American television network news programs treated viewers to Panamanians expressing gratitude to the United States (US) for invading their country in the immediate aftermath of that American military action. For some Americans, such expressions of gratitude were disconcertingly similar to the pictures of some Czechs thanking the Soviet army for rescuing them from revisionism in 1968, and of the even earlier newsreel photographs of French villages strewing flowers ahead of German tanks in the early days of the Second World War. Were these Panamanians, Czechs, and French sincere, or were they just attempting to make the best of the terrible situation in which they found themselves? If they were sincere, were they representative of the broader population in their countries?
Whether or not these people were sincere, and whether or not they were representative of their populations, there remains the underlying question of whether or not the military actions of the Americans, Soviets, and Germans were beneficial to the countries invaded. Most Americans would have no difficulty in answering this underlying question with respect to Czechoslovakia in 1968 and France in the early1940s, and all
too few Americans would give a second thought to the question before answering in the affirmative with respect to Panama in 1990.
Whether or not American military intervention in a sovereign country is beneficial to that country, and, even if such intervention is beneficial, whether or not it can be justified on any basis other than selfish American interests are, however, serious questions which affect the longterm wellbeing of both the United States and the countries in which they intervene. As questions with longterm significance, they do deserve more than a cursory examination, more than the regurgitation of an automatic answer in the affirmative.
This research examines American military intervention in Latin America, in t...