Right Wing Dictators, David Schmitz Review

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The author intends to challenge the conclusion
that the United States served itself well
by supporting right-wing dictatorships. "The
central concern is how American officials understood
the problem in terms of an overall
policy and in relation to specific countries,
and how that shaped their decision making"
(p. 5). A significant part of his thesis is that the
Vietnam War unsettled the consensus about
foreign policy and, particularly in the guise
of the investigative work of the Ghurch Gommittee,
led to a more probing examination of
U.S. foreign policy and the moral reasoning,
or lack thereof, that undergirded it (p. 146).
The book is a chronological account of successive
presidencies and how each dealt with
right-wing dictatorships under the exigencies
of the Gold War. The accounts are detailed,
and the author draws on a good range of primary
sources to present the case studies. All
such accounts are well known, but such detail
of so many has not been presented in one
place before. The author deems all presidents
and their administrations culpable of immoral
and unjustifiable support for distasteful regimes,
with the exception of Jimmy Garter and
John E Kennedy (who receives something of
an apologia and whose inclusion, along with
details of the Gongo crisis, might come as a
bit of a surprise in a book supposedly spanning
the years 1965-1989). The narrative is
lucid with one or two exceptions, most notably:
"[SAVAK] arrested people who were held
in jail without charges or trial" (p. 172). It is
also informative and provocative in a manner
that should be useful for classroom debates. At
times, however, the text becomes polemical,
and the evidence does not always do the work
claimed for it.
The author often uses documents from the
Ghurch Gommittee and its investigations of
U.S. foreign policy. The committee's report v4/-
leged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders
is cited, along with two secondary sources,
for...
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