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Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

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A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments -- not always to its own benefit "Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments -- not always to its own benefit "Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and continuing through the Spanish-American War and the Cold War and into our own time, the United States has not hesitated to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its political and economic goals. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 is the latest, though perhaps not the last, example of the dangers inherent in these operations. In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers. He also shows that the U.S. government has often pursued these operations without understanding the countries involved; as a result, many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences. In a compelling and provocative history that takes readers to fourteen countries, including Cuba, Iran, South Vietnam, Chile, and Iraq, Kinzer surveys modern American history from a new and often surprising perspective. "Detailed, passionate and convincing . . . [with] the pace and grip of a good thriller." -- Anatol Lieven, The New York Times Book Review

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A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments -- not always to its own benefit "Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments -- not always to its own benefit "Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and continuing through the Spanish-American War and the Cold War and into our own time, the United States has not hesitated to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its political and economic goals. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 is the latest, though perhaps not the last, example of the dangers inherent in these operations. In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers. He also shows that the U.S. government has often pursued these operations without understanding the countries involved; as a result, many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences. In a compelling and provocative history that takes readers to fourteen countries, including Cuba, Iran, South Vietnam, Chile, and Iraq, Kinzer surveys modern American history from a new and often surprising perspective. "Detailed, passionate and convincing . . . [with] the pace and grip of a good thriller." -- Anatol Lieven, The New York Times Book Review

30 review for Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

  1. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Overthrow made me realize how poor my education of US history is, and saddly my foreign policy understanding as well. I am shocked that I hadn't learned about some of these coups in, say, my foreign policy to Latin America class in college or any one of my other international relations courses. This is an excellent primer for anyone who wants to understand current world events and why "they" might possibly hate "us."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Naeem

    Kinzer writes well and knows how get the reader to keep turning the pages. He is at his best when he is putting together individual stories of little known characters who played decisive roles in the history of US interventions. The book is worth it for these stories and for the characters that Kinzer unearths. But Kinzer tries to play two other roles for which he, as a former reporter, simply does not have the skills. What happens when news turns into patterns? Answer: then it is no longer news Kinzer writes well and knows how get the reader to keep turning the pages. He is at his best when he is putting together individual stories of little known characters who played decisive roles in the history of US interventions. The book is worth it for these stories and for the characters that Kinzer unearths. But Kinzer tries to play two other roles for which he, as a former reporter, simply does not have the skills. What happens when news turns into patterns? Answer: then it is no longer news. When what seems like a new event becomes part of a pattern, then we have ventured into social theory. As much as I envy their writing, their story telling, and their eye for individuals, I also feel bad for former reporters. Most of them are trained to recognize events and don’t know what to do when faced with patterns. As a hopeful social theorist, Kinzer wants to line up all the US interventions and show us a pattern. Each of his three sections (“Imperial Era,” “Covert Action,” and “Invasions”) ends with a chapter where he tries his hand at social theory. He moves, that is, from events to patterns. Mostly he fails for reasons I will discuss shortly. Kinzer’s third mode is as an adjudicator. He decides, as white bearded God sitting up high with lightening bolts, which interventions were worth it (Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Grenada, Panama, and Afghanistan) and which weren’t (Philippines, Cuba, Honduras, Guetamala, Iran, Vietnam, and Chile). (I remained unclear about his position on Iraq.) The problem is that he leaves these decisions untheorized. And frankly this leaves him looking rather simple minded to those of us who have dedicated some energy to just such theorizing. Of course, he is, as they say, entitled to his opinion. But interventions in Third world countries are perhaps more than a matter of which flavor of ice-cream one likes, which films are good, or which style of music one prefers. The likely sad truth is that you and I have probably spent more energy theorizing ice-cream, films, and musical styles than Kinzer has spent on his adjudicating US interventions. Kinzer’s major flaw, I think, is that he cannot help needing to deliver some good news to his readers. Whereas those, such as Chomsky, Zinn, and Churchill, make a commitment to cataloging US interventions and displaying their damage, Kinzer, like Joshua Moravchik and Max Boot, wants to support some of these interventions. I am not sure whether he does this out of conviction or as a strategy to keep from losing what he imagines is his typical US reader. In the conclusion, though, the defense of US intervention drops out. Here Kinzer makes the realist point (quoting Thucydides) that power corrupts even, and perhaps especially, those who believe naively in their own exceptionalism. This is an important point. But the point is made at some cost. The cost is an overemphasis on individuals, actions, and events over patterns, systems, and structures; a porous and vapid defense of the occasional super-power intervention; and a framework that treats its readers as children who need morals to their stories. The stories are great. If they can be excised from Kinzer’s shallowness and placed within a richer frame, then this book can be useful. Otherwise I'd rather have the bald faced frontal defenders of empire (Murivchik, Boot) or those who do not to hesitate to point to empire’s indefensibility (Chomsky, Churchill).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Neil Taylor

    The American government has consistently invaded sovereign nations and gone to war to defend big business concerns and help corporate America pillage the natural resources of foreign nations. Hawaii was a stable monarchy before the American sugar plantation owners felt they were being prevented from making as much profit as they "deserved" so a coup was instigated and funded by the US government. A disturbing read about the lengths the US government will go to in order to protect the almighty do The American government has consistently invaded sovereign nations and gone to war to defend big business concerns and help corporate America pillage the natural resources of foreign nations. Hawaii was a stable monarchy before the American sugar plantation owners felt they were being prevented from making as much profit as they "deserved" so a coup was instigated and funded by the US government. A disturbing read about the lengths the US government will go to in order to protect the almighty dollar...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is the third book I've read this year on US Empire (The others were The End of the Myth by Grandin and How to Hide an Empire). I am so happy (as someone who comes from one of the countries that has been meddled with consistently by US and UK policymakers) that American writers are starting to really study this history and name it what it is. This is also the third Kinzer book I've read (I loved All the Shah's Men and The Dulles Brothers). Some of the stories were repetitive, but not too muc This is the third book I've read this year on US Empire (The others were The End of the Myth by Grandin and How to Hide an Empire). I am so happy (as someone who comes from one of the countries that has been meddled with consistently by US and UK policymakers) that American writers are starting to really study this history and name it what it is. This is also the third Kinzer book I've read (I loved All the Shah's Men and The Dulles Brothers). Some of the stories were repetitive, but not too much. It's just amazing to me the hubris and ignorance of overthrowing leaders and then being so uninterested to follow up. The parts about Iraq and Afghanistan policy made me mad all over again. I really hope that stopping endless war abroad is debated during the 2020 cycle. Obama promised he'd stop and a lot of us believed him, but this book and the others show that it goes way back and it never ends well

  5. 4 out of 5

    Owlseyes inside Notre Dame, it's so strange a 15-hour blaze and...

