H-Diplo Roundtable XXII-46 on Rabe.  Kissinger and Latin America: Intervention, Human Rights, and Diplomacy

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H-Diplo Roundtable XXII-46

Stephen G. Rabe.  Kissinger and Latin America: Intervention, Human Rights, and DiplomacyIthaca: Cornell University Press, 2020.  ISBN:  9781501706295 (hardcover, $41.95).

21 June 2021 | https://hdiplo.org/to/RT22-46
Editor:  Diane Labrosse | Production Editor: George Fujii


Introduction by Alan McPherson, Temple University. 2

Review by Thomas C. Field Jr., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 5

Review by Andrew J. Kirkendall, Texas A&M University. 8

Review by Aaron Coy Moulton, Stephen F. Austin State University. 10

Review by Michelle D. Paranzino, U.S. Naval War College. 14

Response by Stephen G. Rabe, University of Texas at Dallas. 16




Since 1988, we have seen the appearance of one major monograph on the Latin American policy of four Cold War administrations, and Stephen Rabe is responsible for 75 percent of that output.  His highly admired studies of Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy’s hemispheric affairs were recently complemented by Thomas Allcock’s look at Lyndon Johnson’s through his prime Latin Americanist, Thomas Mann.[1] Picking up Allcock’s strategy of focusing on a presidential advisor rather than a president, Rabe covers the administration of Richard Nixon (with less coverage of Gerald Ford) through the foreign policy of National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

In Kissinger and Latin America, Rabe argues that Kissinger was more involved in Latin American affairs than previous historians have thought.  In the Southern Cone, the story is relatively well known: Obsessed with East-West security issues, Kissinger glossed over the human rights violations and other attacks on democracy of almost any Latin American military dictatorship.  He proved an especially amoral Cold Warrior who backed murderous dictatorships even when conservatives in the State Department recoiled at the excesses.  On economic matters, however, Rabe portrays Kissinger as open-minded, leading negotiations with Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador.  Rabe also sees Kissinger as somewhat successful in opening negotiations with Panama over the canal, and equally open (though less successful) in sustaining talks with Cuba.

The distinguished group of historians of U.S.-Latin American affairs gathered here agree that Rabe’s topic is “heavily underexamined,” as Aaron Moulton writes, including its implications not only for the historiography of hemispheric relations but also for “Kissingerology.” They also all recognize Rabe’s enormous contributions over his lengthy career.  On this book, however, they are split: two are largely positive while the other two are more critical. 

In the most detailed positive review, Thomas Field sees Kissinger and Latin America as “something of a return to form” for Rabe.  He appreciates how Rabe “illuminates the contradictory nature of foreign policy during the Kissinger years” and suggests the benefit of including less-known Nixon/Ford-era cases such as Peru, Uruguay, and Field’s own favored topic, Bolivia.  The focus on Kissinger’s so-called realism in Latin America exposes his sycophantic attraction to strongmen, from the left as well as the right.  When nationalists such as Panama’s Omar Torrijos demanded respect for his small nation’s sovereignty, for instance, Kissinger proved uncharacteristically non-interventionist.

Andy Kirkendall, in another positive review, finds Rabe’s argument about the Jekyll and Hyde approach of Kissinger refreshingly “surprising” and ranks the book among Rabe’s best.  He focuses on another Kissingerian personality trait—he was a “control freak,” as Rabe calls him.  Like Field, Kirkendall appreciates the book’s “fairly comprehensive approach.”

The most common critique is over the argument.  Michelle Paranzino finds the book to be “successful neither as a biography of Kissinger nor as a history of Latin America in the Kissinger years.” Aaron Moulton largely agrees that Rabe “inadvertently undermines the analytical lens” of his earlier works with his organization of this book.  Echoing Paranzino, Moulton contends that, in trying to fulfill too many disparate goals, the book ends up with an introduction and conclusion that advance historiographical contributions while the country-specific chapters offer straightforward narratives that fail to sustain any through line in the argument.  For instance, the “paradox,” as Rabe calls it, of Kissinger spending a lot of time on Latin America while supporting right-wing governments is neither fully explained in the bookends nor illustrated in the chapters.  Moulton also argues that Rabe does not address “how Kissinger’s tunnel vision on the bipolar U.S.-Soviet conflict intersected or collided with his approach to other regions.” Again, like Paranzino, he concludes that the book does not make meaningful arguments about either Kissinger or Latin America. 

Field also notes that Rabe never resolves the paradox of Kissinger’s dual policy, though he finds “little to disagree with here” other than insufficient insight into how the Kissinger-Nixon relationship impacted policy.  Kirkendall, meanwhile, bemoans the “virtual absence” of Ford from the book.

Paranzino finds more to disagree with.  She would have preferred a chronological organization, writing that it “could have eliminated the repetition of background information about the policies and proclivities of Kissinger’s predecessors while facilitating a more robust analysis of the changes and continuities in Kissinger’s own thinking and in his approach to the region.” She also faults Rabe for “sweeping unsubstantiated claims,” such as the generalization of Latin Americans blaming Kissinger for the 1973 coup in Chile.  He substantiates such claims, she notes, with anecdotes from academic conferences, not Latin American historiography.  She takes him to task for the larger sins of including “almost no Latin American sources” and overlooking the latest English-language scholarship.  Field, in contrast, notes Rabe’s “exhaustive” use of recently declassified U.S. government documents.   

Field seems to disagree with Paranzino in seeing in Rabe’s intent the writing of “a diplomatic history of foreign policymaking and implementation, and not an exegesis of Latin American politics or culture.” Rabe highlights old-fashioned political power and the need to denounce U.S. Cold War crimes while still recognizing the agency of Latin Americans.  Kirkendall, meanwhile, agrees with Paranzino that Rabe’s portrayal of U.S. power as a blunt instrument fueled by Cold War ignorance neglects the more subtle appreciations of historians such as Tanya Harmer and Matias Spektor.[2]

The fault lines in this roundtable may speak to the increasing challenges in writing the history of U.S.-Latin American relations during the later Cold War.  One of those is methodological, as more historians who work with primary and secondary Spanish-language sources find scholarship that does appear to be increasingly incomplete.  Second is a wariness of what Moulton calls a “bureaucratic analysis” centered on Washington diplomats and their ambassadorial staff around the world.  Third and perhaps most overwhelming is the increasing complexity of Latin America’s foreign relations after the 1960s, precisely as Nixon and Kissinger took the reins of foreign policy.  After the decline of the euphoria of the early Cuban Revolution and the evident failure of the guerrilla path to power, ideologies hardened—especially on the right—leaders became more cynical, and governments looked beyond the United States for goods and services, whether in the form of loans, tanks, port managers, or political consultants.  Kissinger found himself dealing with a rapidly globalizing and diversifying continent, and there was little that even he, for all his cunning and resources, could do to steer the supertanker.  Writing about Kissinger in Latin America may increasingly mean writing about his failures rather than his mastery.  Stephen Rabe has, at the very least, sparked a debate about how to do so. 


Stephen G. Rabe is the Ashbel Smith Chair in History (emeritus) at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he served for forty years.  He has subsequently been an affiliated faculty member at the Clark Honors College of the University of Oregon.  Rabe received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1976, under the direction of Dr. Thomas G. Paterson.  Dr. Rabe has taught or lectured in twenty countries and held the Mary Ball Washington Chair in American History at University College, Dublin and the Fulbright Bicentennial Chair in American Studies at the University of Helsinki.  He has edited or written twelve scholarly books.  His forthcoming book is “The Lost Paratroopers of Graignes, Normandy: A Story of Resistance, Courage, and the Franco-American Alliance.” 

Alan McPherson is Freaney Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy (CENFAD) at Temple University.  He is the author and editor of eleven books, including the prize-winning Yankee No!  Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations (Harvard, 2003) and The Invaded: How Latin Americans and their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations (Oxford, 2014).  His latest is Ghosts of Sheridan Circle: How a Washington Assassination Brought Pinochet’s Terror State to Justice (North Carolina, 2019).

Thomas C. Field Jr. (Ph.D, London School of Economics) is Professor of Global Security and Intelligence Studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  His is author of From Development to Dictatorship: Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era, which won the Thomas McGann Book Award from the Rocky Mountain Council on Latin American Studies.  Field’s work has appeared in Diplomatic History and the Journal of Latin American Studies.  He received the Bernath Scholarly Article Prize and the Unterberger Dissertation Prize, both from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and a Cold War Postdoctoral Fellowship from New York University’s Tamiment Library.  Field is currently writing a book about Che Guevara, Cold War Bolivia, and the rise of Third Worldism.

Andrew J. Kirkendall received his PhD in Latin American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1996.  He is Professor of History at Texas A&M University.  He has been active in the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations since 2005.  His latest book is Paulo Freire and the Cold War Politics of Literacy (2010).  He is finishing a book on liberal Democrats and Cold War Latin America.

Aaron Coy Moulton is Assistant Professor of Latin American History at Stephen F. Austin State University where he is completing his manuscript, “Caribbean Blood Pact: The Negotiated Cold War Against the Guatemalan Revolution, 1944-1954”, which reveals how Guatemalan dissidents, Caribbean Basin dictators, transnational corporations, and British intelligence put into motion what would become the United States government’s Operation PBSUCCESS that overthrew Guatemala’s democratically-elected government.

Michelle Paranzino (formerly Getchell) is an assistant professor in the Strategy & Policy Department at the US Naval War College.  She is the author of The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War: A Short History with Documents (Cambridge/Indianapolis: Hackett, 2018) and is currently working on a book about the Reagan administration and the War on Drugs.  You can follow her on Twitter and Spotify @aucontrarian.  The views expressed here are hers alone.



Reminiscent of his two late-twentieth century books regarding the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, Stephen Rabe’s most recent contribution represents something of a return to form.[3]  Geographically sweeping yet chronologically focused, Kissinger and Latin America analyzes White House policymaking toward Latin America during the long tenure of Henry Kissinger, who held the powerful positions of national security advisor and secretary of state during overlapping periods under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.  Despite the fact that Kissinger’s foreign policy has received a great deal of attention in the historiography, surprisingly little has been written about his approach to Latin America outside of his controversial involvement in the Nixon administration’s undermining of Chilean President Salvador Allende’s leftist government in 1973 and his failed management of the Ford administration’s attempted rapprochement with Fidel Castro’s Cuba a year later.[4]  Yet as Rabe shows, Kissinger betrayed his reputation as a foreign policy realist, one who was interested only in great power politics, by having “devoted more time and effort to Latin America than any of his predecessors or successors” (2).

Rabe’s research piles a heap of new contradictions onto the Kissinger paradox.  For example, Kissinger helped shepherd interventions against perceived leftist threats apart from Allende, targeting Bolivia and Uruguay in the Nixon years.  On the other side of the ledger, Kissinger extended an olive branch to revolutionary leaders aside from Castro, especially to Peru’s Juan Velasco and Panama’s Omar Torrijos during the Ford administration.  He also tended toward the sycophantic, courting one elite after another, from his liberal internationalist benefactor Nelson Rockefeller to the rightwing strongman Nixon.  As much as any other study of this idiosyncratic statesman, therefore, Rabe’s book illuminates the contradictory nature of foreign policy during the Kissinger years.

In Rabe’s reading, Kissinger’s instinct to coddle the powerful carried over into Latin America policy, where he established a genuine sense of “bonhomie” (197) with military officials, around whom “[w]ords like ‘flatterer, ‘sycophant,’ ‘toady,’ and fawner’ could not adequately characterize how Kissinger acted” (100).  Equally deferent to rightwing anti-Communist dictators and popular nationalists, especially after Nixon’s fall in 1974, Kissinger’s haphazard yet fundamentally indulgent approach to Latin America’s ruling elites provides one of the clearest showcases, in historian Mario del Pero’s words, an “eccentric realist” who obsessed over public relations and was keen to hone his Realpolitik brand.[5]  Central to Kissinger’s marketing effort was the self-promoted idea that he cared little for the Global South, and even less for international economics.  In reality, he cultivated deep, “philosophical” friendships with Latin American military dictators of nearly every political stripe (197), often siding with them against U.S. investors and U.S.-owned corporations.  Defending Panama’s anti-imperialist President Omar Torrijos in 1975, Kissinger advised the White House National Security Council that the Panama Canal was “nothing more than a vestige of colonialism” (178). 

A few years earlier, Kissinger praised Argentina’s revolutionary nationalist hero Juan Domingo Perón as “a man of historic importance,” gushing to Perón’s foreign minister that “he preferred to deal with big people rather than small people” (125).  From his 1974 honeymoon in Acapulco – a resort town where he would later be granted open access to the Mexican foreign minister’s beach house (36) – and sleepovers at the country retreats of the Colombian and Bolivian presidents (236), to helping Argentina’s late 1970s dictatorship circumvent the US trade embargo on Communist Cuba (127), Henry Kissinger forged warm relationships with the military rulers of the Western Hemisphere.  In the process, he blended his infamous Machiavellianism with a contradictory dose of sympathetic non-interventionism, a tendency which sometimes played into the hands of deft operators among Latin America’s political elite.

