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US policies toward Latin America during the Cold War

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In this Q&A we ask Stephen G. Rabe three questions about his new book, Kissinger and Latin America: Intervention, Human Rights, and Diplomacy, and US policies toward Latin America during the Cold War.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

In February 1976 while in Lima, Peru, Henry Kissinger toasted US-Peruvian friendship with President and General Francisco Morales Bermúdez by drinking a glass of pure pisco, a powerful alcoholic drink. Always wanting the last word and ever the comedian, Kissinger remarked to the general, “After this I will agree to everything you ask.”  I cite this anecdote to demonstrate that Kissinger used his personality to dominate conversations with Latin American officials. Kissinger used his intelligence, self-deprecating humor, and liveliness to make himself and his foreign policies the center of attention. It was an effective tactic. 

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

I have been an academic historian for more than four decades. This study of Henry Kissinger and Latin America represents my twelfth scholarly book. As such, I was knowledgeable about primary and secondary sources and the writing process. What surprised me in the research and writing process was the subject himself. Henry Kissinger was thought to be disinterested in Latin America. I was surprised to find that Kissinger dominated the making of foreign policy toward Latin America and devoted an enormous amount of energy, thought, and time to Latin American issues.

3. How do you wish you could change the field of history?

The teaching and study of history are in crisis. At colleges and universities throughout the United States, we have witnessed a precipitous decline in history majors. There is extreme factionalism between scholars who emphasize political, economic, and international history and those who focus on issues of race, gender, and class, and on cultural developments.  My desire is for scholars to cease their bickering, remain united, and accept all approaches to history as valid. Factionalism is contributing to the decline in the study of history in higher education. The educated public buys books on history. History still matters.

*Featured photo by Chris Hardy on Unsplash.


Stephen G. Rabe is Ashbel Smith Professor of History emeritus at the University of Texas at Dallas. He has written or edited twelve books, including The Killing ZoneJohn F. Kennedy, and U.S. Intervention in British Guiana.

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