offers a complex interpretation of the Good Neighbor Policy and the impact
that the US had on Trujillo’s Dominican Republic and vice versa. His focus is
not simply on the “high” diplomacy that occurs between elites. Instead Roorda
attempts to integrate many other important variables that influence diplomacy
between two countries (i.e. what I term informal diplomacy). Roorda describes
the tension between professional diplomats and the military establishment by
using traditional sources (military and state department papers) as well as
newer types of sources that exemplify the ”cultural” differences between the
two groups (see chapter on Gold Braid and Striped Pants). Another important
aspect of this analysis is that Roorda shows that the Dominican Republic did
have an impact on diplomatic policy (Agency). By using Dominican sources
Roorda effectively shows that Trujillo and the DR were not merely passive
players in a diplomatic game controlled by a hegemonic North America, but
instead had a important influence and received a great deal from their
relationship with the US.
important contribution that this book makes is that it highlight the
“conundrum” that policymakers face when it comes to formulating the types of
relationships the US should have with dictators, especially in an
ideologically driven bi-polar world. Interestingly, this type of policy was
something I attributed strictly to the Cold War era (“authoritarian communism”
vs. “liberal democracy”) and Roorda convincingly shows that even before the
Cold War this type of policy had a major impact on US foreign policy.
But in this
“bi-polar” world, Roorda points out that the third player (in this case
Trujillo) has an important and influential impact on the direction that US
policy takes. Did the idea of dictators maintaining “common enemies” in the
Caribbean during WW2 provide a model for the Cold War when it came to other
dictators including the apartheid leaders of South Africa, the Shah of Iran,
important is the informal diplomacy (personal relationships, lobbyist, etc)
that Roorda describes? Can this model be applied to other cases? I think it
can! Cuba and Iran may be two examples. Perhaps even Israel.
The Good Neighbor
Policy (GNP) meant having to accept regimes anti-ethical to the principles of
peace and democracy.
to a generation of Caribbean dictators that as long as they maintained common
enemies they could run amok.
This episode sheds
light on how democratic states deal with authoritarian states.
Also, this episode
sheds light on the degree of control (or lack thereof) that the US could exert
over these “allies.”
the centrality of Trujillo to the diplomacy of the period and the
disagreements that many had over what exactly was Trujillo’s role.
recognized that “conceding” to US hegemony in the Caribbean would allow him to
acquire much more out of the relationship.
authoritarian regimes were essential to US war policy.
The role of
military culture in influencing US-Trujillo relationship.
Chapter 1 –
Dominican History, the United States in the Caribbean, and the Origins of the
Good Neighbor Policy
Importance of the
canal in the formulation of policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean.
DR as a creditor
nation to Euros. Leads to US intervention in the DR customs houses. US would
control DR customs throughout the period analyzed in the book.
intervention. Wilson asking for control over budget, public works, and Armed
Uses the term
progressive imperialism to describe Wilsonian projects in LA.
intervention à Marines play important role and train a Dominican “National
Guard” of which Trujillo was a product.
The Marines and
Guardia Nacional have a close relationship.
GNP to encourage
trade, counteract Euro influence, and keep the peace.
GNP developed in
the “paradox” between friendship and domination over neighboring countries.
Chapter 2 – The
Dominican Revolution of 1930 and the Policy of Nonintervention
asks of battleship assistance at the outbreak of civil war, however, new
policy of non-intervention doesn’t allow for this. Interesting dynamic.
regions armed forces + US policy of non-intervention = rise of authoritarian
regimes à Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, etc.
found in Harding/Coolidge/Hoover administrations.
In DR Trujillo did
an effective job of consolidating control over the military.
In coming to power
Trujillo is demonstrating political “genius” that he would exhibit throughout
his term as murderous dictator.
lets Americans know that the US govt may not come to their defense in every
Trujillo’s rise to
power creates tension that would remain throughout years between US diplomats
and American marines.
Revolution was a test of non-intervention and diplomats in the field (Curtis)
were in fact calling for US intervention. But the US did not intervene.
Very early on it’s
clear what kind of regime Trujillo was going to create.
recognition à anarchy vs. bullying à recognition of de facto regimes à
for recognition (All 3 are a subgroup of STABILITY):
1. Govt must
have control of administrative machinery
2. No active
resistance to their rule
3. Ability to
fulfill foreign obligations.
an administration imbued with symbolism, nationalism, and extravagance.
to deal with hurricane gained him the respect of many.
certainly a recognition within the US of what Trujillo was all about. Stimson
unwilling to send a military commission to train DR military b/c he recognized
that Trujillo would use this to further maintain his power.