Like Rabe’s other field-defining books (including The Road to OPEC and US Intervention in British Guiana, bilateral gems notable for their simplicity of purpose)[6], Kissinger and Latin America should be judged for what it is: a diplomatic history of foreign policymaking and implementation, and not an exegesis of Latin American politics or culture.  In fact, one of the most refreshing aspects of Rabe’s oeuvre is its disinterest in historiographical trends that decenter political power (conceptually if not in the real world) and sometimes obscure the overwhelming impact of U.S, foreign policy in Latin America.  To be sure, a close reading of Rabe’s work reveals that he is careful to highlight the fundamental agency of local elites, whose occasional crimes against progress, democracy, and human rights are portrayed as merely having been enabled by U.S. power and largesse.  Kissinger, like most of his predecessors and successors, “bolstered and coddled murderous military dictators” in Latin America (2); he never created them from whole cloth.  Moreover, Rabe demonstrates himself to be a voracious reader of secondary literature, which informs a subtle shift away from the political realism of his recent textbook, The Killing Zone, and toward a deeper exploration of the ideological crusades that animated local protagonists in Latin America’s long Cold War.[7]

The book spends around a hundred and fifty pages (nearly three-fourths of its girth) cataloging the greatest hits of Kissingerian amoralism, some of which even the most callous reader will find difficult to swallow.  We learn that Henry Kissinger not only vowed “to do everything possible to get arms to Chile” and other brutal South American dictatorships (142), but that he systematically harangued his own countrymen who used their State Department posts to speak out against the murder and mayhem being perpetrated by Washington’s allies.  When disgruntled Foreign Service Officers filed broadside complaints via the newly-created “Dissent Channel,” Kissinger dismissed them as “frustrated missionaries” (100), who wanted “to make revolution in Chile” and elsewhere in Latin America.  Defending dictators who had taken power in Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile, Kissinger replied with unintentional parody, “I am just not eager to overthrow these guys,” he told the White House National Security Council in 1976, adding that US diplomats’ resistance to unconditionally supporting far-right dictators was akin to “systemically undermining them” (145).  Days before agents of the Chilean dictatorship murdered two leftists in Washington, DC, Kissinger quashed a memorandum drafted by his deputy, which would have issued a stern démarche to Latin America’s military governments, warning them that the “dangerous consequences” of transnational assassination plots would represented a “violation of the very basic fundamentals of a civilized society” (148).

While rightwing dictatorships clearly benefited from Kissinger’s deference, nationalist leaders also capitalized on his indulgent attitude toward the powerful.  This seemingly enlightened side of Henry Kissinger’s Latin America policy emerges in the last quarter of the book, starting with the end of Chapter 5, where Kissinger eschewed Washington’s interventionist tradition, first in Peru under General Juan Velasco Alvarado and spreading during the Ford years to Panama under General Omar Torrijos, Mexico under Luis Echeverría, and Ecuador under José Velasco Ibarra.  Refusing to let his State Department be used as an overseas chamber of commerce for U.S. companies, Kissinger successfully negotiated a series of economic settlements, usually to the benefit of Latin American nationalists.  Given the long shadow of the 1973 coup d’état against Chile’s Salvador Allende, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate that the mid-1970s otherwise provided a blueprint for constructive diplomatic relations between a less interventionist United States and varied manifestations of Latin American nationalism and anti-imperialism.

Rather than resolve this fundamental paradox of foreign policy during the Kissinger years, Rabe embraces it through a dichotomized book structure: 121 pages on Kissinger’s predictable amoral support for rightwing dictatorships in Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, followed by 62 pages on his surprising tolerance for nationalists, reformers, and revolutionaries in Panama, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela (and briefly Cuba).  Even Rabe’s introduction and conclusion are juxtaposed, respectively, as “The Case for Henry Kissinger” and “The Judgement on Henry Kissinger.”  As some scholars have suggested, Occam’s Razor points to Kissinger as a kneejerk noninterventionist, tolerant of ruling elites of many political stripes and simply following President Nixon’s “dark tutelage” when he coordinated the ouster of leftist governments in Bolivia and Chile in the early 1970s (249).  Rejecting this portrait of Kissinger as a bloodless clerk, Rabe identifies plenty of pathos in the way Kissinger privately boasted of Washington’s role in overthrowing Allende, relished military and security collaboration with far-right dictators throughout the Nixon and Ford administrations, and steamed with indignation in late 1975 when Cuba embarrassed the United States and its allies by sending troops to Angola.  This leaves Rabe to finish on a sweeping note, interpreting Kissinger’s contradictory support for rightwing and left-leaning nationalists as having resulted from his affinity for “men of action,” especially when they showed the “strength” and courage” to follow their impulse of making history over the constraints of human rights and the rule of law (252).  There is little to disagree with here, even if one is left wanting more about the precise policy impact of Kissinger’s most complicated relationship: the one he suffered through with President Richard Nixon.

In terms of sources, Rabe’s book is a tribute to the herculean efforts of the State Department’s Office of the Historian, who obtained declassification of a substantial cache of documents, including selections from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (“INR/IL Historical Files”) which remain otherwise unavailable to researchers.  Rabe’s exhaustive use of these documents, which were recently published in the State Department’s 160-year-old series, Foreign Relations of the United States,[8] is complimented by the large selection of Kissinger Tapes held by George Washington University’s Digital National Security Archive, in addition to the essential oral history interviews conducted and collected by the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training.[9]  Since Rabe’s wide-ranging tome is a testament to the importance of these and other archival and declassification projects, one can only hope that State Department will achieve similar success with their forthcoming volume on the Reagan years, and that Rabe will produce yet another sequel.


Stephen Rabe has devoted his distinguished career to the study of U.S. relations with Latin America.  As a Latin Americanist/inter-Americanist, I have to be grateful for his commitment to the field. Following the lead of U.S. and particularly State Department officials, historians who focus on the history of U.S. foreign relations often downplay the region’s importance.  It speaks well of him that he has stuck with it for so many years.

He has written a general history of the Cold War in Latin America as well as foundational works on regional administration policies of Presidents Dwight David Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy and bilateral studies of U.S. relations with Venezuela and a more focused one on U.S. involvement in the internal affairs of British Guiana.[10] Perhaps even he does not know how many scholarly articles he has written.

It is striking that Rabe has now turned his attention to Henry Kissinger, the National Security Adviser/Secretary of State whose reputation could not be more controversial.  When Latin Americanists think of him, they tend to remember that he famously dismissed the area’s importance.  Otherwise, they think of his destructive role in Chile, which Rabe correctly highlights.  Rabe demonstrates a grounding in the already extensive literature on Kissinger.[11] What is surprising in Rabe’s book is that he argues that Kissinger actually was more involved in Latin American affairs than anyone of his stature before or since. It might be argued that this was less due to a genuine interest in Latin America.  Perhaps the answer is simple.  Kissinger was, to use a colloquial expression, a “control freak,” as Rabe himself briefly notes at the end of the book (237), President Richard Nixon was less likely to indulge him than was President Gerald Ford, whose interest in international affairs was relatively limited.  Ford’s virtual absence from this book, while understandable, is unfortunate.

In his opening chapter, Rabe pays far more attention to the 1969 Rockefeller Mission than other historians do.  That Kissinger’s mentor, New York Governor and Nixon rival Nelson Rockefeller, would travel to most countries in the region he loved on Nixon’s behalf gave a misleading impression regarding Nixon’s own interest in the region.  Although it received a great deal of attention at the time, the mission amounted to little more than an extremely noisy whimper, signifying the impending end of the Alliance for Progress.

The Nixon administration’s fondness for military leaders is generally recognized.  Readers will learn much here about Kissinger’s role in the fall of Juan José Torres in Bolivia, though I will leave it up to my colleague, Thomas Field, to assess whether orchestration or encouragement best characterizes U.S. action there in 1971 (3,16).  Rabe provides a vivid account of the rather pugnacious interventionist U.S. Ambassador Ernest Siracusa, who later moved from La Paz to Montevideo after the military came to power in Uruguay’s longstanding democracy.  In Argentina, it was Kissinger’s support after a military coup that was more critical.  Rabe’s fairly comprehensive approach leads him to address countries where the U.S. approach did not change much during the Kissinger years, most notably Guatemala. 

