Policy failures beget finger-pointing, and Solaún, the Carter administration's ambassador to Nicaragua, is not the first to criticize his political superiors and their human rights policies for destabilizing the Somoza dictatorship yet failing to forestall the Sandinistas' military victory. He lashes out against almost all the other major players as well, including the Latin America hands in the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development bureaucrats, Peace Corps personnel, and both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, often in telling detail. Of the local players, he faults Anastasio Somoza, the Liberal and Conservative parties, centrist businessmen, leading clerics, and the Sandinistas for their immaturity, myopia, wishful thinking, imprudence, and intransigence. Solaún also explicitly absolves himself of all responsibility -- even though he seems not to have pressed his superiors to follow the course of action he advocates in this awkwardly drafted account (namely, the timely use of military force to remove Somoza). An academic, Solaún credits his appointment to the initiative of Cuban Americans in Miami; perhaps a more experienced ambassador with stronger ties to senior policymakers and a more lucid and forceful voice might have made a difference.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Western Hemisphere From This Issue