Question of how to
“walk the line between interference and advocacy.”
By the 30s there
was an ambivalence about playing the role of policemen in the Caribbean.
Chapter 3 – The
Bankrupt Neighbor Policy: Depression Diplomacy and the Foreign Bondholders
already indebted LA countries to the brink of collapse.
debt problems are reasons Hoover’s GNP policy was not more successful or more
Hoover hand off
approach to Wall Street interest and debtors.
When he came to
power Trujillo had to deal with the problem of limited revenues and a customs
house controlled by the US.
against using force to collect debts.
Need to walk a
political tightrope between American creditors who wanted the govt to collect
their $ and safeguard against intervening and alienating LA countries.
Hoover would not
offer any help to Trujillo although they quietly orchestrated a default on DR
Emergency Law of
1931 as political smokescreen to deal with American bondholders.
By attempting to
appease everyone Hoover/Stimson alienated everyone.
administration. Foreign Bondholders Protection Council (FBPC) created to take
the heat off of the administration. It created a buffer between administration
and contentious issues. “A ‘waiver’ of government responsibility”
Joseph E. Davies à Trujillo learns “lobbying.” Expends funds and makes friends
in order to influence diplomacy. Retail diplomacy à Enter new dynamic into
diplomacy (military, professional diplomats, and now lobbyist and other high
officials friendly to Trujillo).
Schoenfield vs. Trujillo and Davies.
FBPC used to
reinforce GNP of non-intervention
We must keep in
mind that in all these debates Trujillo did receive benefits!!!
which shows us the different cultures in which these different diplomatic
institutions are based. State vs. military (I don’t believe there was a
defense dept yet).
receiverships. Somewhat problematic.
as the most disruptive element in diplomatic relationship
Chapter 4 – What
Will the Neighbors Think? Dictatorship and Diplomacy in the Public Eye
GNP à cooperation,
friendship, and reciprocity.
oriented towards manipulation of public impressions.
consolidation of power.
of Trujillo that is getting through to the US à Repressive dictator. Attacking
upper class DR’s.
administration à Personal political ideology.
The cult of
Trujilloism had an impact no tonly on DR’s, but also on many Americans.
repression of political discourse domestically. But he was also effective in
controlling what DR’s heard from abroad. He was able to manipulate perceptions
of himself even though many were criticizing him both at home an abroad.
Role of the
American Colony in the DR.
The March of
Time exposing the repressiveness of Trujillo regime to Americans.
March of Dime
films exposed the paradox of non-intervention, i.e. GNP was supposed to
allow for the emergence and flowering of democracy, but instead was protecting
Joseph E. Davies
and the “Dominican Lobby” à bar anti-trujillo info from the mails.
lighthouse and George Washington Drive. Roorda argues that such symbols were
ways that Trujillo attempted to manipulate public impressions of him.
While Trujillo was
careful not to go against US policy (Roorda uses the term “mimicry”) he was
very much an independent leader. Again, he was politically astute and knew how
to manipulate various situations.
different things to Trujillo and FDR.
Trujillo. Roorda does show that the US was keeping this issue at arms length.
However, I have trouble, intuitively, with the the idea that the US would have
allowed the Fascist Mussolini to send his Navy to the DR. In my mind this was
more likely a bluff on the US part.
supposedly learned, from this experience, that the US relationship with
dictators had its limits.
The importance of
reciprocity in these relationships.
Chapter 5 –
Genocide Next Door: The Haitian Massacre of 1937 and the Sosua Jewish Refugee
leaders important for cultivating US commercial and strategic interest.
emphasized Hispanic culture demonized African culture à Haiti.
massacre was creating problems for US govt. Especially, as the US sought to
build and reinforce “Fortress America.”
FDR used the GNP
to try and push for collective mitigation of conflicts, while Trujillo
emphasized other side of GNP that called for national sovereignty.
In the case of the
Haitian Massacre, GNP meant not protesting the genocide of the Haitian
pursues a policy in which he allows for increase civil liberties in an attempt
to moderate himself in the eye’s of the world. But he never actually expressed
US armed services
continue to praise Trujillo’s maintenance of stability.