Far less dramatic is Kissinger’s sympathetic attention to Mexican concerns about the Colorado River’s salt content (and lack of interest in migration issues).  Kissinger also proved remarkably willing to help solve a longstanding expropriation issue with Peru and to compromise when Venezuela nationalized foreign oil.  Generally, he responded best, Rabe argues, when he saw no East-West issues at stake.

Rabe’s book would have been richer if he had engaged more directly with two major contributions to the literature.  While he calls Tanya Harmer’s first book “authoritative” (15), he does not discuss the evidence that she provides that U.S. policy was rather more subtle than it appears here, and that Nixon, Kissinger, and other important U.S. officials frequently kept the Allende government off-balance.[12] Matias Spektor’s book on Kissinger and Brazil, the Nixon administration’s favorite Latin American government, provides ample evidence that even during Kissinger’s peak period of influence on foreign policy he found it difficult to move relations between the two countries to the level that he and a sympathetic Brazilian Foreign Minister, Antônio Francisco Azeredo da Silveira, wanted them to be.[13]

Following the overthrow of the Allende government, which the Nixon administration considered a success, the most notable accomplishment of Kissinger in Latin America was progress toward a new treaty with Panama, on which, because of political pressures from presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan, President Ford put the brakes.  Nevertheless, Kissinger’s negotiations helped make President Jimmy Carter’s success possible.

Kissinger even for a time sought to use his relative autonomy under Ford to improve relations with Cuba during the Ford presidency.  Prime Minister Fidel Castro made clear that he did not need a détente of his own by dramatically raising the issue of the independence of Puerto Rico at the United Nations and even more shockingly sending troops to Angola to support the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola against forces that were allied with South Africa and (covertly) the United States. 

In the end, Rabe’s overall negative assessment of Kissinger’s record is largely based on his support for military dictatorships.  He might have noted that Kissinger was even criticized for not doing more to prevent human rights abuses in post-coup Chile by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai![14]  It must be noted that over the course of the book, Rabe provides numerous complimentary references to the Latin American policies of President Jimmy Carter (89-90, 101, 116, 139-140, and 250).

Rabe has once again been able to be first with the most.  The book ranks up there with Rabe’s Eisenhower and British Guiana books.  One hopes that future Kissingerologists will add it to their lists, even if it focuses on an ‘unimportant’ part of the world.  While I have differences with Rabe’s interpretation at times regarding the degree of Latin American agency in particular historical situations, I have to admire what he has accomplished here and over the course of his scholarly career.



At the turn of the millennium, Greg Grandin pleaded that “the time has come for U.S. historians to assess the Latin American Cold War from a higher vantage point, one less preoccupied with what motivated United States policymakers and more concerned with identifying what was being fought over in Latin America itself.”[15] As regional and global events finally allowed new insights into how Latin American governments and peoples defined their national security in the latter half of the twentieth century, Grandin’s call did not fall upon deaf ears.[16] Quickly, historians took up this suggestion and produced a growing body of work on Latin America’s Cold War.[17] Despite this vibrant surge, though, there still remained a heavily underexamined section of U.S. policy toward the region, that under Henry Kissinger while serving as national security adviser and secretary of state for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Despite his looming presence in comparable works for other regions, most surveys of U.S.-Latin American relations rush from the multiple crises under the Johnson administration into the debates over human rights with Jimmy Carter’s presidency, only pausing to discuss the U.S. government’s role in overthrowing Salvador Allende’s Chilean government in 1973.[18] Even the most focused treatments of Kissinger’s approach to Latin America rarely move past Chile to gauge events related to Cuba, Panama, and Peru.[19] Thus, it is not surprising that the first thorough examination, Kissinger and Latin America: Intervention, Human Rights, and Diplomacy, comes from Stephen G. Rabe, a respected expert on U.S. Cold War policy toward Latin America whose masterful syntheses and individual case studies continue to occupy a fundamental place in the literature.[20] However, it may be equally unsurprising that, in his herculean effort to examine myriad issues and questions that others have failed to take up, Rabe inadvertently undermines the analytical lens he has deployed in previous assessments of other policymakers and administrations which would have refined this book into a masterpiece on par with his works on the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.[21]

Ultimately, it often appears that many of the organizational and analytical weaknesses of Kissinger and Latin America derive from Rabe’s very understandable attempt to not just speak to the literature on U.S.-Latin American relations and what Jussi Hanhimäki has termed “Kissingerology,” but to fill in multiple massive gaps in the scholarship.[22] As Rabe outlines in his introduction, he took up this project in order to provide a general history of U.S. policymaking toward Latin America under Kissinger, to disprove Kissinger’s self-proclaimed ‘hands-off’ approach toward Latin American affairs which many historians have inaccurately repeated, to reposition Kissinger within the larger trajectory of U.S. Cold War policy in the Western Hemisphere, to determine Kissinger’s understanding of repression and human rights in the Americas, and speak to Hanhimäki’s hypothesis that further studies would prove that Kissinger’s unflinching focus on the bipolar U.S.-Soviet conflict resulted in devastating consequences in those regions of the world that he judged peripheral and irrelevant. Had Rabe centered his text on just a couple of these goals, there is no question the final product would have been stellar.  However, Kissinger and Latin America never cogently or concisely brings together all of Rabe’s points. Instead, this book is at its core is a wide-ranging survey of Kissinger’s frequent interventions into U.S. policymaking toward Latin America.  Chapters are divided by regions and themes whose sections oftentimes open with pages of background to prepare the reader for Rabe’s comparisons between Kissinger’s decisions and those that were taken under previous administrations and secretaries of state, while the introduction and conclusion feel cut off as bookends containing Rabe’s historiographical interjections.  The final product, then, lacks the rigorous and consistent analysis on level with the immense work Rabe clearly invested into this project, with the reader coming away with what feels like passing asides and judgements that are not properly interwoven throughout most pages.

