Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface: Why a Book on Central America?

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pp. vii-xiv

More than twenty years have passed since the nations between Mexico and Panama dominated the headlines of American daily newspapers. Throughout the 1980s, it was barely possible to watch a news report on television, listen to a member of Congress, or pass a magazine rack without being compelled to learn something about El Salvador, Nicaragua...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

This book owes its existence to the assistance of many people, both in the 1980s and in the last few years. I suppose I should start with Ambassador Faith Ryan Whittlesey, who was Ronald Reagan’s Assistant for Public Liaison in 1983. She hired me to work in the Office of Public Liaison as a consultant on Central America. ...

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Prologue: Ronald Reagan Issues a Warning

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pp. xvii-xix

When former California governor Ronald Reagan launched his bid for the Republican nomination for president in 1976, taking on Gerald Ford, the incumbent president, Reagan based his run largely on his dissatisfaction with Ford’s foreign policy. Reagan was particularly skeptical of the goals of then secretary of state Henry Kissinger. ...

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1. What Reagan Faced

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pp. 1-23

Imagine it is 1980, and you have gathered a random selection of five hundred people, made up of political scientists, historians, members of Congress, geopolitical experts, and the first hundred individuals listed in the Boston telephone directory. You have told them that in eleven years’ time, the Cold War would be over...

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2. Infighting: Wars Over U.S. Foreign Policy

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pp. 25-45

Not only an unenviable international situation, but also unprecedented problems at home greeted Ronald Reagan when he became president. These included economic problems and problems of national morale. Reagan came to the presidency determined to make sweeping changes in the basic direction of both the domestic and foreign policies of the United States. ...

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3. Opening Moves: The “Final Offensive,” 1981

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pp. 47-72

On December 30, 1980, the “government-in-exile” of the Salvadoran guerrillas made an announcement at its headquarters in Mexico City. The Faribundo Martí Liberation Front (FMLN) proclaimed that the rebels had their answer to the staunchly anti-Communist Ronald Reagan, now president-elect of the United States. ...

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4. Making Enemies in Nicaragua,1979–1982

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pp. 73-95

The Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua occurred at the most propitious time imaginable for an anti-American, leftist revolution in Latin America. On past occasions, the U.S. government has used armed intervention to crush revolutionary movements threatening to U.S. interests. ...

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5. The Wars Escalate, 1982–1983

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pp. 97-122

In the early days of his presidency, Reagan’s policies toward Central America had been primarily reactive. In El Salvador, he reacted to the guerrillas’ “Final Offensive” by rushing supplies to the Salvadoran army and stationing fifty-five U.S. military advisors in the country. He reacted to congressional opposition by agreeing to certify progress on human rights at regular intervals. ...

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6. The End of the Brezhnev Doctrine, 1983

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pp. 123-150

The world paid little notice to the events in Grenada when, in March 1979, the island nation’s corrupt and venial dictator, Eric Gairy, traveled to the United Nations to try to interest the world body in an effort to find, and contact, extraterrestrials. Like many brutish and ineffective dictators of his stripe, Gairy found that leaving the country was a fatal undertaking. ...

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7. Muddying (and Mining) the Waters,1984–1985

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pp. 151-179

If President Ronald Reagan thought that his success in Grenada would quiet his critics on Central America, he was to be disappointed. While the revelations of Soviet and Cuban activities in Grenada shocked Reagan’s enemies, and put them on the defensive for the remainder of 1983, the start of the presidential election year brought new tensions and controversies over U.S. policy toward El Salvador and Nicaragua. ...

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8. The War at Home,1981–1986

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pp. 181-209

Before continuing the narrative, which leads us next to the Iran-contra scandal, it is worthwhile to pause and look at the impact that the shooting wars in Central America and the bureaucratic wars in Washington had on the American people. Central America was constantly in the news during the 1980s, but few Americans, even to this day...

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9. The Iran-Contra Scandal,1986–1987

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pp. 211-238

The series of actions that would eventually lead to the Iran-contra scandal began while President Ronald Reagan was sick. On July 18, 1985, Reagan was in Bethesda Naval Hospital, recovering from surgery. Then-National Security advisor Robert McFarlane came to the hospital with what Reagan described as “exciting” news. ...

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10. Another Year, Another Peace Plan,1987

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pp. 239-262

Pundits commenting on the Iran-contra scandal give different dates for when the scandal ended. Some, like Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, say it was when Reagan admitted to trading arms for hostages in his speech on March 4, 1987. Others believe that it was during the testimony of NSC aide LTC Oliver North and the ensuing “Olliemania.” ...

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11. Endgame

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pp. 263-284

As 1988 opened, the stage seemed set for a resumption of military aid and a huge victory for President Ronald Reagan. The contras were enjoying significant military success. The Sandinistas were having no end of difficulties with the Soviets, with their internal civilian opposition, and with the peasants in the countryside, not to mention a terrible drought...

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12. Reagan’s Legacy

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pp. 285-303

After Ronald Reagan left office on January 20, 1989, political observers focusing on Reagan’s legacy in Central America can be excused for focusing on the negative. In El Salvador, the war between the U.S.-backed government and the Communist guerrillas still went on, even though violence was at a much lower level. ...

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Epilogue: Central America and the War on Terror

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pp. 305-318

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is tempting to minimize the significance of events in Central America in the 1980s. The Reagan-era warnings about hostile governments in Nicaragua or El Salvador and danger to the United States seem almost quaint in retrospect, something like nineteenth-century warnings...

Index

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pp. 319-329