Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thomas C. Field, Jr.'s "From Development to Dictatorship"

Thomas C. Field Jr. is Assistant Professor of Global Security and Intelligence Studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, From Development to Dictatorship: Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era, and reported the following:
As the book’s title suggests, my work explores the unintentional aspects of development as foreign policy. This book focuses on President Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress in Bolivia, which was one of the highest per capita recipients of US aid at the time. Basing my narrative on declassified documents in Bolivian and US archives, and interviews with key actors in both countries, I conclude that development has a tendency to encourage creeping authoritarian responses to political unrest. According to my findings, this trend was exacerbated by a close intimacy between USAID and CIA covert operations.

These themes are on full display on page 99, where I wrap up my story of how the Kennedy White House channeled USAID funds to arm a CIA-backed peasant militia in July 1963. The operation aimed to assassinate leftwing Bolivian labor leaders who were leading mine strikes against the harsh conditions attached to US development funds. The attempt failed, but liberal developmentalists in Washington were nonetheless pleased that the Bolivian government showed a willingness to employ force to implement USAID programs. Labor’s voice was sharply restricted in Bolivia, and hundreds of leftwing miners were fired, with US Embassy officials performing “spot-checks” to ensure that “Commie-liners” were the first to go. Page 99 also begins discussion of Kennedy’s authorization of a massive CIA psychological operation in mid-1963 to “enable [President VĂ­ctor] Paz to consolidate his control” by attacking leftwing influence throughout Bolivian society. As I demonstrate, these heavy-handed covert actions were unfailingly justified in the name of “development,” and they were mostly carried out under the auspices of USAID. Page 99 therefore represents the book’s turning point. After August 1963, Bolivia’s authoritarian turn, backed by USAID dollars, led directly to the country’s full-scale militarization in November 1964.
Learn more about From Development to Dictatorship at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue