United States National Security and Latin America
This paper will examine United States national security interests and policies in Latin America, focusing on the changes which have occurred since the late 1980s. The first part of the paper will briefly discuss U.S. interests and policy prior to the late 1980s, while the rest of the paper will discuss present and future interests.
Until the late 1980s, the main concern of U.S. national security policy was the "conflict" with the Soviet Union, a relationship which colored all other U.S. policies throughout the world. Thus, U.S. interests in Latin America were defined by the cold war with the Soviet Union. The overall U.S security interests in the region were essentially threefold: protecting against direct military threats to the U.S. mainland or military assets in the region, protecting vital maritime routes, and assuring access to strategic raw materials. U.S. political interests included winning Latin America's diplomatic support in various international forums, enhancing neighborly harmony, and preserving ideological harmony in the Western Hemisphere. Economic interests included assuring adequate scope and favorable treatment for private U.S. investment and assuring access to commodity imports from Latin America (Lowenthal, 1990, p. 52).
All of these interests were defined by the U.S./Soviet conflict and were part of an overall policy of containment (Middlebrook, 1986, p. 35). Consequently, direct U.S. security interests since World War II have included the exclusion of Soviet missile launching sites and combat forces, the protection of sea lanes and the Panama Canal from Soviet and Cuban interdiction, and the retention of Caribbean and Central American military facilities needed to carry out these missions (Lowenthal, 1990, p. 52). Where conflict arose in which Soviet power and/or influence was not involved the U.S. placed primary importance on its outside interests. Thus ...