Hostile Intent: U.S. Covert Operations in Chile, 1964-1974

In This Review

Hostile Intent: U.S. Covert Operations in Chile, 1964-1974

By Kristian Gustafson
Potomac Books, 2007
288 pp. $29.95
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This provocative contribution by a Canadian army officer turned scholar makes good use of newly declassified U.S. government documents, fresh interviews, and Chilean accounts to reexamine the intent, efficacy, and impact of U.S. interventions in Chile. Gustafson focuses on the fascinating interplay among bureaucratic actors in the White House, the CIA, and the State Department (the Defense Department's story remains to be fully told). During the 1960s, Gustafson argues, when U.S. policy was well coordinated with astute guidance from the State Department and a coherent team in the U.S. embassy in Chile, the CIA executed effectively, heavily funding "democratic" mass media, political parties, and trade unions. But when Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, panicked on the election of the Socialist Salvador Allende and back-channeled the CIA into desperate, ill-prepared actions with unforeseen consequences (the assassination of General René Schneider), the policy backfired. Less persuasive is Gustafson's rather muddled and contradictory handling of U.S. involvement, or supposed lack thereof, in the chain of events leading to the fateful coup that killed Allende. Surely, after years of covertly stoking the flames of escalating political polarization, external intervention bears some blame for the bloody repression and prolonged military rule that followed.