    It’s a long list of nations, either invaded or intruded upon. Kinzer believes Americans “psychologically, always been on top”; yet in a “more equal and multipolar world” things may get different. Uneasy? Kinzer is an American.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elen

    A good work of history with some frankly abysmal analysis attached. I say it's a good work of history because Kinzer's research clearly does not back up a lot of his claims -- for instance, he states multiple times that people like Jacobo Árbenz or Mohammed Mosaddegh were people who believed in "American" values, while at the same time clearly illustrating that "American" values are a lie and a sham, given our propensity for overthrowing foreign governments and the clear fact that this is not ne A good work of history with some frankly abysmal analysis attached. I say it's a good work of history because Kinzer's research clearly does not back up a lot of his claims -- for instance, he states multiple times that people like Jacobo Árbenz or Mohammed Mosaddegh were people who believed in "American" values, while at the same time clearly illustrating that "American" values are a lie and a sham, given our propensity for overthrowing foreign governments and the clear fact that this is not new -- either we've been ethnically cleansing the continent in pursuit of manifest destiny, killing each other over the right to own other people, or carrying out coups against sovereign governments simply because they are protesting the colonial exploitation corporations based in America were carrying out against them. Honestly, given that this was a very entertaining read that is, as I said, a well-researched piece of history, I was prepared to give it four stars, but the "afterword" or analysis of the last section of the book is so offensively bad that it got bumped down to three [edit: actually writing this paragraph made me so mad I can only give it two in good conscience]. Kinzer states, without apparent irony, that people like George Washington did not hold the view that "everyone could use democracy." Seven pages from the end (so close!) he makes the absolutely baseless claim that people like George Washington would oppose the way we go about "spreading democracy," which utterly ignores the fact that Washington himself cut his military teeth on the wholesale slaughter of indigenous peoples who refused to adapt to the "American" way of life, as did basically every other early president. Ignoring that is an egregious act of colonial erasure that fails to account for the fact that native people weresovereign peoples, with their own forms of government and their own "governing principle," in Washington's own words, and that they were merely "defending [their] interests" against brutal monsters who were intent on exterminating them in order to further their own commercial gain. It's an absurd notion that's the cherry on top of the shit sundae that is the final chapter, a chapter that openly espouses the idea that we should spread our values to the world, but we should be nice about it, and do it more like we did in South Korea or South Africa (what he means by this I honestly have no idea, especially with regards to South Korea) and less like we did with Iran, or Cuba, or North Korea. It's such a mindlessly absurd liberal notion that it soured the entire book for me, which up until the last chapter was a good read with some disappointing bits.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Ray

    This book only one century. But it didn't start with Hawaii. Thomas Jefferson changed the regime in Tripoli. The U.S. intervened in other nations 102 times between 1798 and 1895 (Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States). Always, U.S. military power has been used to enrich business interests. Nor are the consequences to the target countries unintended! As Noam Chomsky says in Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Cuba’s “crime” is successfully caring for its people: a virus This book only one century. But it didn't start with Hawaii. Thomas Jefferson changed the regime in Tripoli. The U.S. intervened in other nations 102 times between 1798 and 1895 (Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States). Always, U.S. military power has been used to enrich business interests. Nor are the consequences to the target countries unintended! As Noam Chomsky says in Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Cuba’s “crime” is successfully caring for its people: a virus that could spread, and interfere with corporate plunder. [p. 149] Vietnam was fought to prevent Vietnam from becoming a successful model of economic and social development for the third world. So far we’ve won. [p. 91]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Nunez

    Kinzer’s Overthrow is a history of the USA taking over countries by overthrowing their governments over the past 125 years. It all began in January 1893 when president Mackinley’s administration supported schemes by planters to take over Hawaii by dethroning the queen. This first overthrow included most of the elements that would characterize later ones: an economic interest by powerful business cartels (in this case, sugar), religious justification (redeeming benighted natives) and geopolitical Kinzer’s Overthrow is a history of the USA taking over countries by overthrowing their governments over the past 125 years. It all began in January 1893 when president Mackinley’s administration supported schemes by planters to take over Hawaii by dethroning the queen. This first overthrow included most of the elements that would characterize later ones: an economic interest by powerful business cartels (in this case, sugar), religious justification (redeeming benighted natives) and geopolitical considerations (a stepping stone to a Pacific empire). Thus did the US break with its former policy of keeping to its own shores and keeping foreign powers away from them. Yet, with the exception of Hawaii, which eventually became a US state (the last so far) and thus achieved order and prosperity (at the expense of its native culture and autonomy), these interventions usually ended up by wrecking the existing order and ushering in decades of instability and mayhem, usually suffered by the local population but often with regional or even global ramifications. In all cases the US was willing to incur significant costs to depose a government for not giving free rein to a powerful corporation or group of corporations, but not so much in investing in building up the country from the wreckage left after the troops left. Central America has been made toxic to this day due to over a century of US dominance. The same may be said by the Philippines, Iran and Afghanistan. Possible exceptions may be Chile and Grenada, although these were stable and orderly places before the overthrow of their leftist regimes and may therefore be seen to have reverted to type. The same may be said of Vietnam, but in that solitary case the locals won. The poster child for non intervention (particularly of the short-sighted, dumb kind) is Iraq, where hundreds of thousands have died and millions have been displaced, overwhelming Europe as refugees and justifying xenophobic parties and isolationist policies. Yet the brutality of Abu Ghraib was preceded by the brutality of the Philippino campaign and the My Lai massacre. The overthrow of nationalistic, progressive presidency of José Santos Zelaya gave rise, decades later, to virulently anti-US Sandinistas. Anticommunist Mossadegh’s overthrow eventually gave rise to ayatollah Homeini and Afghan Najibullah’s communist regime that never attacked the US ended in the reign of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Not a stellar record, even if one omits that the Nicaraguans had to live through 40 years of Somoza dictatorship, the Iranians through 25 years of the Shah’s tyranny and the Afghans through 20 years of civil war. The history of US interventions abroad is almost a school text on unintended consequences, on the limits of optimism and of the fragility or order, even of deficient order. Overall, an excellent book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    b bb bbbb bbbbbbbb

    I was going to read this but ended up skimming it instead. Its an interesting topic, but this wasn't a very scholarly attempt. Its also blatantly partial in some rather naive ways.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    I didn't particularly enjoy this book. Foreign policy isn't really my thing. Just ask my husband, who loves the stuff yet has to witness my eyes glaze over as I involuntarily tune out every time he wants to have a conversation about some foreign-policy type article he read in the paper or The Economist. I hated the writing style (very repetetive - he needs an excellent editor) and I had a hard time with the one-sided point of view - in particular, I thought Kinzer was extraordinarily freehanded i I didn't particularly enjoy this book. Foreign policy isn't really my thing. Just ask my husband, who loves the stuff yet has to witness my eyes glaze over as I involuntarily tune out every time he wants to have a conversation about some foreign-policy type article he read in the paper or The Economist. I hated the writing style (very repetetive - he needs an excellent editor) and I had a hard time with the one-sided point of view - in particular, I thought Kinzer was extraordinarily freehanded in painting ALL of the 14 (eventually overthrown) leaders as democratically idealistic. But, Kinzer makes some interesting points, and his takes on these dramatic bits of history are illuminating. I found some chapters absolutely fascinating (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Iran), some not. Also, his summary chapters, in particular, are pretty good, so if you read this I wouldn't blame you if you, like me, skimmed some of the Central and South America chapters and just read the wrap-up chapters at the end of the sections.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Azmar Khan

    Hands down the best book I’ve read in ages. This book is an answer to the question, “why do they hate us?”

