In This Review

Latin America's Cold War
Latin America's Cold War
By Hal Brands
Harvard University Press, 2010, 408 pp

Brands takes aim at those mainstream historians writing on Western Hemispheric relations who have portrayed the United States as an overwhelmingly powerful hegemon whose destructive interventions are responsible for the region's sufferings. Delving into Latin American archives, Brands counters that Latin Americans have been active participants in their own history -- in both their domestic politics and international diplomacy. During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow often had poor understandings of these local dynamics, so their ill-designed policies frequently failed; even those strategies that momentarily succeeded generated blowback and unintended consequences. As Brands persuasively argues, the true story of Latin America's role in the Cold War lies in the dynamic interactions between international forces and domestic actors. Tragically, both the United States and the Soviet Union exacerbated the region's already polarized politics, and the ensuing violent clashes rendered asunder fragile democracies. Fortunately, today many citizens in Latin America and many in Washington policy circles have drawn the right lessons from history, seeking to strengthen democratic institutions -- and not overreacting to the provocations of the latest crop of neopopulists.