Jewish refugees as
way to shore up his “soiled reputation.” --? Trujillo hopes to ingratiate
himself to FDR. Trujillo received a great deal of praise for this. However,
the Sosua settlement never really works out the way Trujillo had led others to
believe. That said, it was still a diplomatic and political success for
massacre shed light on two unattractive truths of American policy:
1. Reliance on
murderous dictators to ensure stability.
2. Trujillo and
FDR’s ability to turn Haiti affair and Sosua into diplomatic victories
demonstrate the “racial” and “ethnic” parameters within which they were
working. (Haiti had always been an isolated black nation in a Latin American
world and as far as Jews were concerned, the US wasn’t inclined towards
letting Jewish refugees in).
Chapter 6 – Gold
Braid and Striped Pants: The Culture of Foreign Relations in the Dominican
Cultural forms of
diplomacy shared between the DR and the US.
(striped pants) versus military culture (gold braids) influences diplomacy.
This chapter is
interesting in that its an attempt to move away from traditional diplomatic
history and focus on individual relationships and again, it emphasizing the
importance of “retail” diplomacy.
respected Trujillo’s maintenance of stability while US diplomats were repulsed
by Trujillo’s authoritarianism.
To repeat myself
yet again… Trujillo knew how to manipulate US diplomats for his own political
importance of the first lady to this informal diplomacy.
things like the style of dress, extravagant parties, etc.
“ad hoc diplomacy”
/ diplomacy of “personal relationships” / “cocktail culture”
Chapter 7 –
Fortress America, Fortaleza Trujillo: The Hull-Trujillo Treaty and the Second
Policy in the 30s
was to strengthen defenses of Western hemisphere.
Trujillo at times
made it look like he was willing to have closer ties with the Third Reich
(“flirtations” with fascist states) which invigorated the FDR administrations
attempt to create closer relationships with the DR. However, Trujillo was
careful not to totally provoke the US.
to deal with issues (lingering problems) regarding US control of DR customs
and debt management.
Roorda details the
decline of the FBPC and argues that this symbolizes a movement away from
protecting private interest towards emphasizing a unified hemispheric front.
giving economic assistance to LA is the best way to secure fortress America.
Treaty of 1940 finally brought an end to US control of Dominican customs. Day
celebrated as a national holiday. End of the FBPC.
US control of
Customs was one contradiction of FDRs GNP and that contradiction had finally
During the wartime
period Trujillo built up his military (especially an airforce) leading to
destabilization of the Caribbean area. Trujillo accomplished w/o US help,
which had moved towards a policy against helping LA southerners.
But in the end it
was fascism and then later communism that determined American policy and
acceptance of dictators in LA.
the advantages that dictators offer (see pg 229) and the moral and ethical
problems they pose.
Chapter 8 –The
Good Neighbor Policy and Dictatorship
anti-dictatorial stance lasted for only a few years, i.e., the Cold War.
After the war
Trujillo became increasingly brutal and also increasingly solidified his
control over the country.
abroad by increasing violence against his critics.
militarism was a menace to his neighbors, especially Haiti.
Again, GNP meant
different things to the US and the DR.
Roorda, Eric Paul. 1998.
The dictator next door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo regime in the
Dominican Republic, 1930-1945. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Notes and Questions by Dave
1. Roorda says that the
influence of official US diplomats is usually overestimated by historians. Other
coalitions—from business, the military, etc.—act independently, with equal or
surpassing effectiveness. Was this especially the case in the D.R. under
Trujillo? Was this particular U.S. diplomatic corps especially
ineffectual/divided, and/or this military especially strong? How was the balance
of power between business, the military, state power, etc. tipped by a
particular historical context? What political advantages do military occupiers
have generally anywhere in the world?
2. Do we chalk up the lax U.S.
diplomatic response to the massacre of Haitians to Good Neighborliness
(unwillingness to interfere), the U.S.’s racist myopia, the Haitian government’s
timidity, all or none of the above?
3. To what extent are/were the
Western hemisphere “neighborhood” and “Fortress America” purely empty and
adaptable signifiers? Could one argue (perhaps following Rodgers) that the more
substantial ‘neighborhood’ especially at this time was the trans-North-Atlantic
4. Rodgers writes that U.S.
progressives imitated European institutions out of sincere—if naive—admiration
and envy. Roorda describes another, characteristically post-colonial,
over-effusive kind of imitation of the institutions of one dominant nation by
another submissive one. Did Trujillo effectively play the eager, obsequious
‘servant’ to the U.S.? How much did the surface appearances Trujillo worked hard
to cultivate really change minds? Did he cause anyone other than his military
cronies to view him in a truly favorable light?