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    5-star topic (especially presenting it to the US mainstream in an accessible manner), -2 stars for Kinzer's career of shilling for NYT when courageous journalism is inconvenient. *The good: -We have to start somewhere, and Kinzer's account of a century of American terrorism on other countries does provide the bare-bone names, dates and places. -Themes of American capitalist interests (against foreign independence), missionary racism, and empire geopolitics are introduced. -The reporter-style writ 5-star topic (especially presenting it to the US mainstream in an accessible manner), -2 stars for Kinzer's career of shilling for NYT when courageous journalism is inconvenient. *The good: -We have to start somewhere, and Kinzer's account of a century of American terrorism on other countries does provide the bare-bone names, dates and places. -Themes of American capitalist interests (against foreign independence), missionary racism, and empire geopolitics are introduced. -The reporter-style writing and boilerplate assumptions likely improve readability for beginners. *The bad: -As other reviewers noted, Kinzer is a reporter for the NY Times (which has a sad record, particularly in foreign policy, given the corporate elites who pay its bills via advertising) and provides rather limited understanding of political economy (leaving space for status quo assumptions to go unchallenged). -The chapters where he tries to categorize types of interventions and discusses the "Why's" and "Could Have/Should Have's" are varied in shallowness and absurdity. -Example: after going through a century of "interventions" that could just as easily be called terrorism, Kinzer still assumes that American ground troops and perhaps even temporary American military government in Afghanistan is the fallback option. Zero mention of regionalism: regional efforts with actual understanding and responsibility for the area to deal directly with building communities while preventing violence. As if the entire world is clueless, in desperate need of American democracy-bombs. *The ugly: -Kinzer's career of shilling at NYT for the American military-industrial-complex on current (thus urgent) foreign interventions is documented in Chomsky/Herman's classic Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Principled foreign policy journalists do not survive at NYT, for example: Seymour M. Hersh and Chris Hedges -With any introductory material where you sacrifice quality for the hope of appealing to a wider audience, the risk is re-enforcing certain status quo assumptions that perpetuate our inability to imagine actual change. The bridge is for you to cross, not to get stuck on... -Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky is an excellent next-step. -Michael Parenti is next level: https://youtu.be/O8k0yO-deoA?t=26 -Also, Vijay Prashad truly stands out especially in humanizing the many lost voices in the global south. Many of his lectures are online: https://youtu.be/DiHtfeof15s https://youtu.be/hTb2uVIWG5Q https://youtu.be/6jKcsHv3c74