This is most evident in what should be Rabe’s monumental revelation that Kissinger gave more time to Latin American relations than what his own memoirs and testimony have depicted, what historians have repeated, and what previous secretaries of state gave to the region.  Thanks to the prodigious archival research used to write this text, Rabe manages to contrast the voluminous diplomatic record of the time Kissinger gave to Latin American matters against the minimal attention paid by Dean Acheson, Dean Rusk, and others who delegated regional affairs to their assistant secretaries of state.  Yet the first mention of this key historiographical argument is buried in an early paragraph that “the records demonstrate that Kissinger dominated the making of policy with Latin America” (5).  Yes, the entire book does feature Kissinger’s notable actions regarding Latin American affairs; however, Rabe never takes the final step of arguing why this all matters until the final chapter.  It is only here, in “The Judgment on Henry Kissinger in Latin America,” that Rabe finally calls this gigantic insight what it is, the “paradox” that Kissinger “devoted more time and effort to the region than his predecessors” (236).  What frustrates the impact of this argument is that it feels separated from the rest of the text when it should complement Rabe’s other goal in proving how Kissinger supported dictators and military regimes.  When Rabe touches upon Kissinger overriding Ambassador Robert Hill or Assistant Secretary of State Harry Shlaudeman’s warnings regarding the Argentine junta’s state-sponsored terrorism or Operation Condor’s reach, this paradox is not mentioned (131-138, 147-150).  Consequently, the reader is left wondering whether Kissinger’s hands-on approach, this paradox, is a pivotal factor that blunted what would have been constructive insights and productive measures deployed by experienced Latin Americanists in U.S. embassies and consulates or the State Department.  Rabe’s decision to isolate his analysis within the conclusion leaves the question of whether Kissinger’s paradoxical behavior was a key reason that the U.S. government frequently appeared oblivious or incompetent when addressing Latin American affairs or why many officials were unwilling, unable, or forced to find unorthodox methods to challenge orders emanating from Washington, as with political officer James Cheek’s 1974 criticism of Anastasio Somoza’s Nicaraguan regime.

This choice to divest the chapters from the conclusion’s analytical remarks similarly undermines Rabe’s ability to place Kissinger and Latin America into the larger historiography of U.S. policy toward Latin America in these years.  Only in the introduction and conclusion does Rabe grapple with the contested visions of Kissinger and the debates over whether this influential architect of U.S. Cold War policy ever grasped the nuances of local issues or human rights.  Stringing the so-called paradox throughout the chapters would have strengthened his analysis and allowed him to better address Kissinger’s numerous champions and critics.  For example, Rabe’s summarizing text deserves to be praised for expanding our knowledge of how often human rights issues challenged U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, a topic which scholars have only taken up as it relates to the assassination of Orlando Letelier or the Carter administration.[23] Had Rabe deployed his analysis of this paradox to the forefront of the book’s chapters, he would have been able to consistently demonstrate that Kissinger’s repeated diplomatic interventions derailed efforts that possibly would have deterred or blunted repressive measures and human rights abuses in Latin America from experienced U.S. officials on the ground. The entire book, rather than just the conclusion, would have been Rabe’s ‘judgement’ of how Kissinger emboldened military regimes and dictators who pursued their own agendas.  The resulting penetrative bureaucratic analysis would have spoken to the larger debates in the Latin American Cold War scholarship over the interplay between Latin American agency and the U.S. government’s influence while tying together all the points that currently stand alone in the conclusion.

This division between the body and the conclusion especially weakens what should be Rabe’s colossal addition to Kissingerology.  While twice summarizing the bodies of work on Kissinger in the introduction and conclusion, Rabe never really tackles the overarching historiographical debate over how Kissinger’s tunnel vision on the bipolar U.S.-Soviet conflict intersected or collided with his approach to other regions.  Rabe repeatedly comments that his subject never grasped the nuances of Latin American affairs, from ignoring cables on revolutionary situations in El Salvador and Nicaragua to removing references on torture in Brazil in reports on human rights to overriding concerns related to drug trafficking (169, 95, 88-89).  Again, in separating his engagement with the historiography from most of the book, Rabe misses a perfect opportunity to speak to Hanhimäki, Mark Atwood Lawrence, and others who have insisted that Kissinger’s inability to grasp new foreign policy issues beyond basic realpolitik with the Soviet Union and China led to devastating consequences for U.S. policy toward many parts of the world.[24] What should be an obvious argument, thanks to Rabe’s grappling with the entirety of Kissinger’s understanding and approach to Latin American affairs, is never blended into the text.

In fact, even in the conclusion, Rabe never fully positions or answers any larger question regarding Kissingerology or the diplomat’s failure to comprehend grassroots issues outside the bipolar Cold War, something which Kissinger himself admitted he failed to grasp when finally recognizing revolutionary Cuba’s authentic assistance to African independence movements.  In the end, Rabe’s astounding attempt to accomplish numerous tasks in one fell swoop may have hamstrung the final product from being a book along the lines of his previous ones, but the very same attempt has laid the foundation for others to take a second look at Kissinger’s handling of foreign policy toward Latin America.  It will simply be the job of readers, students, and researchers who wish to further pursue this topic to bring together and build upon Rabe’s ‘judgment’ in Kissinger and Latin America.



Given that Henry Kissinger is the subject of what could fairly be termed a cottage industry of historical biography, is another book about him really necessary?[25] Stephen Rabe, in his latest monograph, Kissinger and Latin America: Intervention, Human Rights, and Diplomacy, makes a persuasive case that the answer is yes. Kissinger, both formally in his positions as national security adviser and secretary of state and in his informal advisory capacity in later administrations, played a leading role in formulating U.S. policy toward Latin America.  It makes sense that Rabe has chosen Kissinger, as opposed to say, presidents Richard Nixon or Gerald Ford, as the subject of this book.  The focus on Kissinger illuminates continuities in U.S. policy that may have been obscured by a tighter focus on a single president. Rabe walks readers through the voluminous literature on Henry Kissinger, distinguishing between the two schools of “Kissingerology” — the Jekyll/Hyde binary of “Dr. Kissinger” and “Mr. Henry.” Those focusing on Dr. Kissinger tend to be more admiring of his statesmanship, while those of the Mr. Henry variety emphasize the destructive consequences of Kissinger’s policies and the darker side of his personal views and political ambitions.[26] Though Rabe does not explicitly locate his book within either school, he is clearly more on the Mr. Henry side, which is totally warranted given his focus on Latin America as a region.  The Dr. Kissinger school typically does not have much to say about Latin America, as the subject frankly tarnishes the rosier view of Kissinger’s statesmanship.

The book is divided into chapters that proceed thematically as opposed to chronologically.  Rabe tackles, in turn, the Nixon administration’s general approach to the region; the U.S. role in destabilizing the governments of Salvador Allende in Chile and Juan José Torres in Bolivia; U.S. policy toward Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay; Kissinger’s response to Operation Condor, a transnational security network aimed at ruthlessly eliminating South America’s Marxist and progressive left; U.S. relations with Central America in the Kissinger years; inter-American trade and investment issues; and finally, two of Kissinger’s major failed policy initiatives, one relating to the international economic order and the other moving tentatively toward a rapprochement with Cuba. The benefits of this thematic organization are not entirely clear.  A more chronological organizational framework could have eliminated the repetition of background information about the policies and proclivities of Kissinger’s predecessors while facilitating a more robust analysis of the changes and continuities in Kissinger’s own thinking and in his approach to the region.  Rabe neglects to meaningfully consider the place of Latin America in Kissinger’s overarching worldview; the book is thus successful neither as a biography of Kissinger nor as a history of Latin America in the Kissinger years, ignoring as it does domestic and regional politics. 

