- 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: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (267 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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 originalhe has covered some of this material in his previous books All the Shah's Men and Bitter Fruitthey concur that his amalgamation of the materials is unparalleled and, more important, a thrill to read.<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
This book definitely reminds us of some uncomfortable incidents in American history. The United States, as Kinzer points out, has overthrown at least fourteen sovereign foreign governments. Furthermore, the United States seems to have adopted a policy of interfering in foreign governments long ago, possibly as long as a hundred years or so. So our recent invasion of Iraq, for instance, in the name of "regime change," should come as no surprise to the informed. Actually, many of the "intrusions" the United States has made into other countries -- whether by supporting friendly coups, by fomenting internal revolutions, or by just plain military invasions -- have occurred during my lifetime. These include Cuba, Iran, Viet Nam, Chile, Grenada, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, and most recently, Iraq. I might relate that I was in Central America during the time of the hostilities in Nicaragua and Guatemala and did experience firsthand some of the problems there.
There is no doubt in my mind that the United States has aggressively interfered in the internal affairs of other nations. That is a matter of record. And I submit that it is difficult to justify most of this interference since it was either promoted by or in the personal interests of American alien-residents or large corporations who simply wanted to exploit the local populace and their natural resources. Kinzer provides many examples of both cases and he does it objectively and dispassionately. Historical facts are historical facts. The United States does have many things to be ashamed of regarding its foreign policies and practices.
Let's be fair, however, and look at the excursions which are narrated by Kinzer with some historical perspective. While it is true that the United States government has involved itself in many questionable and possibly condemnable practices in foreign affairs, it has certainly not been alone. It has had no monopoly on international intrigue and exploitation. England, France, China, Holland, Spain, Japan, Germany, Turkey, Russia -- need I go on? -- are also guilty of building empires of their own, invading foreign nations, exploiting human beings, and involving themselves in, to say the least, despicable practices.
This is not an excuse for the behavior of the United States regarding its past or present international "sins," but it is necessary to place these matters in some perspective. If the United States is to be considered the "Great Satan" out there, it has lots and lots of company. Many other countries need to realize that they may be part of the "international problem" too. That being said, the United States has to do much better on the international stage. America needs to be an exemplar of democratic reform and human rights and it can't do that by trying to impose such through the force of arms. As I have said elsewhere: The United States may currently be the "big man" on the international campus, but it ought not be the "big bully" in the international school yard.
I think that Kinzer ends his book with an observation that all of us need to take to heart. He says: "The United States rose to world power more quickly than almost any nation or empire ever has. Filled with the exuberance and self-confidence of youth, it developed a sense of unlimited possibility. Many Americans came to believe that since they had been so successful in building their country, they not only duplicate that success abroad but were called by Providence to do so. Responding to this call, and to their belief that they are entitled to a large share of the world's resources, they set out to overthrow foreign governments. Most of these adventures have brought them, and the nations whose histories they sought to change, far more pain than liberation." I'll second that.
Lest readers think that Kinzer in his book or I in my review are being "unpatriotic" at this critical time, let me remind them that "patriotism" means "love of one's country," not "love of one's current government." This book is a must read for all true "patriots."