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This is a rather uneven read of US history. I sympathize with the author and get what he is doing - namely, describing a variety of rather sordid instances where the US overthrew, undermined, encouraged, aided & abetted regime change. Not a pretty picture, and for the instances Kinzer covers, I don't doubt his narratives are true. My problem with the book is the rather arbitrary selection of events, and varied coverage of each. Hawaii leads it off, there is a lot on the small Central American This is a rather uneven read of US history. I sympathize with the author and get what he is doing - namely, describing a variety of rather sordid instances where the US overthrew, undermined, encouraged, aided & abetted regime change. Not a pretty picture, and for the instances Kinzer covers, I don't doubt his narratives are true. My problem with the book is the rather arbitrary selection of events, and varied coverage of each. Hawaii leads it off, there is a lot on the small Central American countries that we've pushed around and fiddled with, some on Iran, and of course Iraq. But to be specific - there is a tinge of politics in this. Sometimes, and mostly, it is the CIA or business interests that seem to be zeroed in on, while the responsibility of Presidents comes and goes. So was it mainly the CIA rogue in Chile, or a directive ordered from the White House? Or in Iran? Or what about Cuba. I think one would be better off reading specifics on any one of the countries and changes involved to get a deeper understanding. What is missing besides a true probing of responsibility - Presidents, business interests, rogue agencies, etc. - are a selective set of cases themselves. Why the focus on Granada or Panama (the Noriega case, not the original breaking off of that section of Colombia so we could have a Canal ...), yet not a mention of the US CIA role in the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in Zaire (with our "friend" Mobutu as our consolation prize). Or there is practically just one sentence on our favorite son John F Kennedy's presiding over the ill fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, though plenty of responsibility laid on Presidents that Kinzer doesn't like. Finally, these incidents and intrigue over 100 years seems to leave out the major context of the times. There was no doubt an ugly period in the imperialist 1890s to World War 1, but it differs a great deal from the ugliness of Cold War geopolitical intrigues from the 1950s to 1989. I don't think Kinzer explains the two times very well and how it affected "whoever" it was that directed some of these actions. Then we move on to the post Cold War period with the 1991 gulf war, the rise of Islamic extremists, etc. All of these larger perspectives play into the tactics and decisions of the foreign policy decisions of the US.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Got the book to read the section on Hawai'i. Should have stopped there as I had originally planned. Found the book rather one sided & biased at times. I am sure we have many skeletons in the closet & much to be ashamed for but in light of 9/11, al-Qaeda and now ISIS, the United States is fighting their own terror and daily overthrow plots. Found parts of it very interesting & other parts dull. As others have said some of the claims in this book are very shocking & sensational. Wo Got the book to read the section on Hawai'i. Should have stopped there as I had originally planned. Found the book rather one sided & biased at times. I am sure we have many skeletons in the closet & much to be ashamed for but in light of 9/11, al-Qaeda and now ISIS, the United States is fighting their own terror and daily overthrow plots. Found parts of it very interesting & other parts dull. As others have said some of the claims in this book are very shocking & sensational. Wondering how well the actual facts check out?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    very odd book detailing the U.S.'s covert efforts to overthrow a dozen governments in the past century, a pretty radical topic, but from a liberal mainstream perspective. hwwaahh?? fails to make obvious conclusions about american empire. instead presents the case that meddling in other countries' affairs is bad for the u.s. government. doh!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In this study of regime change as a tool of foreign policy, Kinzer takes on a very interesting subject but really fails to make his case. Kinzer makes all the right choices in terms of subjects to make his case, but fails utterly to tie them together in any truly meaningful way. Further frustrating is Kinzer's poor grasp of history. He regularly claims that Hawaii was America's first foray into regime change which it was clearly not. Kinzer seems unaware of the misadventures of William Walker i In this study of regime change as a tool of foreign policy, Kinzer takes on a very interesting subject but really fails to make his case. Kinzer makes all the right choices in terms of subjects to make his case, but fails utterly to tie them together in any truly meaningful way. Further frustrating is Kinzer's poor grasp of history. He regularly claims that Hawaii was America's first foray into regime change which it was clearly not. Kinzer seems unaware of the misadventures of William Walker in Nicaragua, American intervention in Texas, and the American intervention in California prior to and druing the Mexican War. He also makes claims that the US has used regime change more than any other country, which excludes the imperialst adventures of Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, etc. Overthrow" is an engrossing history of US "regime change", from the ouster of Hawaii's Queen Liliuokalani to the destruction of Saddam Hussein's government. The author weaves a fascinating tale of America's mostly sordid acts of interference in the affairs of foreign nations and the blowback they often engendered. However, although the author protests that he only wrote this book so our future interventions would be conducted more wisely, it would be hard to come away from this book not thinking that regime change is_always_immoral and deleterious to national interests, a point I would question. I think that this book suffers from a certain logical inconsistency and overly simplistic understanding. Rather than drawing one overriding lesson from our history of interventionism, I think the cases he examines are often so different as to defy comparison. Each case should be studied on its own and logical conclusions drawn from each. Admittedly, American support for, and active participation in foreign regime change has, more often than not, been pretty ignoble, uninformed and frequently undertaken to benefit private corporations and individuals. Our record in Central America is particularly shameful. I sympathize with Mr. Kinzer's visceral opposition to regime change, and think the vast majority of Americans, of whatever political inclination, would agree that decapitating a sovereign, democratic government so that United Fruit could avoid paying taxes is not a wise, proper or moral use of American power. However, that does not mean that there will never be situations where American national interest might necessitate the overthrow of foreign governments, by intrigue if possible, by war if necessary. It also doesn't mean that regime changes whose motivations are impure and whose implementation is violent necessarily result in negative results for either America or the foreign nation in question. That's where this book's thesis falls apart. For instance, during the Cold War, the United States and the rest of the free world faced an existential threat from the most murderous, aggressive, inhuman and tyrannical ideology in the history of man: Communism. If that insidious ideology, cloaked in the garb of an angel of light and promising paradise on earth, often tricked huge numbers of ignorant peasants and wool-headed "intellectuals" into supporting their own enslavement- such as in Chile- that was all the more reason to combat it with guns and bombs rather than pamphlets from the Young Americans for Freedom. Would Mr. Kinzer have preferred that we battle Communism expansionism with discussion and logic? In a life and death struggle, you play to win, not earn the respect of liberal journalists and the League of Women Voters. If we misjudged the actual threat from regimes in Iran and Guatemala, that's merely an argument to use our power more wisely, not to forfeit its use entirely. Another challenge to Mr. Kinzer's politics is that the sleazy machinations that resulted in the annexation of Hawaii and the disgusting war of conquest that brought us Puerto Rico ended up bringing undeniable material and political benefits to the natives of those countries, who are today quiet content to live under Yankee "imperialism" and would- and have- rejected independence when given the choice. While I wouldn't have supported either annexation, who's to say that the unintended consequences of leaving those islands alone wouldn't have been worse in the long run than what actually happened? In my opinion, a few of the relevant lessons that can be learned from this history is that we should not allow paranoia and ignorance to conflate mere nationalism with the ideologies and international movements of our actual enemies. Being leftist or anti-American doesn't necessarily make you a Communist. Being Islamic or authoritarian doesn't necessarily make you al-Quaida. Secondly, different cultures, races and stages of political development call for different approaches. While extending the franchise to Puerto Rico and Hawaii generally pacified those conquered territories, true democracy in nations like Iraq or Egypt either results in anarchy or Islamic rule. Mankind wasn't made on an assembly line. And thirdly, as a democratic republic, we must be ever vigilant to elect leaders who are intelligent enough, and honest enough, not to let themselves be duped into foreign intervention for corporate greed (US agri-giants in Central America), because of media-induced hysteria (the Spanish war), or for foreign interests. A serious threat to the national interest or security of the U.S. must be the high and sole criterion for foreign intervention. In the second chapter he goes on to say that the Philippines is the first time American soldiers fight overseas, again incorrect. I seem to remember Marines in Tripoli long before. What had the potential to be a useful and enlightening book on US foreign policy is little more than a angry and historically inaccurate diatribe against the US and its foreign policy. Kinzer makes numerous misleading statements, uses quotes out of context, and assumes that all US foreign policy ventures are dictated by selfish economic interests in general and by corporate robberbarons specifically. Virtually all his villains are Republicans. Oddly, he puts Grover Cleveland on a pedestal as an anti-imperialist---the same guy who signed the Dawes Act into law that led to the loss of vast stretches of land owned by Native Americans. Misinformation ( ridiculous, if not pathetically predictable): pg. 276: Kinzer writes that "Bush ignored repeated warnings that devastating attacks [9/11] were imminent." First of all, the so-called "warning" was a presidential daily brief delivered by the CIA on August 6, 2001. Like most, if not all, intelligence it had no specific information about the WTC/Pentagon plots that could have decisively prevented them. And besides, the problems that prevented us from stopping 9/11 were FAR more complex and deeply rooted than Bush "ignoring" a "warning" from the CIA. What nonsense. pg. 278: Kinzer complains that the 9/11 attacks would never have occurred if the US had not armed and and trained the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Again, Kinzer makes a predictable and over-simplified claim. The mujahideen of the 1980s were, for the most part, bent on driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Before the Gulf War in 1991 (after the Soviets left), bin Laden was not particularly concerned about America. Only when US troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia did bin Laden begin harboring hatred for the US. Kinzer fails to mention that, other than the US, the mujahideen received substantial support from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. America was not the only country involved. pg. 279: Kinzer complains that the CIA did nothing to save Abdul Haq from the Taliban during the war there in 2001, even claiming that the CIA did not dispatch armed Predator drones to Haq's location, EVEN THOUGH THE CIA DID. Huh! In the end, Kinzer blames the failure to catch bin Laden on the Americans' "failure" to send in large numbers of conventional ground troops into Afghanistan, EVEN THOUGH THE SOVIETS TRIED THAT. And how succesful were the Soviets in trying this approach? Huh!! Kinzer also claims that one of the reasons for the Iraq war was oil and the defense contractor Halliburton (formerly headed by Dick Cheney), which was awarded no-bid contracts for rebuilding oil refineries in Iraq. Kinzer, of course, predictably fails to mention that Cheney was actually forced to divest himself of his Halliburton stock when he became VP, and besides, all of the oil contracts in Iraq went to China and countries that didn't even participate in the invasion.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ian .

