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This paper examines the history of U.S. interventions in Latin America and attempts to explain their frequency by highlighting two factors – besides security and economic interests – that have made American interventions in Latin America so common. First, immense differences in size and influence between the United States and the States of Latin America have made interventions appear to be a low risk solution to crises that threaten American interests in the region. Second, when U.S government concerns and aspirations for Latin America converge with the general fears and aspirations of American foreign policy, interventions become much more likely. Such a convergence pushes Latin American issues high up the U.S. foreign policy agenda because of the region’s proximity to the United States and the perception that costs of intervening are low. The leads proponents of intervention to begin asking questions like “if we cannot stop communism/revolutions/drug-trafficking in Latin America, where can we stop it?”

This article traces how these factors influenced the decision to intervene in Latin America during the era of Dollar Diplomacy and during the Cold War. It concludes with three possible scenarios that could lead to a reemergence of an American interventionist policy in Latin America. It makes the argument that even though the United Sates has not intervened in Latin America during the twenty-two years, it is far from clear that American interventions in Latin America will be consigned to the past.


"The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this report (paper) are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision unless so designated by the official documentation.

Funded by the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment (NDCEE), ID W91WAW-09-D-0022, delivery order number 0616."



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