Further detracting from the strength of the analysis, Rabe occasionally makes sweeping unsubstantiated claims.  For instance, in the introduction, he asserts that “Latin Americans hold Kissinger responsible for the tragedy of Chile.” As a generalization, this is problematic for a number of reasons. First of all, it does a profound disservice to the plurality of belief and opinion in a region that is incredibly diverse not only geographically, historically, and culturally, but also politically and ideologically. The coup was only possible because Allende had alienated powerful entrenched interests in Chile — presumably these were Latin American too, and they blamed Allende, not Kissinger, for the tragedy of Chile.  Historians must engage viewpoints they personally find reprehensible or just plain wrong, particularly when those viewpoints are shared by many.  Writing them out of history does not augment our collective understanding.  Second, Rabe does not back up the assertion with a citation pointing to literature authored by Latin American scholars that holds Kissinger directly responsible for the overthrow of Allende.  The paragraph containing this assertion includes anecdotes from Rabe’s own personal experiences at conferences, suggesting his statement is based purely on anecdotal evidence.

This points up another weakness of the book, which is its source base.  Though Rabe avails himself of documents from U.S. presidential archives, there are almost no Latin American sources here, neither archival nor secondary.  To be fair, the Latin American archives that could shed more light on the events of the Operation Condor years are mostly not available to researchers.  Yet Rabe includes a photo from one of his visits to Chile, where documents from the Allende period are available, though he seems not to have accessed them.  As a result, his view of Allende’s Chile is overly simplistic, and he paints a morality tale in stark black and white rather than being attentive to the nuanced shades of gray.  This underscores Nixon and Kissinger’s own ‘us vs. them’ mentality, which is difficult to explain in the era of triangular diplomacy.  How could Kissinger readily acknowledge the relative strategic insignificance of Chile (“a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica”[27]), achieve détente with both the Soviets and the Chinese (fundamentally transforming the international strategic environment), and yet still rabidly pursue the economic and political destabilization of Allende’s government?  This is a riddle that is not resolved here.

Moreover, Rabe neglects to consult some of the most recent English-language work on U.S.-Latin American relations, relying instead on his own books from decades ago.  This is in no way meant as a jab at Rabes earlier scholarship, which represents the work of a pioneer and giant in the field.[28] Yet decades of new archival finds and secondary literature that has benefited from multilingual and multiarchival research does not inform this book.[29] Unfortunately, this volume does not quite reach the same level as some of Rabe’s earlier work, though it will still be a valuable resource for non-specialists and specialists alike.



I thank Thomas R. Maddux for organizing the forum and Professors Thomas C. Field, Jr., Andrew J. Kirkendall, Alan McPherson, Aaron Coy Moulton, and Michelle Paranzino for kindly agreeing to participate.  Cornell University Press scheduled Kissinger and Latin America: Intervention, Human Rights, and Diplomacy to be released in June 2020.  This seemed perfect timing for launching a new book.  Thomas A. Schwartz, author of the new Henry Kissinger and American Power (2020),[30] and I had organized a session on our books at the annual conference of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) to be held in late June 2020 in New Orleans.  Prominent Kissinger scholars—Jussi M. Hanhimäki, Barbara Keys, Mario del Pero, and Jeremi Suri—had agreed to comment on our work.  The effect of the global pandemic, COVID-19, led to the cancellation of scholarly conferences in 2020 and much of 2021.  I am most appreciative that H-Diplo has provided me an opportunity to talk about my interpretations of Kissinger and his role in Latin America from 1969 to 1977.

Two of the reviewers—Moulton and Paranzino—are critical of my book, whereas Field and Kirkendall are laudatory.  I will address each in turn.  I would note, however, that everyone has something nice to say about me.  Paranzino describes me as “a pioneer and giant in the field,” and Moulton dubs me as a “respected expert” who turns out “masterful syntheses and individual case studies.”  Field assesses my previous works on U.S. relations with countries such as British Guiana (Guyana) and Venezuela as “bilateral gems notable for their simplicity of purpose.”  Kirkendall suggests that I am so prolific that I may not know how many scholarly articles that I have written (I do not).  He further commends me for sticking to the field of inter-American relations for nearly five decades.  Another way to put all of these kind words is that I have been around a long time, and I am old. 

Moulton apparently worries that at this stage of my career that I have lost it.  He laments that Kissinger and Latin America does not match my previous articles and books in focus and analytic rigor.  The problem is that I have been unduly ambitious in trying to do two things—recount U.S. relations with Latin America during the Kissinger years and place Kissinger’s approach to Latin America within the context of the historiography dubbed ‘Kissingerology.’ With 252 pages of text, Kissinger and Latin America is, I concede, a bit longer than an average monograph.  But let me explain why I chose to study both Kissinger and inter-American relations from 1969 to 1977.  I was responding to the challenges set forth by historians such as Mark Lawrence and Hanhimäki to write about Kissinger’s diplomacy in a specific region of the world.  Kissinger’s diplomacy toward Latin America could serve as a test case that measured general interpretations of Kissinger.  And as Lawrence has noted, when it came to Latin America, we needed more than arguments about U.S. policy toward Salvador Allende (1970-1973) and Chile.[31]  More important, I jumped at the chance to delve into an incredible treasure trove of U.S. documents, the likes of which I had never before encountered.  Beyond having access to Department of State documents for the entire period, except for relations with Uruguay from 1969 to 1972, I could also consult the useful daily intelligence briefs provided to the president (PDB’s).  Then there were the Argentine and Chilean Projects, collections of documents whose declassification was authorized by the Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations.  The Obama administration also delivered documents to the Brazilian government of President Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016).  South Americans wanted to know what role the United States played in aiding and abetting political violence in their countries.

What made a study of Kissinger especially appealing, however, was the role Kissinger had played in creating a transparent archival record.  He is a frequent voice on President Richard M. Nixon’s White House Tapes.  Kissinger had an aide listen in and transcribe approximately 15,000 of his telephone conversations.  The telephone conversations reveal that Kissinger took a keen interest in inter-American relations.  Despite his claim in his memoirs that he knew little about Chile, the transcribed conversations demonstrate that he repeatedly discussed the fate of Chile both before and after the Allende years.  Kissinger also ordered his aides to transcribe his memoranda of conversations with U.S. and foreign officials in the vernacular, as opposed to distributing through the bureaucracy a dry summary of points discussed.  Reading through Kissinger’s comments on inter-American affairs can be an astonishing experience.  In the aftermath of Allende’s suicide, Kissinger made squalid comments about the Chilean, calling him a “drunk” and a “loser” and complained that events in Chile had complicated his confirmation hearings to be secretary of state (78-79).  To Juan Carlos Blanco, the Uruguayan Foreign Minister (1972-1976), Secretary of State Kissinger exclaimed “I wouldn’t bet that the democratic process would survive another 20 years, at least not in Western Europe.”  The conversation with Foreign Minister Blanco, who would be subsequently indicted repeatedly by Uruguayan jurists and courts for crimes against humanity, was in the context of Kissinger’s objections to attaching human rights concerns to foreign policy issues (110-112).  Kissinger was remarkably silent, however, when aides or CIA Director William Colby informed him that U.S.-backed presidents in Guatemala and Brazil were ordering the summary execution of leftist political opponents (99, 158-59). 