    I've been interested in the history of U.S. for a while, especially the foreign policy, military operations, corporations and finance. This book covers basically all these topics. It is well known that U.S. government has overthrown many legitimate foreign governments back in the history, this book just covers all these operations in sequence, analysis the background and similarities. It is also interesting to compare U.S. to Soviet Union and Russia. Common belief is that U.S. intervenes in othe I've been interested in the history of U.S. for a while, especially the foreign policy, military operations, corporations and finance. This book covers basically all these topics. It is well known that U.S. government has overthrown many legitimate foreign governments back in the history, this book just covers all these operations in sequence, analysis the background and similarities. It is also interesting to compare U.S. to Soviet Union and Russia. Common belief is that U.S. intervenes in other countries because it wants to liberate suppressed people, promote democracy and wants to do other noble things. And most of the world usually sees U.S. as the good guys - the peacekeepers. Meanwhile when people and media cover Russia's interventions in other sovereign countries (Afghanistan, Abkhazia, Georgia, Ukraine) then Russia is always seen as the bad guy. When analyzing and comparing the interventions of U.S. and Russia then they don't actually differ that much. There is usually a hidden agenda behind all these operations and overthrows, just the public opinion has been manipulated more smoothly by the U.S. policymakers. Of course now, after tens of years of interventions, U.S. is seen as a villain in many parts of the world. And washing all this dirt off is nearly impossible.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    The most startling thing about this book is the extent to which the official propaganda about US imperialism has remained unchanged over the past century. In each case of 'regime change', the official explanation is always that the US is 'intervening' to 'combat repression' and 'promote democracy'. The real reasons are usually evident to anyone who is paying even moderately close attention: the country in question either has resources that are wanted by US corporations, or the existing governmen The most startling thing about this book is the extent to which the official propaganda about US imperialism has remained unchanged over the past century. In each case of 'regime change', the official explanation is always that the US is 'intervening' to 'combat repression' and 'promote democracy'. The real reasons are usually evident to anyone who is paying even moderately close attention: the country in question either has resources that are wanted by US corporations, or the existing government has decided it does not want to be exclusively in the US imperial domain and so must be replaced, usually by a brutal dictatorship. Beginning in Hawaii in 1893, and followed shortly thereafter by Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and continuing to the present day in Iraq, the US has had a foreign policy based on state terrorism in support of corporate interests. This policy is neutral with respect to democracy (as most of us understand the term) but is instead based on making resources and markets available to US and, increasingly, international corporations. Nonetheless, the official rhetoric is always centered on the notion that the US is on a mission to promote democracy around the world, never mind that more often than not, when the US 'intervenes', it is to overthrow a working democracy in order to replace it with a dictatorship more friendly to US corporate investment. This is a fascinating book. Kinzer does not generalize about the history of US foreign policy, but simply describes the details of each major 'regime change' perpetrated by the US over the past 115 years. Definite patterns emerge, but the specific events, and crimes, are interesting in themselves.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Ever ask yourself something along the lines of, 'Wouldn't it be great if a book about [insert topic] existed?' Well, I thought it would be cool if there was a book about the United States' um, ...'interventions' in foreign countries. Imagine my surprise to find this one. And while the author mentions that this book 'focuses only on the most extreme set of cases: those in which the United States arranged to depose foreign leaders' and 'treats only cases in which Americans played the decisive role Ever ask yourself something along the lines of, 'Wouldn't it be great if a book about [insert topic] existed?' Well, I thought it would be cool if there was a book about the United States' um, ...'interventions' in foreign countries. Imagine my surprise to find this one. And while the author mentions that this book 'focuses only on the most extreme set of cases: those in which the United States arranged to depose foreign leaders' and 'treats only cases in which Americans played the decisive role in deposing a regime', there are still a stagggering fourteen instances of overthrow spread over about 110 years. That means - on average - one overthrow every 7.86 years! Say what? For each overthrow the author covers, he provides the necessary contextual/background information for the reader to understand exactly why (& how) these events happened. Each part concludes with a chapter in which the consequences of each 'intervention' discussed in that part are examined. This book is probably not the most comprehensive one on this subject, but surely it must be among the most accessible. It certainly improves one's understanding of current events, and for this reason alone should be read by anyone looking to understand today's political climate & world issues a little better. I didn't come in with absolutely no knowledge of the book's subject matter, but a lot of it was new to me, and the overthrows I did know something about, well... it helped fill in a few blanks. Great reading.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kiesha

    If you are feeling anti-American and want some fodder to fuel your righteous indignation, look no further. Ever wondered why so many Yanks travel with Canadian flag patches on their rucksacks? Kinzer describes why in painful, explicit detail. Every single page I turned was like torture, but I couldn't look away. The chapter titled 'Despotism and Godless Terrorism' even caught my travel neighbor's eye on a recent flight. The greed and hubris of some of the American leaders described in the book i If you are feeling anti-American and want some fodder to fuel your righteous indignation, look no further. Ever wondered why so many Yanks travel with Canadian flag patches on their rucksacks? Kinzer describes why in painful, explicit detail. Every single page I turned was like torture, but I couldn't look away. The chapter titled 'Despotism and Godless Terrorism' even caught my travel neighbor's eye on a recent flight. The greed and hubris of some of the American leaders described in the book is simply abhorrent. Most of the regime overthrows that Kinzer describes were in some fashion fueled by a myopic obsession with the threat of communism and/or corporation profit. I probably should not fool myself into thinking that things are much different in 2011... Take home message: U.S. intervention destabilizes world politics and leaves those countries lucky enough to warrant invasion, worse off than before. I have been a little Kinzer obsessed since reading 'Blood of Brothers' during my time in Nicaragua. He is a former New York Times correspondent and he somehow manages to make foreign policy read like an edgy pulp fiction thriller...only replete with terrible TRUE stories of torture and government sanctioned murder all in the name of profit.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Johnsergeant

    Downloaded from Audible.com Narrator: Michael Prichard Publisher: Tantor Media, 2006 Length: 15 hours and 13 min. Publisher's Summary A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled 14 foreign governments, not always to its own benefit. "Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian mon Downloaded from Audible.com Narrator: Michael Prichard Publisher: Tantor Media, 2006 Length: 15 hours and 13 min. Publisher's Summary A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled 14 foreign governments, not always to its own benefit. "Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and continuing through the Spanish-American War and the Cold War and into our own time, the United States has not hesitated to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its political and economic goals. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 is the latest, though perhaps not the last, example of the dangers inherent in these operations. In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers. He also shows that the U.S. government has often pursued these operations without understanding the countries involved; as a result, many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark Desrosiers

    This gripping narrative should underscore a deeper historical current, and I bet the author was a tad too anti-ideological to pick it up. And that's the major failing of this astonishing book. The story of Hawaii, for example, seems bizarre in a way because such B-grade characters carried it out against an obviously powerful Queen. How did that really happen? Benjamin Harrison's mighty approval? And where did Noriega REALLY come from? Not to mention Edward Landsdale, who was Magsaysay's kingmaker This gripping narrative should underscore a deeper historical current, and I bet the author was a tad too anti-ideological to pick it up. And that's the major failing of this astonishing book. The story of Hawaii, for example, seems bizarre in a way because such B-grade characters carried it out against an obviously powerful Queen. How did that really happen? Benjamin Harrison's mighty approval? And where did Noriega REALLY come from? Not to mention Edward Landsdale, who was Magsaysay's kingmaker before he fucked up Vietnam? As I kept reading, I felt that America was an octupus that needed serious harpooning and dissecting. This rarely gets done here, and you get the impression that the "great men" of American history really are essential to its fucked-up history. Corporate lawyer John Foster Dulles, for example, gazed into his fireplace while buggering Iran. Or Leonard Wood, what a stern imperialist dickweed. Or even Dick Cheney (his involvement in the Operation Just Cause was just, y'know, weird). Still, if the words "Sam Zemurray" and "Mossadegh" and "Luis Munoz Rivera" mean nothing to you, you must read this book. Core knowledge.

