In This Review

U.S. Relations With Latin America During the Clinton Years: Opportunities Lost or Opportunities Squandered?
U.S. Relations With Latin America During the Clinton Years: Opportunities Lost or Opportunities Squandered?
By David Scott Palmer
University Press of Florida, 2006, 144 pp

Many foreign policy analysts have criticized the Clinton administration for being distressingly disorganized and excessively politicized. To these faults, Palmer, a Peru specialist, adds the sorts of complaints typical of regionalists examining the Washington policy process: sporadic attention at the top, inadequate financial authorizations, conflicting national interests, and shifting priorities. Palmer praises several Clinton initiatives, including ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Mexican peso bailout, the 1994 Summit of the Americas, and the settlement of the Ecuador-Peru border dispute. But overall, he is disappointed with the Clinton team -- with the sudden withdrawal of the U.S.S. Harlan County during the Haiti crisis; the blind pursuit of counternarcotics to the detriment of democracy in Peru and Colombia; the passage of the Helms-Burton Act, which disrupted Cuba policy; the stalling of fast-track trade authority. Moreover, his data suggest uneven progress on the two central U.S. goals of deepening democracy and poverty alleviation. A more charitable evaluation might give different weights to perceived successes and shortcomings and set less utopian benchmarks; arguably, Bill Clinton achieved his overriding objectives in Haiti, and democracy has survived in Peru and Colombia. And it was Fidel Castro who upended Cuba policy when he shot down two planes -- but Latin American diplomacy rarely figures into this otherwise sophisticated review of U.S.-Latin American relations.