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American foreign policy in Latin America (1945-1975): the containment policy and the perceptions of “threat”

Reed, Benjamin A. (2012) American foreign policy in Latin America (1945-1975): the containment policy and the perceptions of “threat”. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This paper analyzes the U.S. foreign policy of containment as it was applied to Latin and South America, from 1945 through the 1970s, which U.S. policy makers employed to prevent the spread of “communism.” The containment policy defines communism as the most significant threat to U.S. interests: a threat that directed policy theory and catalyzed policy action. That is, when a situation was deemed a “communist threat,” U.S. policy makers responded through a variety of options including, but not limited to, the use of covert intervention (such as the orchestration of military coups to unseat supposed communist leaders), of economic reprisals (such as the removal of U.S. economic aid to a given country), and even of military force. But, through my study of the containment policy, I realize that the way U.S. policy makers characterized a “communist threat” was not always consistent, for they did not always react to similar circumstances in similar ways. I contend that how U.S. policy makers viewed world events, that is, how they judged and perceived those events (for example, land reform in a given country) was not always congruent from situation to situation. In this light, the purpose of this paper, then, is to explain why this discrepancy in perception occurred, and therefore to explain the evolution of American foreign policy and action from the late 1940s through the early 1970s.
First, I contend that U.S. policy perspective (a term I coined to describe how U.S. policy makers judged world events) and U.S. foreign policy evolved from 1945 through the 1970s, causing U.S. policy makers to define threats in different ways across time. In layman’s terms, U.S. policy makers were not as anti-communist by the 1970s, which caused them to be less critical, and perhaps more practical, when judging a situation to be a “communist threat.” Second, I will argue that whether or not a regime was democratic or dictatorial was significant, in that U.S. policy makers favored dictatorial regimes as the best defense against “communist threats” in the Western hemisphere. As a result, U.S. policy makers were more sensitive to “communist threats” in democratic regimes and more likely to investigate such regimes with greater scrutiny for the possibility of these threats.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Reed, Benjamin A.
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee MemberHarris, Jonathan
Committee MemberSoluri, John
Thesis AdvisorMorgenstern, Scott
Date: 18 January 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 December 2011
Approval Date: 18 January 2012
Submission Date: 14 December 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 226
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
University Honors College
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: U.S. Foreign Policy: Containment Policy
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2012 19:35
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:55


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