I have read over Moulton’s comments several times, and I remain confused by them.  He praises my effort on my book, Eisenhower and Latin America.[32]  Yet in that endeavor, I interpreted Eisenhower’s inter-American policies within the context of what was then dubbed “Eisenhower revisionism.”  Henry Kissinger is a formidable figure in the history of U.S. foreign relations.  He worked and talked endlessly.  Schwartz’s book is 560 pages in length.  Tom told me that his editors insisted that he cut several hundred pages from the manuscript.  I am hard pressed to accept that I overextended myself or, in Moulton’s words, engaged in an “astounding attempt to accomplish numerous tasks in one fell swoop” with Kissinger and Latin America.

Paranzino takes to me to task for being overly ideological and presumably too harsh in my judgment that Kissinger aided and abetted murder and mayhem in Latin America.  In contrast, Field notes that “one of the most refreshing aspects of Rabe’s oeuvre is its disinterest in historiographical trends that decenter political power (conceptually if not in the real world) and sometimes obscure the overwhelming impact of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.”  A persistent theme in my articles on the historiography of inter-American relations is that it is a rich and vibrant field with historians taking numerous interpretive approaches.  I have urged colleagues to read each other’s scholarship and to learn from those multiple approaches.[33]

The issue at hand is ‘agency,’ a concept usually associated with an influential article by Max Paul Friedman.[34]  The charge is that historians of U.S. relations with Latin America traditionally overemphasize the nefarious role of the United States in the region.  Authoritarian Latin Americans, like General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) of Chile or General Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina (1976-1981), were perfectly capable of seizing power and ordering the slaughter of political opponents without the advice and consent of Henry Kissinger.  Paranzino alleges that I make “sweeping unsubstantiated claims” that “Latin Americans hold Kissinger responsible for the tragedy of Chile.”  It has been my experience in Latin America that the overwhelming number of Latin American citizens remain furious with Kissinger.  This experience includes, during the past two decades, teaching twelve seminars on inter-American relations in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador to undergraduate and graduate students as well as giving several well-attended public lectures in Buenos Aires and Bogotá on Kissinger’s diplomacy.  Indeed, the widespread public feeling in Latin America that Kissinger qualifies as a ‘war criminal’ is such that when I present evidence that Kissinger resolved economic disputes with Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela and contributed to the enactment of the Panama Canal Treaties, I have encountered deep skepticism, even disbelief.  I recall one outstanding graduate student in history from the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá remarking that I was presenting a ‘schizophrenic’ Kissinger.

As is evident throughout my book, I do not hold Kissinger and President Richard M. Nixon as primarily responsible for the overthrow of Allende.  I prefer Jonathan Haslam’s smart term “assisted suicide,” words which encompass the domestic and international dimensions of Chile’s tragedy under Allende.[35]  But it is to argue a counterfactual that the United States did not destabilize the Allende government.  The documents in the Chile Declassification Project and other documents add to what was already known since the 1970s about the U.S. involvement with those in the Chilean military who plotted the golpe de estado in Chile.  For example, Kissinger planted a diplomat in the U.S. embassy in Santiago who reported directly to him.  CIA Director William Colby affirmed that his agents did not plot directly with the Chileans.  But he admitted that was to draw a distinction without a difference.  As Colby noted, “realistically, of course, a coup could result from increased opposition pressure on the Allende government” (78).  In a telephone conversation of 16 September, five days after the overthrow of Allende, Nixon and Kissinger celebrated their role in the demise of Allende.  In Kissinger’s most accurate admission: “We didn’t do it.  I mean we helped them—created the conditions as great as possible” (78).  Scholars who dismiss the boasts of Nixon and Kissinger usually also miss the point that Kissinger went to extraordinary lengths from 1973 to 1976 to bolster the Pinochet regime and shield it from international criticism over its grotesque violations of human rights.

Scholars who promote the ‘agency’ approach should take heed of a critical observation that Friedman made in his excellent article.  Friedman warned that “agency and independence are not the same thing.”[36]  This issue is especially apparent in U.S. relations with the Argentine military during the Kissinger years.  During the so-called ‘dirty war’ (la guerra sucia) that lasted from 1976 to 1983, the Argentine military and associated ‘death squads’ executed an estimated 30,000 political opponents.  Methods of execution included dumping Argentines who were alive from airplanes and helicopters into the South Atlantic.  The military permitted pregnant young women it kidnapped to deliver their babies.  Shortly after birth, the young women were summarily executed and their babies were parceled out to military officers.  The Argentine military focused on murdering and torturing Argentine Jews.  Prisoners who survived told of interrogators etching swastikas on the backs of Jews and threatening to transform Jewish prisoners into soap.  Of the 30,000 victims, perhaps 3,000 or 10 percent were Jewish.  Jews constitute only about 2 percent of Argentina’s population (138-139).

The Argentine military and associated death squads displayed ‘agency’ in their Nazi-like behavior.  But unlike scholars who promote the concept of agency, the Argentines were deeply conscious of U.S. power.  In two extraordinary conversations with Kissinger in June and October 1976, Foreign Minister César Augusto Guzzetti, a vice-admiral in the Argentine Navy, eagerly sought Kissinger’s support for the murderous campaign.  Kissinger repeatedly assured Guzzetti that he hoped Argentina succeeded and that he had “an old-fashioned attitude that friends ought to be supported.”  The United States would not oppose Argentina in international fora and would not block international loans.  In the words of the shocked U.S. Ambassador, Robert C. Hill, Guzzetti returned to Buenos Aires “in a state of jubilation” (137-39).  Ambassador Hill had been accurately reporting to Washington about the Argentine military’s methods of ‘disappearing’ people.  Kissinger also had been informed by Director of the Policy Planning Staff Winston Lord and Ambassador Hill that the military was targeting Argentine Jews.  National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft similarly briefed Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.  Kissinger readily accepted, however, Guzzetti’s explanation that the allegation of anti-Semitism was just leftist propaganda.  In his June 1976 conversation with Kissinger, Foreign Minister Guzzetti created a diplomatic faux pas when he informed Kissinger that Argentina was collaborating with the military dictators of South America to hunt down terrorists.  Kissinger pretended not to understand that Guzzetti had informed him of Operation Condor, an international assassination and kidnapping scheme.  Kissinger subsequently rejected the advice of State Department officers that the United States warn the South American tyrants about carrying out international assassination.  Five days after that rejection, on 21 September 1976, agents associated with Chilean security forces assassinated Orlando Letelier, a former member of Salvador Allende’s government, in Washington D.C.  By comparison, the new Jimmy Carter administration, led by Assistant Secretary of State Patricia Derian, exercised U.S. power and succeeded in pressuring the Argentine and Chilean military dictatorships to reduce, albeit not eliminate, human rights abuses.5

I have less to say about the favorable reviews of Kirkendall and Field.  When a reviewer writes that in Kissinger and Latin America “Rabe has once again been able to be first with the most,” it is best just to nod along.  To be sure, Kirkendall properly notes that scholars can debate the degree of Latin American agency in various historical episodes.  For example, “whether orchestration or encouragement best characterizes U.S. action” in the overthrow of Juan José Torres of Bolivia in 1971 is a legitimate question to raise.  The evidence remains a bit murky, but I would probably fall somewhere between “orchestration” and “encouragement” in my interpretation.  It is critical to remember, however, that the effort to overthrow Torres served as a dress rehearsal for the drive to oust Allende.

