A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments — not always to its own benefit. “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 foreign regimes. He details the three eras of America’s regime-change century — the imperial era, which brought Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras under America’s sway; the cold war era, which employed covert action against Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, and Chile; and the invasion era, which saw American troops toppling governments in Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Kinzer explains why the U.S. government has pursued these operations and why so many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences, makingOverthrow a cautionary tale that serves as an urgent warning as the United States seeks to define its role in the modern world.
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“Reading Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq is so spellbinding and infuriating one is tempted to toss aside the conventional impulse to review and simply insist that everyone buy the book and devour the story for oneself”
–Swans Commentary, July 2008 (link)
Citizens concerns about foreign affairs must read this book. Stephen Kinzer’s crisp and thoughtful Overthrow undermines the myth of national innocence. Quite the contrary: history shows the United States as an interventionist busybody directed at regime change. We deposed fourteen government s in hardly more than a century, some for good reasons, more for bad reasons, with most dubious long-term consequences.
-Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
Stephen Kinzer has a grim message for those critics of the Iraqi war who believe George W. Bush is America’s most misguided, misinformed, and reckless president. Bush has plenty of company in the past century—presidents who believe that Americans, as Kinzer tells us, has the right to wage war wherever it deems necessary.
Stephen Kinzer’s book is a jewel. After reading Overthrow, no American—not even President Bush— should any longer wonder “why they hate us.” Overthrow is a narrative of all the times we’ve overthrown a foreign government in order to put in power puppets who are obedient to us. It is a tale of imperialism American-style, usually in the service of corporate interests, and, as Kinzer points out, “No nation in modern history has done this so often, in so many places so far from its own shores.”
Kinzer’s narrative abounds with unusual anecdotes, vivid description, and fine detail, demonstrating why he ranks among the best in foreign policy storytelling.
To be shocked and awed by history is not a common reading experience. One usually reserves such reactions for edgy fiction, juicy memoirs or newsy expose. Yet Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow is as gripping as any of these. What’s new here is how adeptly Kinzer draws the dotted line from each story to the next.
–San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Timely and important Overthrow effectively challenges our historical amnesia and collective short attention span in ways that can only enrich our national discourse.
[…] US regime change incitement in various countries came with violence, bloodshed, and often backfired. It also came from a mix of […]