  23. 5 out of 5

    John

    Every American should read this book. Talking to people outside the U.S., especially in Latin America, I was always surprised about how much there is a dislike of U.S. interference in foreign affairs. Not any more. Sure, Kinzer has somewhat of an agenda, but it never hurts to know one's own history better. Kinzer explores the 14 regimes the U.S. has directly overthrown, and then, after each epoch, gives nice summary of the results of those actions. Needless to say, things rarely turned out as expected.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    If I had to summarize my thoughts about this book into a single sentence, I would only need to say that Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow should be required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the relationship of the U.S. to the rest of the world. In it, Kinzer looks at over a dozen examples of U.S. intervention in foreign countries since the turn of the 20th century and presents them together to illustrate a sordid, damaging, and largely unbroken history of what is now blandly called “r If I had to summarize my thoughts about this book into a single sentence, I would only need to say that Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow should be required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the relationship of the U.S. to the rest of the world. In it, Kinzer looks at over a dozen examples of U.S. intervention in foreign countries since the turn of the 20th century and presents them together to illustrate a sordid, damaging, and largely unbroken history of what is now blandly called “regime change”. This one took me substantially longer to read than I expected, simply because the outrage I felt at reading about each cynical intervention made it impossible for me to read more than one chapter at a time. Again and again, the U.S. has contrived to overthrow democratically elected leaders (many who had already demonstrated progress in improving conditions for the citizens of their own countries) and installed autocratic, sometimes pliant, usually violent, dictatorial regimes abroad, all the while presenting to the American people the image of itself as a benevolent force for peace and democracy around the world. Anyone who already looks at American policy with a critical eye will not necessarily be shocked by what Kinzer recounts here, but laying them out together draws out a continuity of purpose that runs through all of the interventions. The chapters are grouped into three coherent and useful sections, beginning with what Kinzer labels the an American “imperial phase”, documenting the first stumbling steps of the nation’s leadership into a forceful, expansionist policy beyond U.S. territorial limits (in Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras). The second part of the book deals with post-WWII uses of covert action (in Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, and Chile) to depose foreign governments deemed unfriendly the U.S., usually under the banner of anti-communism. The third and final section sees a post-Cold War return to overt military invasion (in Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq), though unlike the operations of the early 20th century, these can no longer acceptably be treated as justified exercises of imperial power, and are now superficially couched in nicer rationales. Individual chapters focus on a single country or a region of connected smaller conflicts, and then each section is capped by an epilogue-type summary chapter, reviewing what has happened in the countries of focus in the years since, and synthesizing a broader critique of the intervention policy. The book makes a powerful argument about the nature of U.S. foreign intervention, though my primary complaint about it is that at times, Kinzer seems to miss his own point. For example, the chapters in Part Two demonstrate persuasively that pure individual/corporate financial interest was responsible for U.S. coups in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile, yet in his summary chapter for this section, Kinzer gives unwarranted credence to the notion that the U.S. had merely “misjudged” nationalist actions in those countries as expressions of global communism. While the individual chapters make clear the decisive role that capital interests played in putting coups into motion, Kinzer argues that, “Americans overthrew governments only when economic interest coincided with ideological ones.” (p. 215) The circumstances he presents in previous chapters, however, more convincingly support the conclusion that the ideological argument was conveniently dragooned into service whenever the capitalist crisis was urgent enough. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine it could be otherwise in a country where the titans of business have historically played such a direct role in national government. Take, for example, this passage from Part One of the book, where Kinzer diagrams the deep intermingling of the United Fruit Company and the U.S. government (p. 129-130): Few private companies have ever been as closely interwoven with the United States government as United Fruit was during the mid-1950s. [Secretary of State John Foster] Dulles had, for decades, been one of its principal legal counselors. His brother, Allen, the CIA director, had also done legal work for the company and owned a substantial block of its stock. John Moors Cabot, the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, was a large shareholder. So was his brother, Thomas Dudley Cabot, the director of international security affairs in the State Department, who had been United Fruit's president. General Robert Cutler, head of the National Security Council, was its former chairman of the board. John J. McCloy, the president of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was a former board member. Both undersecretary of state Walter Bedell Smith and Robert Hill, the American ambassador to Costa Rica, would join the board after leaving government service. This is not merely the typical case of close personal ties between wealthy, patrician businessmen and wealthy, patrician politicians. This is state power wielded by men with a direct, overt financial interest in the outcome. At minimum, Kinzer’s argument that capital interests would be insufficient justification for intervention without coincident ideological passion on the part of U.S. officials would be substantially more credible if he offered any counter examples of incidents where capital had not gotten its way. The bigger problem is that Kinzer’s position gives too much credit to U.S. leadership. In Kinzer’s view, the U.S. government’s use of anti-communism as justification for intervention, “was the easy way out, an extreme form of intellectual laziness.” (p. 215) The truth is more simple and less benign than that. What the ultra-rich (and ultra-politically-powerful) are most concerned about is losing their capital. When their capital interests have been under threat in foreign countries contemplating nationalization of private companies, or facing competition from new national companies, the U.S. has reliably come to their aid -- whether under cover of the fight against communism or the war on terror. The ideological rationale is incidental. I picked up Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism at the same time as I bought Overthrow, and while I have yet to read Shock Doctrine, they seem like a natural pairing even more now then they did then. (For one thing, I imagine I’ll find more of the type of argument I’m talking about in Klein’s book than in Overthrow). But even though I disagree with Kinzer’s conclusions to some extent, my criticisms are minimal. It is an outstanding book, engagingly paced, accessibly written, and well documented. Bottom line: essential reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    I ended up liking this book more than I expected. It was more fair-minded and objective than the general vibe I received from blurbs and reviews. Kinzer narrates 14 or so episodes where the US orchestrated or participated in the overthrow of a foreign regime. He makes several interesting and generally valid claims about these decisions: 1. Corporate and commercial interests played strong roles in each of these . In the fascinating cases of Honduras and , fruit companies practically made US polic I ended up liking this book more than I expected. It was more fair-minded and objective than the general vibe I received from blurbs and reviews. Kinzer narrates 14 or so episodes where the US orchestrated or participated in the overthrow of a foreign regime. He makes several interesting and generally valid claims about these decisions: 1. Corporate and commercial interests played strong roles in each of these . In the fascinating cases of Honduras and , fruit companies practically made US policy. Kinzer leans a little too heavily on corporate interest for some of these cases, but overall he shows a disconcerting trend of short term private interests trumping long term strategy. 2. The US generally knew very little about the regimes it was changing. This clearly didn't change too much over the course of the 20th century. Sometimes the knowledge/experts are around, but the leaders choose to ignore them. 3. As a consequence, the US often makes a bad situation worse in the long run by changing regimes that we could otherwise work with. Many of the regimes we sought to change were democratic and/or progressive nationalists (Zelaya, revolutionary Cuba, Aguinaldo, Honduras, Mossadegh, Allende) and even admired American values and institutions. Overthrowing them tarnished American ideals by association and caused many actors in these states to turn to more radical and violent options. Che Guevara, who ran for office in the 1950's but was shut out by a US-backed dictator and turned to a more Marxist approach. America's interference in these states created a backfire effect in the long-term, often leading to worse problems than the ones that regime change was intended to solve. The consequences for those societies, who saw progressive nationalist leaders overthrown and replaced with kleptocratic, brutal stooges, were also quite tragic. In other words, while our ideals and example has appealed to billions throughout the world, our actions have mitigated that appeal and fueled much anti-Americanism. In this way, this book was an indirect argument for strategic restraint, long term thinking, and the importance of soft power resources. 4. Much of the regime change was simply unnecessary in a strategic sense. Many of the overthrown leaders were nationalists at the core, but the US folded them into broader global struggles such as the Cold War. Most of these leaders wanted to avoid Soviet dominance as much as US control, creating much room for negotiation and incentivizing that could draw them into the US sphere or at least benevolent neutrality. Kinzer does a good job of showing how warped and evidence-immune the worldviews were of key figures like Lodge, Dulles, Kissinger, and the Bush team. Dulles, for example, consciously ignored the intelligence reports that there was no evidence that Mossadegh and Arbenz were not Communists nor particularly pro-Soviet. Kissinger acted similarly in Chile. These figures also knew next to nothing about the societies they meddled in and made few attempts to correct their ignorance. This book shows that the personality and intelligence of the people in charge of foreign policy really matters, and if they are not amenable to evidence they should not be in power. My main problem with this book was that it left out the world wars as episodes of regime change. Each of those wars led to the fall of the opposing regime, and in WWII regime change was an explicit goal and condition for ending the conflict. It would be fascinating to look more at when, how, and why the US and its allies came to the decision that these regimes needed to be changed and what the consequences of that decision were. I'm not sure why Kinzer left these cases out. They don't gel well with the critical leanings of the book, but it might be instructive to look more at those cases of regime change and reconstruction to figure out why they succeeded when so many others floundered. The explanation might fit well with his argument that regime change tended to work out better when the US was more involved in the management of the post regime change society rather than farming that process out to elites and other forces within these societies. I recommend this book for the general reader of US foreign policy. I learned more than I expected to, especially about the Latin American cases. Kinzer is critical but fair. He doesn't treat every regime change case as a disaster and shows that when the US took responsibility for reconstructing those societies that good outcomes could occur. He links regime change to a sense of American universalism and exceptionalism that would should be wary of in the conduct of foreign affairs. Regime change has been a tool of US foreign policy for more than a 100 years, and Kinzer makes a good case that we should only use it in extreme circumstances. Restraint, humility, and a careful consideration of the national interest in the long term are the lessons of this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Kinzer provides a brief survey of fourteen auspicious moments in US foreign policy: the times that Presidents, military leaders, and influential businesspeople collaborated to engineer the downfall of the leader of another country. In Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile,Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the US intentionally deposed foreign leaders in order to install conditions more friendly to US business interests and more amen Kinzer provides a brief survey of fourteen auspicious moments in US foreign policy: the times that Presidents, military leaders, and influential businesspeople collaborated to engineer the downfall of the leader of another country. In Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile,Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the US intentionally deposed foreign leaders in order to install conditions more friendly to US business interests and more amenable to their regional protection and transit. The stories are old hat to those familiar with America's Imperial ambitions, but yet looking at any popular coverage of modern US foreign policy would lead you to believe they were still classified! They reveal the moral bankruptcy of US intervention - which isn't a problem for "realists," but which does undermine the unique sense of righteousness, of "original sinlessness" that many Americans feel defines their nation. Some of the more interesting aspects of the work: The consistency of the stories. Each seems to follow a similar plan. First, a nationalist leader or a stubborn, idiosyncratic dictator tries to force an American company to do something it doesn't want to do - pay taxes, enforce labor laws, redistribute land, etc - or tries to change the regional balance of power in a way that threatens US commerce - control the Panama canal, or invade a key US oil supplier. Then, those business interests use the power elite connections of their CEOs and lawyers to sway the government's interest. The government often becomes convinced that the situation is relevant for reasons other than the original corporate complaint. This seems irrelevant, however. Then the CIA, the Marines, or the State Department, begin putting pressure on the target, including funding dissident groups, threatening violence, rigging elections, and cutting off aid and even normal economic activities like bank loans. The press without fail begins to slander the target and build a moral groundwork for the campaign. The president, in speeches and interviews, emphasizes these moral bases. The plan goes off without hitch and the new leaders- pliable, corrupt, and pro-Western, regardless of whether they are elected or appointed - take office. Then the US leaves the shattered country to rebuild while its businesses rape the nation's land and people. The feelings of US presidents don't seem to matter much, if at all. In many cases, the President is a war-mongering dick like Bush, Nixon, or McKinley. In other cases, the President is reluctant to endorse violence (Teddy Roosevelt took pride in never having started a conflict in which a single US life was lost), and is extremely remorseful of some of the violent consequences of his actions (Kennedy was bereft at the fact that he, the first Catholic President, was responsible for the death by coup of Diem, the first Catholic leader of Vietnam). Yet in all the cases in the book, the President was swept along by the situation and agreed to the plan. It seems to matter little who is President - the corporate interests are always served. Finally, I was surprised and baffled that Kinzer always seems to paint the long-term consequences of US intervention (with the exception of Puerto Rico and Hawaii, these are invariably corruption, violence, instability, repression, and poverty) as unintended side-effects of the achievement of a short-term goal. Kinzer paints US leaders as ignorant and impatient, unwilling to devote the time and effort needed to make lasting, peaceful solutions to the problems posed. This is quite indubitably true. Yet I doubt that this is a flaw that emerged only due to the characters of these men. As Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism illuminates, instability, repression, and poverty over the long term are often precisely what corporate interests seek. Corrupt governments are less expensive that fair wages and reasonable taxes, or worse - nationalization. Repressive governments help keep poorly treated workers in line. Etc. In our modern age of greater transparency and human rights watchdogs, simply installing a dictator, e.g., in Iraq, would be infeasible. But the US now finds itself in a conundrum. For by attacking the country and leaving it a war-torn wasteland for several years, they have earned the enmity of the Iraqi people. Given the democratic choice, they now tend to elect anti-US leaders (according to one of Kinzer's quotes, the leaders the Iranians want to see in power). So the US either has to forego the illusion that it is "freeing" the Iraqi people and tamper with their elections until a pro-US leader is in power, or lose the prize they put all this work into getting. I wonder which they'll choose. . . ?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This book discusses the American history you weren't taught in high school. Overthrow discusses 14 episodes of when the United States directly overthrew, invaded, deposed or manipulated the capitulation of a sovereign government over the past 100+ years. We are given portraits of the people who lead the charges for regime change and the economic and political mechanizations that influenced their decisions - i.e. capitalism and the expansion of American markets, or the fight against supposed Comm This book discusses the American history you weren't taught in high school. Overthrow discusses 14 episodes of when the United States directly overthrew, invaded, deposed or manipulated the capitulation of a sovereign government over the past 100+ years. We are given portraits of the people who lead the charges for regime change and the economic and political mechanizations that influenced their decisions - i.e. capitalism and the expansion of American markets, or the fight against supposed Communist influence - all within the context of the relevant time periods. It is actually a wonderful work of history, allowing for individual episodes which present a consistent theme when taken together in full form. We are told the mysterious tale of the takeover of the Kingdom of Hawai'i (did YOU know how Hawai'i became affiliated with the USA? Me neither. And I have a history degree.), the real story behind the Spanish-American War (and it's attendant atrocities), the British/USA pact to reinstall the Shah of Iran and all kinds of mess that went on in Central America from the 1950s-80s. And of course, Chile. Ooooh, Chile. No book on this subject would be complete without including the hubristic and willfully-ignorant details of the run up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. So those are here, too. However - I have read countless (okay, many - see my bookshelf for an actual count) books on war and genocide from around the world and I count this book to be one of the top-three most disgusting works I've ever read. True, it was enlightening on a myriad of topics, but that light shone on the actions, pursuits and obsessions of men who were flagrantly greedy, irreverently ignorant (about the countries they were invading), or both. I shut the book and tossed it on the table multiple times feeling empty and disgusted. It actually hurts to know your nation did these things, for the pursuit of profit, political power or just plain spite, especially when our society leads us to believe that America is the one place on earth where these things don't happen. Overthrow rips away the shiny American veneer, which has been slowly crumbling since the Vietnam war and Watergate, and lays bare the bloody and sodden entrails without which no major world power can exist. For many Americans, this is the first time you'll be exposed to these histories. If you give half a shit about anyone else on the planet, it's a tough read. If you don't, you probably won't believe these things actually happened. I even tried to place many of these conflicts and overthrows within their proper historical context; some of them occurred at a time when the wealthy, growing economies of the world were Eurocentric societies trying to expand markets for goods on the heels of the industrial revolution. The Spanish Empire was flailing; the British, beginning it's slow, gradual slide down from its apex; the American was nascent from the womb and needed to feed. But even those conditions don't justify economically enslaving other people and ignoring basic human rights - that kind of action can only happen where there is a plain lack of human respect. Then you throw in the utter madness and dearth of reason gone epidemic during the Cold War and the fight against Communism and you have a fantastical bogeyman hiding in every leftist-revoluntionary-workers'-rights corner of the world and thus, a free ticket to invade. It just goes on and on. Right up to Iraq. But the context doesn't help. These operations - which impacted the fates of millions and millions of innocent people, sowed the seeds of anti-American hatred worldwide, and helped develop the desire for the largest and most expensive military apparatus in world history - cannot be forgiven simply as the sins of history. These 14 conflicts each represent a stark opportunity that the United States had to spread it's dogma about the rights of man, to lift up and bolster less affluent societies and nascent democracies, to grow a foundation of trust and goodwill amongst nations. Fourteen times, the United States chose to do the opposite of all three.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Brugger

