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Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1980. Paperback – 2 Aug 1995

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books Inc (2 Aug. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394759338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394759333
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 413,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Synopsis

Analyzes U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East and Latin America, and argues that the U.S. has often created political instability.

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In my opinion Gabriel Kolko is one of the finest writers of the post World War Two international scene, with his primary interest being the United States role within that period. His Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience is the premier work on the Vietnam War, at least as far as analysis of all the factors, and how they interacted over the period of American involvement goes. The book under review covers the United States interactions with the Third World in the period after World War Two.

All factors fall under Kolko's purview, the outlook and doctrines of the U.S. itself, from concerns about access to raw materials, protecting U.S. investments, Cold War considerations (which often had little to do with Third world countries becoming allied with the U.S.S.R. at least until U.S. involvement became overtly hostile) and interactions with Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal: the colonial (eventually former colonial) powers.

In American planning, Africa is largely left to their Cold-War allies in Western Europeans, it being viewed as vital to bolstering their recovery from World War Two. Latin America is marked down as purely a U.S. area, and where American interests in terms of trade and investment are strongest. Asia is part shared with Japan, who (the U.S. decides) must have their raw materials needs met from the South-East Asian countries, who in turn must remain in the Capitalist World, or the pressures on Japan to seek accommodation with the Communist bloc would become intolerable.
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Format: Paperback
Gabriel Kolko was one of the central figures in the Revisionist school within the historical study of the Cold War, challenging the idea that the Cold War came about as a result of Soviet aggression alone. Revisionists argued argued that the US, irrelevant of Soviet actions, had already decided on a strategy of global military preponderance and enforcement of Open Door economic policies on the rest of the world. For Kolko, this grand strategy and the denial of the limits of American power and wisdom inevitably resulted in the tragedy of Vietnam.

In this classic study based on decades of historical research, Kolko argues that 35 years of American policy in the then Third World were driven by an enduring set of imperatives owing to the domination of US policy by a cohesive military, political and corporate elite. The imperatives were geostrategic, the attempt to secure bases and allies to contain Soviet power; geoeconomic, in the form of efforts to secure essential supplies of resources in case of war; ideological, in the form of anti-communism; and economic, in that the US policy was frequently driven by the economic interests of major corporate actors. Kolko makes clear in this detailed study that no one of these motives clearly dominated over the other, all had a role to play, each is important in explaining overall US foreign policy.

Central to Kolko's account is the extent to which the US policy was characterised by ignorance: of the origins of the political crises in Third World societies in the social changes brought on by modernisation; of the limits of its own ability to reshape and guide Third World societies through these changes; and of the notion that Third World states conception of their own national interest might differ from those of the US.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x92f080fc) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92f3eab0) out of 5 stars To Understand 9/11/01.... 16 Oct. 2003
By Thomas E. Quinn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Compared to Kolko's usual dense work (e.g. 1400 pages of original research in 2 volumes on "The US & the World" between 1943 and 1954), this book is a model of brevity, the plain style and focus on the main trends and themes in the United State's relationship with the 3rd World between 1945-1980. I read it when it was first published in 1988, but did not appreciate its prophetic brilliance until a second reading this year, in the long wake of 9/11.
If one eschews the ahistorical and deceitful diagnosis of the terrible events of 9/11/01 as a Good vs. Evil Hollywood epic, then Kolko's analysis belongs on your short list of books offering a deeply informed account of American policy and practice in the 3rd World. Another such volume is Chalmers Johnson's "Blowback", published a decade after Kolko's "Confronting the Third World."
In the "Conclusion", written two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kolko writes:
"Whether our future will be as crisis-ridden as the past depends on whether the United States can live in a pluralist world and cease to confront and fight most of the movements and developments that have emerged in the postwar era and have become more relevant since the irreversible collapse of Soviet and Chinese pretensions to lead international socialism."
And, as of this note, written in October 2003, does the following have a prophetic ring?
"Ultimately, the major inhibitions on the United States remain its incapacity either to fight successfully or to pay for the potentially unlimited costs of attaining its goals in the Third World, and these constraints have grown far more quickly that the process of reason among the leaders of both parties on the grave issues of war and change today. That America's policies and goals have increasingly failed on their own terms, eroding the quality of its domestic life and international strength in the process, has yet to penetrate seriously their thnking, much less their visions of alternatives and readiness to live with the dominant realities of our era."
This book was originally published by Pantheon under the leadership of Andre Schiffren. He went on to found the New Press and has republished some of Noam Chomsky's early classic works. This great book likewise deserves republication with an updated Conclusion.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92f3bd80) out of 5 stars Kolko's American foreign policy 20 May 2006
By Jesus Chrysler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is absolutely essential for any radical understanding of US policies towards the third world.