5. Would Roorda be able to
make his case less convincingly had he not had access to Dominican government
Dictatorship defining problem
of 20th century. Mass media made it “impossible to ignore.” (2) Also “difficult
to discern who really spoke and acted for the United States.” (2)
Trujillo (Henceforth ‘T.’) was
not “a pliable client of the United States” (3) U.S. did not have a
unified policy. Multiple actors.
20’s: Backlash against “costly
military involvement.” But hard to justify non-intervention when former US
interventionism had caused present problems. (4)
30’s: ‘Fortress America’ vs.
European and Asian fascism.
Chapter 1: “Dominican
History, the U.S. in the Caribbean, and the Origins of the Good Neighbor Policy”
Columbus lands. Island:
‘Hispaniola’. Briefly a center of Spanish colonization, then the Indians die/are
killed off. Better pickings elsewhere for Spain. French move in. Saint Domingue
and Santo Domingo. French import lots of slaves. 1790 Haitian revolution.
Obstructs U.S. commerce. US backs independence of Eastern colonies. Samaná Bay
considered a strategic asset. (11)
U.S. takes authoritarian
control of D.R. 1911-1916. Presidents hand-picked. Government revenues
controlled. (16). 1916 Wilson sends in Marines. Marine occupation for 19 years
(16). “Progressive imperialism”: public works,etc. also US buys up 80% of the
sugar land. (17). Harding elected, critical of occupation. Hughes-Peynado plan
turns power over to American-trained D.R. police.
Trujillo not upper class.
Marine-trained and –loved. Charged with rape and extortion. (21)
ORIGINS OF THE GOOD NEIGHBOR
Failure of gunboat, dollar
diplomacy (22). Try another tack.
promotion of shared
Notion of pan_American
neighborhood has deep American intellectual roots. (23)
Dominican Revolution of 1930 and the Policy of Non-Intervention.”
Vasquez ruling D.R. since
1924. Kept extending his term. Acquiesced to Trujillo’s military demands.
Trujillo stages mock-revolution and coup. US minister Curtis unable to summon a
US gunboat to stop it. US non-intervention policy also produced dictators in
Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba, Nicaragua.
Diplomats Curtis and Cabot
disliked Trujillo because 1 they figured him for a dictator, 2 because he’d
fooled them into thinking he was supportive of Vasquez, 3 because he was
lower-class and dark-skinned. (43)
RECOGNITION POLICY: De facto
gov’ts recognized 1. if in firm control 2. if willing and able to pay debts.
Diplomats disliked T. Business interests wanted stability and wouldn’t mind T.
Marines and Navy liked T. The first friendly visit by a gunboat. San Zénon
hurricane: diplomats blocked US help, marines wanted to do more. US attitudes
CHAPTER 3: The Bankrupt
Neighbor Policy: Depression Diplomacy and the Foreign Bondholders’ Protective
Old Latin American-US debts:
often “akin to extortion” (63). Hoover State Response: no pressure/no aid.
Convention of 1924: US intervention authorized if D.R. defaults. US lenders
thought this would work in their favor. Dominican Emergency Law of 1931:
provisional moratorium on payments (66) This was encouraged behind the scenes by
US diplomats. Trujillo wanted more than a moratorium: he wanted a big loan. (68)
Took the reprieve he was allotted and spent it on an air force and luxuries (71)
FBPC – a private group set up
by the US gov’t (75) so that the US gov’t wouldn’t have to take and be
associated with a hard-line stance. Loans are a business problem, not a state
problem (81) FBPC and T. reach an agreement. US/DR relationship warms up.
Convention of 1924 revived. US installs a “fully empowered customs receivership”
– a sore thumb for Trujillo and Good Neighborliness. The pros for T.: no mention
of dictatorship; money, prestige; he “learned that U.S. officials responded with
alacrity when he mixed his threats of unilateral action with testimonials of
cooperation.” (86) This is a major theme.
CHAPTER 4: “What will
the neighbors think? Dictatorship and diplomacy in the public eye.”
“Good neighbor” as a nebulous
and adaptable slogan for Roosevelt. “From the perspective of Dominican
interests, the Good Neighbor policy was mainly rhetoric and symbolism.” (89)
T.’s death squads roll.