    What a dismal read. Of course I knew about all of these American-sponsored coups, except for Hawaii, but I learned some details that just made it all worse. And the worst part is the sense that we haven’t learned a thing in these hundred years; if anything, we’ve gotten more arrogant which has made us stupider. For example, when we invaded Panama in 1989, there was absolutely no plan for a post-Noriega administration. So after Noriega was deposed “Panama City degenerated into violent anarchy. Thi What a dismal read. Of course I knew about all of these American-sponsored coups, except for Hawaii, but I learned some details that just made it all worse. And the worst part is the sense that we haven’t learned a thing in these hundred years; if anything, we’ve gotten more arrogant which has made us stupider. For example, when we invaded Panama in 1989, there was absolutely no plan for a post-Noriega administration. So after Noriega was deposed “Panama City degenerated into violent anarchy. This eminently predictable result of the invasion seemed to take the Americans completely by surprise.” There was widespread looting of shops and fires burned out of control. Then 24 years later we deposed Saddam in Iraq with no thought of the future. Actually that’s not completely accurate, the State Department had developed a detailed plan a year before the invasion, called “Future of Iraq.” But Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed it as totally unnecessary. Of course Rumsfeld had an agenda: he wanted to prove his theory that modern technological warfare could be conducted with almost no troops. Wrong of course. And the lack of a plan resulted in the insurgency and thousands of American deaths and untold hundred of thousands of Iraqi deaths, along with a broken, ruined country. In addition, American blindness to our own history makes us stupid when reacting to events. For example, in 1979 when Iranians took over the American embassy in Tehran, in the Iranians’ minds this was directly linked to the U.S. overthrow of the Iranian Prime Minister in 1953. But I don’t remember hearing anything about that in 1979 in this country; all you heard was, “Why do they hate us, all we want is to do good in the world.” My only complaint with the book is that there’s a lot of mischief that the US has been involved in that didn’t make it into this book. I understand that he was trying to focus on the episodes where our country overtly overthrew another government, but he could have given a sense of what else the US was up to. The book is divided into three eras, and after chapters detailing the foreign adventures that took place in that era there is an overview chapter that provides a little history of the consequences of each intervention. Sometimes it felt like there was a little repetition in these chapters, and I found myself wishing he had instead spent time outlining what else the US was up to in those years. This is a history that every American should be familiar with.

