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Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America

, 304 pages

11 line drawings

July 2014



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Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America

Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America, Christopher Darnton’s comparative study of the nature of conflict between Latin American states during the Cold War, provides a counterintuitive and shrewd explanation of why diplomacy does or doesn’t work. Specifically, he develops a theory that shows how the "parochial interests" of state bureaucracies can overwhelm national leaders’ foreign policy initiatives and complicate regional alliances.

His thorough evaluation of several twentieth-century Latin American conflicts covers the gamut of diplomatic disputes from border clashes to economic provocations to regional power struggles. Darnton examines the domestic political and economic conditions that contribute either to rivalry (continued conflict) or rapprochement (diplomatic reconciliation) while assessing the impact of U.S. foreign policy.

Detailed case studies provide not only a robust test of the theory but also a fascinating tour of Latin American history and Cold War politics, including a multilayered examination of Argentine-Brazilian strategic competition and presidential summits over four decades; three rivalries in Central America following Cuba’s 1959 revolution; and how the 1980s debt crisis entangled the diplomatic affairs of several Andean countries. These questions about international rivalry and rapprochement are of particular interest to security studies and international relations scholars, as they seek to understand what defuses regional conflicts, creates stronger incentives for improving diplomatic ties between states, and builds effective alliances.

The analysis also bears fruit for contemporary studies of counterterrorism in its critique of parallels between the Cold War and the Global War on Terror, its examination of failed rapprochement efforts between Algeria and Morocco, and its assessment of obstacles to U.S. coalition-building efforts.

Christopher Darnton is an assistant professor of politics at the Catholic University of America.

"Christopher Darnton has written a book that is indispensable reading for all students of Latin American affairs and of security decisions globally. His research in Latin American sources is outstanding and his focus on regional and economic variables is very significant for the overall debate on security decision making."

"Christopher Darnton provides a fresh perspective on the transition between rivalry and rapprochement among states. Grounded in nuanced theorizing and careful historical research, this book examines Cold War Latin America to arrive at the counterintuitive finding that parochial bureaucratic politics explain the persistence of interstate rivalry, and that rapprochement is driven as much by shifts in military missions and resources as by diplomacy. Recommended for scholars of international security, civil-military relations, and Latin American politics."

" Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America is a major contribution to the international relations literature. Darnton offers a novel and compelling 'parochial interests' argument to explain both rivalry and rapprochement. This lucid, carefully researched, and convincingly argued book also offers fresh insights into the international and domestic politics of Cold War Latin America."

"Political scientists will appreciate Darnton's well-aimed jibes at the major schools of international relations theory, and Latin America specialists will welcome his deft applications of cutting-edge theories to a region long underrepresented in political science scholarship."

"This qualitative study is a well-executed corrective to national security studies that overemphasize state and national interests, while devaluing the role domestic politics play in shaping foreign policy... The book is well written, and the language is accessible to professionals and upper-division undergraduate and graduate students. It is highly recommended for those interested in understanding the interplay between domestic politics and international relations."

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