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Article

Malcolm Byrne

Iran-Contra was a major political scandal in the late 1980s that nearly derailed a popular president and left American society deeply divided about its significance. Although the affair was initially portrayed as a rogue operation run by overzealous White House aides, subsequent evidence showed that the president himself was its driving force with the knowledge of his most senior advisers. Iran-Contra was a foreign policy scandal, but it also gave rise to a significant confrontation between the executive and legislative branches with constitutional implications for their respective roles, especially in foreign policy. The affair exposed significant limits on the ability of all three branches to ferret out and redress official wrongdoing. And the entire episode, a major congressional investigation concluded, was characterized by a remarkable degree of dishonesty and deception, reaching to the highest levels of government. For all these reasons, and in the absence of a clear legal or ethical conclusion (in contrast to Watergate), Iran-Contra left a scar on the American body politic that further eroded the public’s faith in government.

Article

Evan D. McCormick

Since gaining independence in 1823, the states comprising Central America have had a front seat to the rise of the United States as a global superpower. Indeed, more so than anywhere else, the United States has sought to use its power to shape Central America into a system that heeds US interests and abides by principles of liberal democratic capitalism. Relations have been characterized by US power wielded freely by officials and non-state actors alike to override the aspirations of Central American actors in favor of US political and economic objectives: from the days of US filibusterers invading Nicaragua in search of territory; to the occupations of the Dollar Diplomacy era, designed to maintain financial and economic stability; to the covert interventions of the Cold War era. For their part, the Central American states have, at various times, sought to challenge the brunt of US hegemony, most effectively when coordinating their foreign policies to balance against US power. These efforts—even when not rejected by the United States—have generally been short-lived, hampered by economic dependency and political rivalries. The result is a history of US-Central American relations that wavers between confrontation and cooperation, but is remarkable for the consistency of its main element: US dominance.