Censorship, and at the same time encouragement of access by foreigners. Never a
hermit kingdom. Political Exiles (Ureña, Michelena) form an interventionist bloc
in the US. Welles does not support them but does not support T. either. March
of Time attacks T. T. responds angrily. Radio City Music Hall pulls the
short after one showing. (107)
Another contingent: the
American colony. T. courts and bribes. (112)
Columbus lighthouse. Columbus remains. Columbus as a symbol of
inter-Americanism. (117) George Washington symbols: invoked sovereignty.
“symbolic trinity of Dominican foreign relations—Columbus, Washington, and
Trujillo mimicked U.S.
“diplomatic and political projects.” Bhaba – post-colonial style appropriation
of signifiers. (118). A “too-effusive imitation of inter-Americanism” (120)
1935, T. jails Mussolini’s
consul and gets into trouble. Gets out of it.
CHAPTER 5: Genocide
At least 12,000 killed in
Haiti. (127) Where does this # come from? Does not match # in Roorda’s footnote.
Estimating number who died later from starvation and disease? (132)Massacre in
October 1937. Haitian victims were migrant workers near permeable eastern
border. In this area, creole spoken, different currency, African religions.
(129T. pays a pittance to Haiti. US response lax. Haiti fears attack. Roosevelt
convenes meeting w/ Mexico, DR, and Cuba.
T. concedes “Anti-War pledge”.
Agrees to arbitration, but doesn’t follow through. Agrees not to seek
reelection, but continues to rule behind a puppet. Roosevelt sees portrays
results as a triumph of diplomacy. T. Agrees to accept 100,000 Jewish refugees.
Ends up accepting a few hundred only. ) Similar offer from Haiti turned down.
Explanation? T. seeks to replace Haitians with whites (Jews or Puerto Ricans)
“two unattractive truths about
US foreign relations:”
1. goals of stability and
cooperation meant ignoring reprehensible actions by dictators. (146)
2. racial and ethnic slants.
Anti-black, anti-Semitic. (147)
CHAPTER 6: “The Culture
of Foreign Relations in the Dominican Republic”
“two cultural spheres”:
military and diplomatic. (149) Alliances—“relations”—formed based on cultural
affinities, not necessarily along lines of nationality. Trujillo liked military
and they liked him. Liked the uniforms and parades. Ship commanders liked his
refurbished ports. SURFACES. Trujillo wanted to create a “culture of the
soldier” (187). This meant “cocktail culture.” (188). DR had liquor during
T. appropriated symbols of
colonialism to control the former colonists (191)
Diplomats who were high-class
thought Trujillo was low-class. Made more of his skin tone. T. self-conscious
about skin-- wore whitening makeup (177) T. used diplomats for symbolic purposes
every chance he got.
US Military acts on its own
accord. Sees diplomats as unable to understand Realpolitik. Roosevelt worked to
create a professional, expanded foreign service.
Gunboats make friendly stops.
A threatening symbol transformed for the Good Neighbor Policy.
1940 – T. offers full support
– a “blank check” – for war effort.
CHAPTER 7: Fortress
America, Fortaleza Trujillo: The Hull-Trujillo Treaty and the Second World War.
D.R. strategically placed on
the path to the Panama Canal. During war, Good Neighbor Policy turns into an
active alliance. Weapons start to flow from US. Lend-Lease Act. Weapons
accumulation intensifies post-War. Brief cooling of relations between US and DR,
stanching of flow of weapons, as new US diplomats come into power, Roosevelt
dies, Good Neighbor in limbo. Military aid resumes in 1947.
T. flirts with Axis powers
even as he courts US (204). Ideologically more like a Fascist than otherwise.
FBPC lost its role. T. wrests
control of the “purse strings (194) August 1940: U.S. Receivership of Dominican
Customs dismantled. Hull-Trujillo Treaty praised as exemplar of Good
CHAPTER 8: The Good
Neighbor Policy and Dictatorship
“basic dilemma: “the
repression and militarism of authoritarian systems make them morally repugnant
to deal with, while refusing to deal with such governments seldom serves U.S.
commercial or strategic interests.” (232)
How was T. able to achieve his
stature when US diplomats opposed him? Answer: diplomats are only a part of the
“complicated equation” (234) Plus diplomats “surrendered the field” by not
pressing a case against dictatorship. (240)
The personal and the political
overlap. Actors make decisions based on their personal impressions, not on
political imperatives. (236). “relations” is “the aggregate of these
There is “the enduring notion
that order among non-white people can be maintained only by strong discipline.”