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Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

230 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805078619
ISBN-10: 0805078614
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The recent ouster of Saddam Hussein may have turned "regime change" into a contemporary buzzword, but it's been a tactic of American foreign policy for more than 110 years. Beginning with the ouster of Hawaii's monarchy in 1893, Kinzer runs through the foreign governments the U.S. has had a hand in toppling, some of which he has written about at length before (in All the Shah's Men, etc.). Recent invasions of countries such as Grenada and Panama may be more familiar to readers than earlier interventions in Iran and Nicaragua, but Kinzer, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, brings a rich narrative immediacy to all of his stories. Although some of his assertions overreach themselves—as when he proposes that better conduct by the American government in the Spanish-American War might have prevented the rise of Castro a half-century later—he makes a persuasive case that U.S. intervention destabilizes world politics and often leaves countries worse off than they were before. Kinzer's argument isn't new, but it's delivered in unusually moderate tones, which may earn him an audience larger than the usual crew of die-hard leftists. (Apr.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer has produced a book on foreign policy that can sit comfortably beside "edgy fiction, juicy memoirs or newsy exposes" (San Francisco Chronicle). His wide range of inquiry opens him up for some nitpicking: too much focus on American policy without considering the corresponding foreign policy; a tendency towards caricature; and entries on Iraq and Afghanistan that yield little new insight. But if reviewers feel that Kinzer's thesis isn't blindingly original—he has covered some of this material in his previous books All the Shah's Men and Bitter Fruit—they concur that his amalgamation of the materials is unparalleled and, more important, a thrill to read.<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805078614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805078619
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Kinzer was Istanbul bureau chief for The New York Times and is now that paper's national cultural correspondent. He is the author of Blood of Brothers and co-author of Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. He lives in Chicago.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

102 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on April 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
OVERTHROW is a remarkably interesting book. It ties together 14 different instances of U.S. "intervention" (read: regime change) by finding similarities between U.S. foreign policy in places as geographically and culturally various as Chile and Iran.

Among Kinzer's conclusions is that it is impossible for the U.S. to EVER be successful in the long term when we get caught in the temptations of implementing regime changes. This is partially due to the fact that one can't install leaders in foreign countries who are both genuinely popular with their compatriots AND who are looking out for American interests. The two are nearly always mutually exclusive.

But it's one thing to sum up one of Kinzer's primary theses, and quite another to read OVERTHROW's specific and fascinating examples. I consider myself well read and informed, yet in each chapter, I found historical material that surprised me. Stephen Kinzer's work as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times served him well for this volume: He is a master at "explaining" the interesting stories and crucial background needed to understand his case studies in this book. Brilliant work.
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99 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on May 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Kinzer's latest book, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq," is, I think, a necessary and valuable contribution to the study of American history. It's one of those few books that I begin reading and find difficult to put aside. While not exactly a "thriller" in the ordinary sense of a James Bond novel, I found myself continuing to turn page after page, reluctant to take a break, hesitant to stop reading lest I miss something important by forgetting where I left off and, all in all, curious about what was coming next. This was strange; after all, I taught American history for over ten years and have continued to study it ever since I left teaching. But not much of the "stuff" Kinzer is relating. No, the whole idea of so-called "regime change" was never a topic discussed in a history class I taught. For that matter, it was not a topic in any American history course I took in college.

Now, this does not mean that those of my generation were ignorant of the things of which Kinzer writes. I grew up and lived in the era when many of the "regime changes" discussed by the author were taking place. Neither I nor my contemporaries, however, used the term "regime change" or looked at those incidents through the conceptual lens that many of us do today. As close as I remember getting to this sort of political reality was when I spent ten days in Hawaii way back in the 1960s and was introduced to a few native Hawaiians who did not have very good things to say about the American missionaries and businessmen who stepped afoot on their island and simply took control, changing (or "destroying"?) a culture that had been around for hundreds of years and successfully so. A "regime change"? Well, I don't think any of us looked at it quite that way back then.
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130 of 145 people found the following review helpful By Hans Castorp VINE VOICE on April 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It's surely true that about all Major World Powers, at least European and American, have invaded and occupied many smaller nations for economic and corporate reasons. Mr. Kinzer makes the point that most, if not all, of the USA invasions from Hawaii in 1893 to Iraq in 2003, have been the result of US corporations (oil,sugar,bananas,etc) persuading the USA Powers that local, nationalistic pressures on the bottom line should result in "Regime Change" military Operations, for the past 113 years, from Ben Harrison to GW Bush. And usually the result is negative, though sometimes these results may take a very long time to show. Case in point: Iran, where in 1954 a US-sponsored "Regime Change" due largely to corporate pressures resulted in some very unfriendly feelings in Iran towards the USA, lasting through the 1979-80 Revolution, and into today's Diplomatic Stalement. The Central American Operations are well known, along with Cuba and the Philipines during the Spanish American War of 1898, another war stated on some bogus info:ie, the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor. Though US Politicians may be convinced of their own righteousness in ordering "Regime Change", the local people are not always convinced, and can even hold very long term grudges.He is not positive on the current Iraq Mess, noting the obvious, though he does admit it's possible that the future may be better!
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120 of 142 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
EDITED 27 June 2007 to add thoughts from second reading (accidental). While at the beach, ran out of books, bought this not remembering I had already read it, and found new value. Using the new link feature to insert links to the books originally listed.

This is a timely review, although the facts are well known to those who follow international affairs.

In this second (as if new) reading, the following quote stayed with me from page 317: "Most American sponsored 'regime change' operations have, in the end, weakened rather than strengthened, American security."

I list the countries covered by this book: Hawaii, Cuba, Nicarague, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Guatemala, Iran, Viet-Nam, Chile, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq.

I focus more on Hawaii, in 1893, the first of a new range of intrusive overthrows (beyond the land expansion actions the author chooses not to cover). I am struck--moved--by the duplicitious immoral actions of both the white landowners and the white US government representatives against the people of Hawaii.

The author discusses how Hawaiians were at the time bound by obligations, ritual, and a reverence for nature. I am reminded of how we and the Spanish genocided the native Americans, north and south, individuals who had decades if not centuries of refined knowledge on how to shape and nurture the Earth in harmony with their needs.

This time around, the author's emphasis on how the legal right to buy land led to the loss of local indigenous control and rights. I now firmly believe that foreign and absentee landlords should be eliminated.
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