- The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations by Alan McPherson
As this review is being written, periodicals are replete with analyses of the invasions by the United States of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Moreover, full analyses are being written of America’s recent invasions (e.g., The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014). The Invaded is a compilation of the US invasions in the Americas—Nicaragua, 1912; Haiti, 1915; and The Dominican Republic, 1916—and in Vietnam, Cambodia, and elsewhere in Asia. It seems clear from the US occupations in the early nineteenth century that all US occupations are justified from the point of view of the government in power at the time and the military being sent abroad.
If the US is ever going to cease and desist from its occupations of other countries, lessons should be learned about our abject failure to control other countries. This book reviews the US occupations of these three countries in great detail. There were other U.S. occupations during the period 1912-1933, including Puerto Rico, Veracruz in Mexico, Chiriquí in Panama, and several in Cuba, but these three were the longest and most complex. One of the more interesting parts of this book is the citation of the press in the US. Cited is the African-American, anti-imperialist, and anti-occupation press. In addition, there are citations of the press in many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cuba, Dominica, England, France, Germany, Haiti, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Soviet Union, Spain, Uruguay, and others.
While most studies of occupation focus on the occupiers, McPherson views events through the eyes of the invaded. The book draws on the similarities and differences in the three countries. The US occupiers are referred to as “marines,” leading this reviewer to believe that only a limited portion of the U.S. military took part in the occupations.
This book points out the central proposition of occupiers: occupation is justified because the political culture of the occupied country is not helpful to its citizens. Although thousands, if not millions of US and the occupied countries’ citizens disagreed, somehow Washington was able to maintain its marines in these three countries. Even President Wilson stated that the U.S. should [End Page 245] not dictate what another government shall be, but that did not get the marines home.
In addition, and this reviewer is inclined to say “of course,” the marines also protected and promoted US economic interests. By 1912, the United Stated bought a third of Latin America’s exports and sold a quarter of its imports. The Panama Canal opened its locks to many more trading vessels than gunboats. The term “dollar diplomacy” was invented during this time, first under Theodore Roosevelt and then flourishing under Taft. During the time reviewed by this book, Wall Street gave loans to Latin American governments in exchange for the right of marines to control the custom houses to pay back these loans. In short, the US Government provided protection in Latin America to US firms doing business there.
Particularly interesting are the book’s conclusions (Lessons of Occupation) (pp. 262-269) which is subdivided as follows: Resistance Begins at Home, Anti-Occupation Does Not Equal Nationalist, If Unity is Impossible Fake It, Beware Nation Builders, Reconcile the Soldiers and Diplomats, Political Culture is Resilient, and Memories Persist.
For this reviewer, The Invaded was an eye opener, and forecasts much of what has happened in the world since that time. The book is highly recommended for people who are examining geopolitical events now and in the twentieth century, and who hope that the past does not predict the future. Latinamericanists, particularly those hailing from the U.S., would do well to at least understand the contours of the many political geographies seen through the critical lens that McPherson casts. Readers will take away...