- The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations by Alan McPherson
In The Invaded Alan McPherson recreates how the people in Latin America reacted to the United States’ Dollar Diplomacy policy implemented across the region during the 1910s, by focusing on the case studies of Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Centering on the historical accounts of the violent, peaceful, cultural, and political resistance movements against policies of occupation that surfaced in these nations, the author makes the general claim that the liberator’s efforts were effective in part because these were independent, self-interested initiatives by pacifist, militant, Caudillo-driven, [End Page 766] and elite-driven groups but also because transnational actors from Europe and the Americas generated enough pressure on the United States government, ultimately forcing it to change its policy. This work represents an important contribution to the limited historiography on U.S. occupations. Moreover, it contributes to a broader understanding of U.S. foreign policy; Caribbean and Central American studies; the development of political cultures in Latin America; the role of American NGOs overseas; the history of anti-Americanism; the history of anti-occupation movements; institutional development; the dynamics of the junction between American domestic and foreign policy; and the early role of media, propaganda, labor unions, leftist and centralist social movements, public figures, and race.
McPherson relies on detailed, multi-archival primary source research, combined with secondary sources, in order to reconstruct the dynamic of the relationship between occupiers and resistance movements; however, the sources come short of representing the holistic regional grievance against the United States. McPherson should have included a short account of other past occupations in the region that shaped the nature of the occupied in his own case studies, considering that Cuba had experienced a unique form of American occupation in 1898 and that Colombia had experienced its own encounter with American marines in 1903. His generalizations about resistance across Latin America based on the experiences of Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic lessen the validity of his argument, considering that not every Latin American nation had experienced U.S. occupation and others, such as Cuba and Colombia, had already experienced other forms of occupation before 1912, when his analysis begins. For example, when arguing that “transnational efforts by Dominicans and other Latin Americans” were effective in creating networks of propaganda and lobby, his sources center exclusively on the experience of the Dominican Republic, yet he uses it to amalgamate the whole region into his argument (p. 159).
His choice of primary and secondary sources also helps him make the argument that the Dollar Diplomacy policy that dominated the [End Page 767] era of occupation was purely political and, most important of all, the domestic and transnational resistance was responsible for the shift of the United States toward the Good Neighbor policy. International political economists and American and Latin American historians would argue that the agendas behind the policy of occupation were economic as well as political. In the end he does not fulfill his promise of demonstrating in a convincing manner that the United States’ shift away from an occupation policy was the direct result of the domestic and transnational resistance movements. The transition toward nonintervention policies was a reflection of the maturity and sophistication of the U.S. State Department or what McPherson referred to as a move away from “US provincialism” (p. 263). It is clear that there is agency to be shared between the actors of resistance and the occupiers in forcing changes in policy, but ultimately it was the pressure from private interests in the United States that tilted the balance, knowing well that the paternalistic approach was not good for business. This is a lesson suggested by McPherson’s work—occupation was “a folly to be avoided at all cost” (p. 269).
STEFANO TIJERINA teaches history and political science at the University of Maine. He is the author of “The Role of Canadian...