The United States and Latin America After the Cold War

In This Review

The United States and Latin America After the Cold War

By Russell Crandall
Cambridge University Press, 2008
276 pp. $24.99

In offering the best available textbook on contemporary U.S. policies toward Latin America, Crandall admirably follows his own admonition: "We must observe carefully and not let outdated assumptions and models automatically lead us to foregone conclusions." A young political scientist, Crandall has advised both the Bush administration and the Obama campaign, and he brings a clear-eyed, even-handed realism to his wide survey of the main bilateral relationships and functional issues (democracy, trade, drugs) that have dominated inter-American relations during the past two decades. By and large, his tone is sympathetic to U.S. goals, and he recognizes U.S. successes even as he does not hesitate to criticize failed counternarcotics policies or the poor judgment of individual policymakers, such as during the botched 2002 coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. To expose the assumptions behind other assessments, Crandall divides analysts into "establishment" and "anti-imperialist" schools, a somewhat strained but still useful device for students struggling to make sense of the strident polemics all too common in the literature. Overall, the balance of theory, description, case studies, and well-chosen illustrations will serve students well. Incoming policymakers seeking concise, informed evaluations of the pressing issues in inter-American relations can also benefit from Crandall's contribution.

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