Darnton, Christopher. Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America.
Political Scientist Christopher Darnton, an assistant professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, posits two important questions at the beginning of this study: "Why do international rivalries persist despite incentives to cooperate, and how can states resolve these conflicts?" (p. 1). To answer these questions, Darnton examines what he views as causal relationships between international and domestic politics in Latin America and in U.S.-Latin American relations. In Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America, Darnton takes a look at a series of rivalries in Latin America during the Cold War. This thought-provoking study emerged out of Darnton's 2009 Princeton University Ph.D. dissertation.
Darnton's main thesis is that domestic interest groups have distorted national security policymaking for their own self-serving reasons. According to the author, the "major obstacle to rapprochement lay in the vested interests of agencies within the state apparatus (particularly the armed forces) and that the combination of an alternative mission for those agencies and resource constraints compelling policy tradeoffs caused rapprochement" (p. 6). Since one of the most egregious flaws of Detente was the inability of the United States and the Soviet Union to control their client states, U.S. policymakers were surprised to find that the shared threat of international communism and communist insurgents "helped some U.S. allies, but not others, to transcend their rivalries with one another" (p. 1). Thus, in an attempt to explain ongoing rivalries between non-communist states in Latin America during the Cold War, Darnton examines a series of case studies where some countries successfully achieved rapprochement and othersfailed. The case studies are divided into three main subsets, each of which merits a chapter in the book. Chapter 3 analyzes relations between Argentina and Brazil during the Cold War. By far the most detailed and well-researched component of the book (it is almost twice as long as the other case studies and has about twenty pages of footnotes), Darnton evaluates four specific attempts by Argentina and Brazil to achieve a rapprochement between 1945 and 1980. He explains that the attempts in 1947 and 1961 were initiated by democratically-elected governments and both failed. Although the attempts launched in 1972 and 1980 were both initiated by military dictatorships, the first attempt failed and the second attempt succeeded. According to the author, "the combination of economic crisis and the alternative mission of counterinsurgency during the 1970s shifted state agencies' [the armed forces and the foreign ministries of the two countries] interests from favoring rivalry to supporting cooperation" (p. 13). Since 1980, Darnton claims that Argentine-Brazilian rivalry (except on the soccer field, of course), has been "overcome definitively" (p. 51).
Chapter 4 examines three rivalries in Central America-Honduras and Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, and Nicaragua and Costa Rica-around the time of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The author contends that "the critical barrier to cooperation in early Cold War Central America was the policy preference structure of the armed forces and that two variables-mission availability and state resource constraints-determined these preferences" (p. 111). The least prosperous rivals, Honduras and Nicaragua, having a "common foe and weak U.S. support," were able to achieve rapprochement "by convincing their armed forces to focus on countersubversion" (p. 111). The other two rivalries, however, continued uninhibited since they did not meet the prerequisites for rapprochement.
In Chapter 5, Darnton turns to four rivalries in the Andean World during
the 1980s; which are Chile and Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, and Colombia and Venezuela. The author applies his central argument to the case studies and determines that "the armed forces' mission development determined leaders' political capacity to achieve rapprochement" during the 1980s Debt Crisis (p. 141). Once again, only one set of states, Chile and Argentina, were able to achieve a rapprochement. Unfortunately, less than ten pages are dedicated to the other three case studies, which offers a rather unbalanced approach to compare and contrast the issues. Chapter 6 is an attempt to apply his thesis to the contemporary Islamic World. Darnton, who presumes a common analogy between the Cold War and the Global War on Terrorism, briefly (once again, in less than ten pages) applies his theory to the rivalry between Morocco and Algeria.
Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America is an engaging, albeit somewhat unbalanced, look at interstate conflicts in Latin America during the Cold War. Although the author examines eight examples of interstate rivalry among Latin American nations during the Cold War, the most detailed and focused discussion centers on the Argentine-Brazilian rivalry. In comparison, the other cases receive scant attention. Nevertheless, with his eight case studies (especially the Argentine-Brazilian case study), the author makes a strong argument for his thesis that domestic interest groups have distorted national security policymaking for their own self-serving reasons. All of the case study rivalries, however, pre-date the Cold War and are often based on historical boundary disputes where the rival nations share a common frontier. Is it possible that some domestic interest groups (such as the armed forces) were not primarily motivated by self-serving reasons, but rather by a nationalistic impulse to protect the territorial integrity of the nation? Regardless, the book would make a wonderful addition to the course readings in a U.S. Latin American Foreign Relations seminar.
Michael R. Hall
Armstrong State University
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|Author:||Hall, Michael R.|
|Publication:||Journal of Third World Studies|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
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