December 6

The Contra War

Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations. Her 1979 article, "Dictatorships and Double Standards," provided the ideological backbone to Reagan's policy in Nicaragua. We'll be reading the article for today's class.
The emergence of left-leaning insurgencies in El Salvador and Nicaragua, coupled with what was perceived as a dramatic expansion of Soviet power worldwide, brought to a close the period of human rights diplomacy. Perhaps the most clear-cut symbol of the change came in Fitzpatrick's article.

In today's class, we'll be examining the ramifications of this shift, with a focus on the Central American policies of Ronald Reagan. Reagan's administration provided "covert" assistance (although everyone knew about it) to the contras, a somewhat ragtag group of rebels fighting the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. For today's reading, an introduction to the historiographical debate over RR's policies, and then an examination of the Iran-contra affair, which brought this era in inter-American relations to a close.


                Coatsworth, The United States and Central America, pp. 163-206.

                Carothers, In the Name of Democracy, pp. 237-262.


                (IN PACKET) Kirkpatrick, "Dictatorships and Double Standards"

President Reagan meeting with Contra leaders (L to R) Alfonso Robelo, Arturo Cruz and Adolfo Calero. In the officially released photo, Oliver North (at far right) was cropped out--a testimony to the sensitive nature of his activities.
For the Iran-contra affair, begin with this brief reading, a good summary of the basic events. The affair triggered a lengthy investigation by Independent Counsel Laurence Walsh, who summarized his findings in this report.

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