In This Review

Democracy and U.S. Policy in Latin America During the Truman Years
Democracy and U.S. Policy in Latin America During the Truman Years
By Steven Schwartzberg
University Press of Florida, 2003, 320 pp

An iconoclastic diplomatic historian lauds liberal internationalists for skillfully supporting struggling democrats during the early Truman years. He also faults U.S. diplomats for blowing numerous opportunities to tilt the balance toward democratic forces after 1948 -- a neglect attributed to demoralizing reversals and to the ascendancy of conservative cold warriors tethered to a rigid and sometimes opportunistic doctrine of nonintervention. A passionate pro-labor Social Democrat, Schwartzberg recognizes that early U.S. attempts to bolster divided or inept democrats were sometimes ineffective. Still, he criticizes the cultural pessimism of George Kennan and Louis Halle (who ghosted the famous "Y" article in Foreign Affairs in 1950) for aligning U.S. diplomacy with despots and faults contemporary scholars for their "easy cynicism" toward U.S. motives. Schwartzberg's copious evidence for the earlier American idealism comes primarily from White House and State Department sources, even as he occasionally admits competing and less broad-minded perspectives in the CIA, the Pentagon, and the business community.