Kyle Longley. In the Eagle's Shadow: The United States and Latin America. Wheeling, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 2002. ix + 340 pp. $21.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-88295-968-9.
Reviewed by Mark T. Berger (The University of New South Wales, Sydney)
Published on H-LatAm (August, 2002)
Kyle Longley appears to have a penchant for avian metaphors. His previous book, on relations between Costa Rica, under President Jos Figueres, and the United States was entitled The Sparrow and the Hawk. In his new book, the hawk is now an eagle, and the focus is now the entire sweep of U.S. relations with Latin America. The book, as is clear from the outset, is written primarily for college and university undergraduates. Covering the period from the wars of independence to the post-Cold War era, Longley focuses on what he calls four "recurring themes." First, there is "asymmetrical interdependence," which has meant that "since the eighteenth century the destinies of the peoples of the Western Hemisphere have been interwoven." He emphasizes the economic dimension and the political and diplomatic dimension of asymmetrical interdependence between the United States and the nation-states of the region. The second major theme of his book is "the U.S. drive to hegemony," which he examines along the axes of military force and covert action, politics and diplomacy, economic dependence, U.S. dominance of regional and international organizations and cultural imperialism. His third main recurring theme is Latin American resistance to U.S. hegemony, which is explored via a focus on violent and economic resistance, foreign assistance, the cultivation of allies in the United States and cultural resistance. His final thematic concern is with the long term "significance of the Latino contribution to the United States" (pp. 1-8). About one-third of the book covers the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, while the twentieth-century history of U.S. relations with Latin America is the focus of the last two-thirds.
This book has a great deal to recommend it. It is a well-organized and engaging overview that is certainly accessible to the students for whom it is intended. In the latter part of the book particularly, Longley nicely weaves brief discussions of popular culture, cinema, literature and journalism into his overall narrative. For example, he touches on a number of important films produced in the 1980s, such as Under Fire and Salvador, that sought to challenge the Reagan administration's interpretation of events in Central America (pp. 300-301). In fact, Longley's book can clearly be located in what might be called the radical liberal tradition of diplomatic history that has antecedents running back many years, but rose to prominence in the Reagan era and is reflected in the work of historians and political scientists such as Walter LaFeber, William M. LeoGrande, Stephen G. Rabe and Lars Schoultz. Mark T. Gilderhus's The Second Century: U.S.-Latin American Relations Since 1889 and Peter H. Smith's Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations should also be mentioned in this regard. Both of these latter books provide impressive overviews of U.S. relations with Latin America with a primary focus on the twentieth century. Like Longley's, Gilderhus and Smith's books are also aimed at the undergraduate market and both also emphasize the asymmetries of power that have bolstered the U.S. position in Latin America through the decades.
Longley, like Gilderhus and Smith, clearly provides a critical approach to U.S. hegemony and the unequal power relations that inform historic and contemporary international relations in the Americas. However, his conclusion that "only education and further mutual understanding can help alleviate the often large chasm between the many different countries" in the Americas (p. 331) strikes this observer as well-meaning but out of step with the emphasis on the often profoundly unequal structures of power between and within nation-states of the Americas that is central to the author's overall focus and a major obstacle to the improvement in inter-American relations that Longley hopes will come to pass. In the view of this reviewer it would also have made a more interesting book, and have been more useful to students, if it had provided some sense of the wider historiography of U.S.-Latin American relations. The author certainly makes clear at various points that U.S. relations with Latin America and Washington's policy in the region was the subject of some debate and disputation both north and south of the border; however, the wide range of literature mentioned and included in the further-reading sections at the end of each chapter is never discussed in historiographical terms. Some kind of introduction to the whole question of the historiography of U.S.-Latin American relations would strengthen a book such as this.
More broadly, like much work on inter-American relations, international relations and diplomatic history, this book rests on a static conception of the nation-state over time, particularly neglecting the changing content and character of nation-states and national sovereignty in the twentieth century (p. 2). Finally, on a more technical note, the regular reference and quotation of particular authors without citing the book or other details of the source undoubtedly cuts down production costs for the publisher. However, it is frustrating for the reader who wants to follow up the quotations to their source and it also sets the wrong example for students who will wonder why they are being asked to produce properly referenced essays when books such as this do not bother to do so. Despite these criticisms this book will be of interest to general readers and historians looking for an overview of inter-American relations that is accessible and covers more of the early period than do writers such as Gilderhus and Smith.
. Kyle Longley, The Sparrow and the Hawk: Costa Rica and the United States During the Rise of Jos Figueres (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997).
. Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America (New York: W. W. Norton, 1983); William M. LeoGrande, Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America 1977-1992 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); Stephen G. Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Stephen G. Rabe, The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); and Lars Schoultz, Beneath the United States: A History of U.S. Policy Toward Latin America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998).
. Mark T. Gilderhus, The Second Century: U.S.-Latin American Relations Since 1889 (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources Books, 2000); and Peter H. Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the list discussion logs at: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl.
Mark T. Berger. Review of Longley, Kyle, In the Eagle's Shadow: The United States and Latin America.
H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2002 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.