rival those suffered by the United States, even after it emerged as a superpower. Interestingly, Scheina also argues that Cold War-era U.S. engagement in Latin America was an exception in a relationship historically dominated by commercial interests; he thus predicts that U.S. domestic interests will begin to dominate again, with Latin America itself only a secondary concern.