This is an excellent historical account that delivers on its promise to "bring new light to the shadowed corners of U.S. policy in Central America during 1980 and 1981" (p. 3). Arriving at the transition between the Carter and Reagan administrations, the author was ideally situated to observe both the multiple layers of Honduran civil-military relations and, more importantly, the gradual shift of U.S. foreign policy towards confrontation with Sandinista Nicaragua.
Besides managing the collective effort of his U.S. charges, Binns also maintained a constant balancing act between often adversarial Honduran civilian and military [End Page 699] leaders. Some of the most interesting passages in the book relate the seemingly endless attempts by Honduran leaders such as National Party candidate Ricardo Zuniga to create leverage by manipulating the policy making process in Tegucigalpa and Washington. Importantly, the narrative illuminates the almost constant friction between civilian foreign service officers in Honduras and the military commanders assigned to U.S. Southern Command. The author is pointed in his criticism of the military tendency to supersede both the embassy and U.S. law governing foreign policy and illustrates a trend identified in Dana Priest's recent work, The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America's Military (2003).
If there is one weakness in the book, it is the use of what Binns describes as a "heavily annotated diary" format (p. 3). The decision to jump from topic to topic, often without adequate context or analysis, handicaps many opportunities to take a longer view on events in the manner accomplished by other former U.S. policy makers, such as Robert Pastor. Overall, however, The United States in Honduras is an important book for any student or lay person interested in a pivotal moment of Cold War and Central American history.