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Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America

Christopher Darnton

Publication Year: 2014

Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America, Christopher Darnton’s comparative study of the nature of conflict between Latin American states during the Cold War, provides a counterintuitive and shrewd explanation of why diplomacy does or doesn’t work. Specifically, he develops a theory that shows how the “parochial interests” of state bureaucracies can overwhelm national leaders’ foreign policy initiatives and complicate regional alliances. His thorough evaluation of several twentieth-century Latin American conflicts covers the gamut of diplomatic disputes from border clashes to economic provocations to regional power struggles. Darnton examines the domestic political and economic conditions that contribute either to rivalry (continued conflict) or rapprochement (diplomatic reconciliation), while assessing the impact of U.S. foreign policy. Detailed case studies provide not only a robust test of the theory but also a fascinating tour of Latin American history and Cold War politics, including a multilayered examination of Argentine-Brazilian strategic competition and presidential summits over four decades; three rivalries in Central America following Cuba’s 1959 revolution; and how the 1980s debt crisis entangled the diplomatic affairs of several Andean countries. These questions about international rivalry and rapprochement are of particular interest to security studies and international relations scholars, as they seek to understand what defuses regional conflicts, creates stronger incentives for improving diplomatic ties between states, and builds effective alliances. The analysis also bears fruit for contemporary studies of counterterrorism in its critique of parallels between the Cold War and the global aar on terrorists, examination of failed rapprochement efforts between Algeria and Morocco, and its assessment of obstacles to U.S. coalition-building efforts.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-xii

This book began a decade ago in a directed reading course with Paul Sigmund on Latin American international relations, an intellectually intense experience that reoriented my thinking in several ways. My background had been in US foreign policy toward Latin America, but I began to explore a larger terrain of regional interactions. My native Californian focus on Mexico and the Caribbean...

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1. Explaining Rivalry and Rapprochement in Cold War Latin America

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pp. 1-25

Why do international rivalries persist despite incentives to cooperate, and how can states resolve these conflicts? Conventional wisdom in international relations identifies a common enemy as the most prominent source of cooperation between adversaries, but external threat only rarely delivers lasting reconciliation...

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2. Parochial Interest and Policy Change

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pp. 26-50

In this chapter, I develop a parochial interest theory of international rivalry maintenance and the prospects for rapprochement. I argue that government agencies with vested interests in the policies associated with rivalry will act to prevent national leaders from achieving cooperation with the rival country, except when two conditions are satisfied: first, the emergence of an alternative...

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3. Antagonism and Anti-Communism in Argentine-Brazilian Relations

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pp. 51-109

Argentina and Brazil, the two largest countries in South America in terms of territory, population, and economic might, maintained a strategic rivalry from in dependence until 1980.1 From territorial disputes and two wars in the nineteenth century to conflicting hydroelectric energy projects and nuclear ambitions in the twentieth, competition dominated the relationship. Meanwhile, leaders frequently...

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4. The 1959 Cuban Revolution and Central American Rivalries

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pp. 110-139

In Cold War Latin America, anti-Communism and the shared threat of leftist insurgency provided an important stimulus for rapprochement among interstate rivals. However, a common foe was not a sufficient cause of cooperation between Argentina and Brazil: as the previous chapter demonstrated, three presidential summits unsuccessfully attempted to overcome rivalry between 1947 and...

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5. The 1980s Debt Crisis and Andean Rivalries

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pp. 140-166

Among states with a common adversary, with alternative missions readily available for the armed forces, the degree of state resource constraint affected leaders’ ability to achieve rapprochement, as the previous chapter demonstrated in Central American rivalries facing the threat posed by the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Conversely, if several rivals faced serious resource constraints, then to...

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6. From the Cold War to the Global War on Terrorism

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pp. 167-190

In Cold War Latin America, interstate rivalries often persisted because state agencies on both sides had vested interests in maintaining the status quo of protracted conflict. Despite Latin American armed forces’ increasing attention to the threat of Communist insurgency, rapprochement between rival anti- Communist countries was a rare outcome, one that occurred only when state...

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7. The Organizational Politics of Conflict Resolution

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pp. 191-208

Why do many rival governments fail to cooperate when facing parallel internal security threats and sharing the same great power allies, while a few succeed? Under what conditions are diplomatic efforts by heads of state likely to achieve rapprochement instead of collapsing into discord and recrimination? Why did rivalries among anti-Communist governments so frequently mar the unity of...


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pp. 209-276


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pp. 277-285

E-ISBN-13: 9781421413624
E-ISBN-10: 1421413620
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421413617
Print-ISBN-10: 1421413612

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 11 line drawings
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 881430375
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America

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Subject Headings

  • Latin America -- Foreign relations -- 20th century.
  • Cold War -- Political aspects -- Latin America.
  • Latin America -- Politics and government -- 1948-1980.
  • Latin America -- Politics and government -- 1980-.
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