Friday, July 23, 2010

Brian Loveman's "No Higher Law"

Brian Loveman is professor emeritus of political science at San Diego State University and author or editor of more than twenty books on Latin American history and politics, inter-American relations, and U.S. foreign policy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, No Higher Law: American Foreign Policy and the Western Hemisphere since 1776, and reported the following:
P. 99 of begins with a summary of American foreign policy and the Western Hemisphere from the 1820s until the 1860s and ends with an introduction of American policy toward Cuba, the first of five cases (Cuba, the Caribbean islands, Central America, Colombia [Panama], Mexico) considered in the rest of Chapter 4. The chapter is titled “The Good Neighbor” – an ironic characterization of U.S. regional policy, and especially of President James Buchanan’s call for American military intervention in Mexico as a “good neighbor” to lend a “helping hand.” Buchanan told Congress that Mexico was a “wreck upon the Ocean” and that the U.S. should lend a helping hand, lest “some other nation undertake the task, and thus force us to interfere at last, …for the maintenance of our established policy.” Buchanan meant to uphold his version of the Monroe Doctrine, protect American property and business in Mexico, and control isthmian transit from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans after the California gold rush of 1849, and after the U.S. annexed approximately half of Mexico. He also sought to expand slave territory. Buchanan told Congress: “Only thus can we fulfill our high destinies, and run the race of greatness for which we are ordained …. The Anglo-Saxon blood could never be subdued by anything that claimed Mexican origin” (p. 115).

The summary paragraph at the beginning of p. 99 captures some of the central themes of No Higher Law regarding the formulation, implementation, and impact of American foreign policy toward Latin America, the way these policies have fit historically (to the present) into U.S. global strategy, and the responses of Latin Americans to the U.S. quest for hegemony in the Western hemisphere. Latin Americans found their interests and aspirations sacrificed to U.S. and European powers; both U.S. and European governments premised their policies on the “inferiority” of Latin American peoples and cultures. Racism and belief in American exceptionalism “justified” the “contempt and cynicism demonstrated by American and European governments alike toward Spanish America and Brazil.”

Colombian poet José María Torres Caicedo, living in Paris, responded to U.S. policy in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America with Las dos Americas (The Two Americas), a bitter denunciation of the betrayal by the United States of its own revolutionary past and its aggression against the poet’s América Latina (p. 111):
The Latin American race
Is confronted by the Saxon Race
Mortal Enemy who now threatens
To destroy its liberty and its banner
Thus the p.99 test catches the 1776-2010 story told by No Higher Law fifty years after U.S. independence and takes it into the 1860s. A reader who picks up the book and opens to p.99 will find a partial synthesis of the central themes of the story in the paragraph at the top of the page, and a beginning of the Cuban case study in the last half of the page. Chapter 4 ends with the advent of the American Civil War and notes that “in the last thirty-five years of the nineteenth century, Latin Americans would rarely have an opportunity to experience or imagine the United States as the Good Neighbor” (p.119).
Learn more about No Higher Law at the publisher's website.

Visit Brian Loveman's website for access to key documents and bibliographical sources mentioned in No Higher Law.

--Marshal Zeringue