This is one of the more valuable contributions in recent years to the study of inter-American relations. Although it focuses on current issues in policymaking, thus providing very little historical perspective on the issues addressed, its analytical framework and historiographical overviews are extremely useful for both practitioners and analysts of the inter-American relationship.
The past decade has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the region: the shift away from the “populism” that characterized governments there for decades; the end of military regimes in Argentina and Chile in particular; the implementation of a Central American peace process; Mexico’s accession to GATT in 1986 and to NAFTA in 1993; the continuing debate over the Cuban situation. Any one of these developments, among others, would warrant this book, but the editor and authors have managed to address a reasonable number of them in a single volume.
The editor and the range of excellent contributing authors are concerned with the fundamental issues of the changing environment and the formulation and implementation of policies. Insightful essays by G. Pope Atkins, Larman Wilson and David Dent, and René Salgado focus on the shifts in the OAS, including Canada’s membership in 1989, and the increasing importance of international economic institutions in shaping the region’s political and economic development. Essays on the U.S. domestic environment by Mark Lagon, Howard Wiarda, David Dent, Frederick Turner, and John Spicer et al. constitute an especially useful examination of the role of the media, public opinion, special interest groups, think tanks, and elite values in shaping U.S. foreign policy in the region.
The focus then shifts to those closer to the levers of power. Stephen Rabe provides an assessment of the presidency; Gabriel Marcella looks at the presidential advisory system; Edward Mihalkanin and Warren Neisler explore the role of U.S. ambassadors in shaping policy. Charles Call examines the place of the military, significant because of the bureaucratic tensions that emerged when the Pentagon and the State Department put forth differing visions of the Central American crisis in the 1980s. Philip Brenner and Geoffrey Plague trace the perennial issue of Congressional impact.
The volume’s final section provides a more traditional, empirical examination of several specific policy issues in the multilateral relationship. The contributors inelude Michael Kryzanek on intervention; Elizabeth Cohn and Michael Nojeim on human rights and the promotion of democracy; Dario Moreno and Dario Pérez on the Central American peace process.
This is an important and useful contribution to the literature and should stimulate considerable academic discussion.