Building Empire

I hadn’t heard about Stephen Kinzer’s new book, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq, but it certainly seems as though the people now beating the drums of war could use a book like this. Here’s a snippet from Kelly McEvers’ review in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The book is more than just a retelling of American intervention abroad: rogue diplomats and covert agents, a malleable press, ignorance of local cultures, the influence of multinational corporations, the rhetoric of American righteousness. What’s new here is how adeptly Kinzer draws the dotted line from each story to the next.

The result is that while it may seem as if a new foreign-policy doctrine fueled the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, justifications for American-sponsored “regime change” date back more than 100 years. Each of the book’s cautionary tales — set in the Pacific, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East — repeat the same suspect themes and in some cases the same suspect characters.

Kinzer begins his indictment in 1893, when American diplomats, missionaries and sugar planters orchestrated the overthrow of Hawaii’s monarchy and installed as president Sanford Dole, who later helped build a family fruit empire. It was the beginning of America’s expansionist-imperialist age, an age “propelled largely by the search for resources, markets, and commercial opportunities” and the “missionary instinct” to improve the lives of faraway people.

More here.