"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.
©2006 Stephen Kinzer; (P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc.
"[Kinzer] brings a rich narrative immediacy to all of his stories." (Publishers Weekly)
"Kinzer's narrative abounds with unusual anecdotes, vivid description, and fine detail, demonstrating why he ranks among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (The Washington Post's Book World)
Like most countries, the US tends to highlight its successes and downplay its failures, thinking itself an idealistic champion and denying avaricious or base motivations.
This book provides some balance to that PR-driven view by filling in some of the darker chapters of our history, ones rarely taught in our public schools.
As the author states in his introduction, "The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not an isolated episode. It was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew fourteen governments that displeased them for various ideological, political and economic reasons."
The author isn't talking here about the world wars. He describes actions that were often based on a desire to protect American (sometimes multinational) corporations, though the public rationale was spun as protecting our national security or liberation of those in the country whose government was to be overthrown.
Some of these histories are well known, most are not to anyone who hasn't benefited from some college-level exposure to the history and politcs of the 20th century.
There's plenty here that will help put our actions into better perspective.
This is an excellent, concise look at fourteen cases of American "regime change" overseas, from Hawaii in the 1890s to Iraq in 2003. Most Americans are simply unaware of this dismal history of violent prerogative, much of it at the behest of American companies. (United Fruit actually zaps two countries.) The book provides a good historical background to Bush's wars and makes for a compelling antidote to audiobooks of gauzy patriotism like "Empire of Trust."
While much of the tale is grisly and infuriating, especially in Guatemala and Chile, there are lighter moments. It is well worth it to learn that McKinley saw it as his Christian duty to save the souls of heathens in the Philippines, not even realizing they were already Christian; or to be reminded that the marine assault with which Reagan toppled about a handful of homegrown "socialists" in the tiny island of Grenada to save about 30 American medical students who didn't know they needed to be saved was named "Operation Urgent Fury!"
Although presented as an overview of the dozen or so US regime change operations of the past 100 years, the author spends the last third of the book on an excruciating, partisan criticism of Iraq and Afganistan. This is unfortunate because it belies his bias and it's material that most readers will have the most familiarity with. I would have rathered greater detail on the more obscure aspects of history that are not taught in school than a rehashing of how the evil Bush deposed poor Saddam.
Although the stories are full of viscious power hungery men (and the US clearly has blood on it's hands), the author can not bring himself to apportion blame to anyone but Americans. All the villians are Americans and all the victims are foreigners. It is ironic that he can not escape the paternalism he spends so much of the book eloquently dismantling. The fact that many of these countries have had generations of corruption and instability after American intervention is in no way their own fault. Rather it is further evidence of how pervasive and insidious the taint of American imperialism is.
I enjoyed reading about the various US sponsored coups and revolutions which I previously knew little of. The author writes in an engaging style that seems to capture the atmospheres of these various countries. He is obviously very well informed and has thought deeply about the subject.
If you are interseted in modern history it provides a background for understanding the roots of many modern conflicts. But if you've read a newspaper in the last 8 years you can stop reading two-thirds of the way through.
This is the first plausible explanation for our adventures in Iraq I have come across. Other than that, the author does a good job of explaining that we have met the enemy and he is us. I became interested when I heard the author interviewed on Bob Edwards XM show. Some of this is uncomfortable and some may see it as America bashing. Of course, much of what is here is offered with the clarity of hindsight. The author takes seemingly isolated incidents and examines them together. This was a good book. Well worth a listen.
This book should be required reading for any American interested in our real foreign policy and its darker motivations and actions. The facts speak for themselves, and this is a well researched history. However, the author occasionally muses about what might have happened if our politicians had taken another course - this we will never know. Also, I found the reader's intonation to be rather stiff and his Henry Kissinger sounds more like Bela Lugosi. Perhaps intentional! Regardless, Overthrow is a riveting exploration of events, and listening to it late at night felt like being read an evil bedtime story.
An excellent historical review of America's foreign policy. This should be required reading for every American, as this covers material that is not a part of the public conscience but most certainly should be.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
I completely agree with Martha from NY.
This book is a must read. Even if you are aware of the broad outlines of covert US interventions in developing countries, this book includes subtleties, personalities, and parallels that deepen one’s understandings of these interventions. Although far from flattering to the US, the underlying message is that many of these interventions came to pass because many good people failed to stop a very few misguided, greedy and/or fixated individuals. This is an excellent book for learning from history. The narration is not a plus, but it is worth overcoming the narration and listening to fascinating book.
This was a very interesting read on the history of American intervention in the affairs of foreign nations. The author does a fantastic job weaving the evolution of involvement from American business men facilitate ensure monolopistic trande to coordinated efforts from the Office of the President to install anti-communist regimes.
Though I highly enjoyed this book, it is not for everyone. It holds a strong glass to the face of America, challenging the perception we have of ourselves, our history and our purpose.
Seeing the tumble down the slippary slope of intervention without proper moral/legal authority.
Michael Prichard has a commanding voice, giving an air of authority to the account.
How many time the US has stepped in without proper information and authority to do so.
This is a book that is well worth the one credit.
Stephen Kinzer wrote an excellent book, Michael Prichard narrated perfectly.
A must read piece of the puzzle that helps document American history.
Easy to stay with, and facts well researched. Well done.
Kinzer's books should be must reading for all high school kids so they can understand where the previous leaders of our country went completely wrong. My 14 year old is reading them and going to drive his History teacher crazy.
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