  29. 4 out of 5

    CV Rick

    In a world where corporations are people and money equals speech equals power the swath of destruction that the United States has created is unsurprising. My favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one which Spike has been taken prisoner and is tied up while the magical Native Americans are attacking the gang with bows and arrows. In the midst of this encounter spike blasts political correctness by telling you the rest of them to just accept the fact that they killed all the Indians and i In a world where corporations are people and money equals speech equals power the swath of destruction that the United States has created is unsurprising. My favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one which Spike has been taken prisoner and is tied up while the magical Native Americans are attacking the gang with bows and arrows. In the midst of this encounter spike blasts political correctness by telling you the rest of them to just accept the fact that they killed all the Indians and it's time to move on. What is it okay for a nation to do in the pursuit of its own defense what is it okay for a nation to do to promote its economic interests? See that's a much more difficult question. Is the same kind of response appropriate when marauding invaders are murdering civilians as when engaging his people are attempting to reappropriate lands that had been generating wealth for your nation's companies? I say the line has to be drawn somewhere and America's history of invasion and conquest is not only immoral, it's blatantly illegal. Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq is an amazing chronicle of what this nation has done to the freedom of choice other people have tried to employ. We have conquered, subverted, overthrown, bullied, and invalidated nations, leaders, and citizens around the world. The common theme throughout our involvement across the globe has been corporate profit. We have engaged our military, our State Department, our CIA, and our international influence to enhance the profits of the very corporations that wreak havoc at home and worldwide. In Hawaii it was sugar. In Cuba it was brothels and the Mafia and land. In Chile it was copper. In Nicaragua and Guatemala and Honduras It Was United Fruit. In Panama it was a canal. And so on and so on. What's good for the largest corporations is not necessarily what's good for us and for our country. And when are these corporations going to pay the bill and absorb the repercussions for destabilizing the world. It seems that that bill always gets paid by US taxpayers and by the chaos, death, and destruction on the poor people of the world. These corporations are getting a free ride and not only are we footing the bill but we are carrying the moral burden of our hideous actions. Read this book if you want to be sickened.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Though it's now three years old, Kinzer's survey of America's century of "regime change" is still an impressive work for anyone interested in American foreign policy and diplomatic history. Starting with the coup that overthrew Hawaii's native monarchy and ending with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Kinzer takes the reader through three distinct phases of American regime change: the imperialist phase, the covert phase, and the invasion phase. Each chapter focuses on a specific country and the coup or Though it's now three years old, Kinzer's survey of America's century of "regime change" is still an impressive work for anyone interested in American foreign policy and diplomatic history. Starting with the coup that overthrew Hawaii's native monarchy and ending with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Kinzer takes the reader through three distinct phases of American regime change: the imperialist phase, the covert phase, and the invasion phase. Each chapter focuses on a specific country and the coup or invasion that overthrew its government and provides as engaging a work of narrative history as any spy novel. There were a few things I didn't like though that keeps me from giving this book a five-star rating. First, I think Kinzer should have structured the book differently, with the tale of the coups's aftermaths told in the same chapter as the coup itself rather than lump them all into one chapter at the end of each part. For anyone who wants to hear the end of the story, this feature is a little annoying. Second, there were several other coups and invasions that Kinzer could have covered, like the many instances of gunboat diplomacy between the presidencies of Taft and FDR and the U.S. intervention in Haiti in 1995. Lastly, Kinzer's two chapters on Afghanistan and Iraq are the poorest ones of the entire book. Afghanistan's because Kinzer starts it by following an Afghani nationalist that, ultimately, didn't matter to the overall story of the invasion. And the Iraq chapter felt like a laundry list of criticisms that anyone familiar with books like Fiasco are quite familiar with. And since those were the last two "overthrows" of the book, Kinzer ends on a somewhat disappointing note. All in all, though, a good book that even a passing fan of history can, and should, devour.

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