In This Review

Gunboat Democracy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Greneda, and Panama
Gunboat Democracy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Greneda, and Panama
By Russell Crandall
Rowman & Littlefield, 2006, 265 pp.

In this important and well-reasoned study, a former Bush administration official audaciously takes on the academic orthodoxy to defend three U.S. military interventions in the Caribbean basin. Crandall holds no brief for some previous U.S. meddling -- he does not wish to defend the U.S. role in Guatemala in 1954 or in Chile in 1973 -- but in the three cases under review, he finds that senior U.S. policymakers, using the available intelligence and their understanding of the U.S. geopolitical interests of the day, acted honorably and effectively. Furthermore, and contrary to the view that freedom can never be imposed by force, the three target nations are all now functioning democracies. Skeptics will question whether Crandall is too quick to accept the judgments of the intelligence services and to honor the geopolitical acumen of past policymakers. He also underplays the political attraction for U.S. presidents of low-cost muscle flexing in small nearby countries. And in his focus on imminent threats and the risks of inaction, Crandall may be seeing events through the lens of contemporary political debates. Nevertheless, "Gunboat Democracy "is a significant contribution and a compelling revisionist counterweight to the prevailing literature.