I highly recommend this over other books attempting to approach the subject, such as William Blum's _Killing Hope_, as that one tends to oversimplify, offer interventions in a format that does not give any sense of continuity or coherence to US policies, which were not as simple as simply opposing communism. Kolko's book, in contrast, outline major themes and gives a more coherent understanding of the US's treatment of the third world by letting the reader in on the motivations of America's policymakers, with references to internal documents.

Highly recommended.
HASH(0x9319c1bc) out of 5 stars Imperial America and the Third World 14 Mar. 2014
By S Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, Gabriel Kolko, is one of the finest writers of the post World War Two international scene, with his primary interest being the United States role within that period. His Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience is the premier work on the Vietnam War, at least as far as analysis of all the factors, and how they interacted over the period of American involvement goes. The book under review covers the United States interactions with the Third World in the period after World War Two.

All factors fall under Kolko's purview, the outlook and doctrines of the U.S. itself, from concerns about access to raw materials, protecting U.S. investments, Cold War considerations (which often had little to do with Third world countries becoming allied with the U.S.S.R. at least until U.S. involvement became overtly hostile) and interactions with Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal: the colonial (eventually former colonial) powers.

In American planning, Africa is largely left to their Cold-War allies in Western Europeans, it being viewed as vital to bolstering their recovery from World War Two. Latin America is marked down as purely a U.S. area, and where American interests in terms of trade and investment are strongest. Asia is part shared with Japan, who (the U.S. decides) must have their raw materials needs met from the South-East Asian countries, who in turn must remain in the Capitalist World, or the pressures on Japan to seek accommodation with the Communist bloc would become intolerable. In the Middle East, the United States simply look to edge the British out (largely accomplished by the coup in Iran in 1953 and the Suez crisis of 1956) and maintain access to the regions oil resources.

The big problem from the United States point of view is that the countries concerned, especially after decolonization, had their own agendas with regard to development of their resources, industrial policies, and bringing a degree of socio-economic development to their own people after decades, or centuries, of servicing the colonial powers. When these developments didn't coincide (which given American aims they intrinsically couldn't) with American interests, or threw up the possibility of setting a "bad" example to others such as in Cuba (1959-), Guatemala (1945-53), Chile (1970-73), the Congo (1959/60), Indonesia (in the period leading up to 1965) and the Dominican Republic (also in the period leading up to 1965) then U.S. relations would become rapidly hostile, and everything from covert action, coups to military action would be on the agenda. Kolko includes concise accounts of U.S. hostilities with all the above mentioned countries, plus the countless others who have been on the receiving end up U.S. interventions.

Kolko's "Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign Policy 1945-1980", though now 25 years old, is still a classic overview of American involvement in the third world after World War Two. If the reader is looking for descriptions of military operations and battles, and colourful accounts of Presidents and Generals then they would be best looking elsewhere as Kolko's primary (but not exclusive) interest is in the factors, trends and developments whether economic, political, or socio-economic that underlay events, and the unforeseen manner in which American interventions caused them to develop. Despite this lack of supposed colour, a workmanlike prose style, and the condensing of thirty-five years of U.S. interactions with the entire Third World into little over 300 pages, I still found it a fascinating, occasionally exhilarating read. Kolko cuts through the subject with astonishing concision, with his characteristic systematic and erudite analysis, and a sharp nose for the key facts. It is a great shame that he has not updated the book to bring it forward to contemporary times.
2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92f0f4ec) out of 5 stars Misinformed 6 Jan. 2007
By Xerxes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Go to page 266, second paragraph "As a Baha'i, he (Shah of Iran) was hostile to Shiite traditionalism..." For the record Shah was not a Bahai. He was actually a devout Shia. And the reason he advanced women's rights in Iran was because he was a "social progressive" not because he was a Bahai. The author should have done his research before writing a book. I have no idea why more people find my review not helpful. Is it because they have not gone to that page? Is it because they are ignorant of Iran's history?
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