Kirkendall’s appreciated remarks about my scholarly commitment to inter-American relations does stir me to say something about how other historians of U.S. foreign relations assess the field.  Too often, I have been approached by colleagues at SHAFR conferences with the question of whether I was still focusing on inter-American relations.  A president of SHAFR advised me that one who concentrated on Latin America could never hope to be president of the organization.  Such patronizing comments ironically echoed Kissinger’s lecture in 1969 to Chilean Foreign Minister Gabriel Valdés, a Christian Democrat, that “nothing important can come from the South” and that “history has never been produced in the South.”  Kissinger added, “The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington, and then goes to Tokyo” (15).  My book argues that over the next eight years, Kissinger learned to moderate those views about Latin America.  In any case, whereas Latin America may not have always weighed heavily in the global balance of power, a region that has produced Frida Kahlo, Gabriel García Márquez, and Gustavo Dudamel need not apologize for any shortcomings. 

Finally, I am hearted that prominent scholars such as Field and Kirkendall judge Kissinger and Latin America to be on par with my books on Eisenhower and the U.S. intervention in British Guiana (Guyana) in the 1960s.[37]  I believe that I have uncovered attitudes, incidents, and policies during the Kissinger years that were previously unknown to scholars.  By also demonstrating that Henry Kissinger both bolstered malevolent Latin American tyrants and proved capable of addressing Latin American nationalistic and economic concerns, I further hope that I have contributed to ‘Kissingerology.’


[1] Stephen G. Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Rabe, The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); and Thomas Tunstall Allcock, Thomas C. Mann: President Johnson, the Cold War, and the Restructuring of Latin American Foreign Policy (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2018).

[2] Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Matias Spektor, Kissinger e o Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor Ltda., 2009).

[3] Stephen Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anti-Communism (University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Rabe, The Most Dangerous Area in the World: Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).

[4] Peter Kornbluh, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability (The New Press, 2013); William M. LeoGrande and Kornbluh, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

[5] Mario Del Pero, The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009).

[6] Rabe, US Intervention in British Guiana: A Cold War Story (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Rabe, The Road to OPEC: United States Relations with Venezuela, 1915-1976 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982).

[7] Federico Finchelstein, The Ideological Origins of the Dirty War: Fascism, Populism, and Dictatorship in Twentieth Century Argentina (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); William Michael Schmidli, The Fate of Freedom Elsewhere: Human Rights and US Cold War Policy toward Argentina (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013); and Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

[8] State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume E-10 (GPO, 2009); State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume E-11 (GPO, 2015).

[9] Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, Arlington, VA, www.adst.org.

[10] See, for example, Stephen G. Rabe, The Road to OPEC: U. S. Relations with Venezuela, 1919-1976 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982); Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988); The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); U. S. Intervention in British Guiana: A Cold War Story (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

[11] See, for example, Jussi Hanhimäki, The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007); Mario del Petro, The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010); Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2015).

[12] Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), particularly 15, 87, 98, 121-122, 177, 179, and 181.

[13] Matias Spektor, Kissinger e o Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor Ltda., 2009), particularly 9-16, 126, 130, 134, and 185-186.

[14]  William Burr, ed., The Kissinger Transcripts; The Top-Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998), 167 and 199-200.

[15] Greg Grandin, “Off the Beach: The United States, Latin America, and the Cold War,” in Jean-Christophe Agnew and Roy Rosenzweig, eds., A Companion to Post-1945 America (Malden: Blackwell, 2002), 426.

[16] On the development of U.S.-Latin American relations during this period, Stephen G. Rabe, “Marching Ahead (Slowly): The Historiography of Inter-American Relations,” Diplomatic History 13:3 (July 1989): 297-316; Mark T. Gilderhus, “An Emerging Synthesis?: U.S.-Latin American Relations since the Second World War,” Diplomatic History 16:3 (July 1992): 429-452; Max Paul Friedman, “Retiring the Puppets, Bringing Latin America Back In: Recent Scholarship on United States-Latin American Relations,” Diplomatic History 27:5 (Nov. 2003): 621-636.

[17] On historiographic overviews on and debates over Latin America’s Cold War, Gilbert M. Joseph, “What We Now Know and Should Know: Bringing Latin America More Meaningfully into Cold War Studies,” in Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniela Spenser, eds., In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter with the Cold War (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 3-46; Alan McPherson, “Afterword: The Paradox of Latin American Cold War Studies,” in Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Mark Atwood Lawrence, and Julio E. Moreno, eds., Beyond the Eagle’s Shadow: New Histories of Latin America’s Cold War (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013), 307-319; Andrew J. Kirkendall, “Cold War Latin America: The State of the Field,” H-Diplo Essay No. 119 (Nov. 2014): 1-17; Aldo Marchesi, “Escribiendo la Guerra Fría latinoamericana: entre el Sur ‘local’ y el Norte ‘global,’” Estudos Históricos (Brasil) 30:60 (janeiro-abril 2017): 187-202; Gilbert M. Joseph, “Border Crossings and the Remaking of Latin American Cold War Studies,” Cold War History 19:1 (2019): 141-170; Marcelo Casals, “Which Borders Have Not Yet Been Crossed?: A Supplement to Gilbert Joseph’s Historiographical Balance of the Latin American Cold War,” Cold War History 20:3 (2020): 367-372.

[18] Mark T. Gilderhus, The Second Century: U.S.-Latin American Relations since 1889 (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 2000); Kyle Longley, In the Eagle’s Shadow: The United States and Latin America (Wheeling: Harlan Davidson, 2002); Alan McPherson, Intimate Ties, Bitter Struggles: The United States and Latin America Since 1945 (Washington: Potomac, 2006); Brian Loveman, No Higher Law: American Foreign Policy and the Western Hemisphere since 1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2010).

[19] Michael J. Francis, “United States Policy toward Latin America during the Kissinger Years,” in John D. Martz, ed., United States Policy in Latin America: A Quarter Century of Crisis and Challenge, 1961-1986 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), 28-60; Mark Atwood Lawrence, “History from Below: The United States and Latin America in the Nixon Years,” in Fredrick Logevall and Andrew Preston, eds., Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations, 1969-1977 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 269-288; Mark Atwood Lawrence, “Latin America and the Quest for Stability,” in Melvin Small, ed., A Companion to Richard M. Nixon (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 460-477.

[20] Stephen G. Rabe, The Road to OPEC: United States Relations with Venezuela, 1919-1976 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982); Rabe, U.S. Intervention in British Guiana: A Cold War Story (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Rabe, The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America, Second Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

[21] Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Rabe, The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).

[22] Many works on Kissinger have all spoken to what Jussi Hanhimäki first compiled in “‘Dr. Kissinger’ or ‘Mr. Henry’?  Kissingerology, Thirty Years and Counting,” Diplomatic History 27:5 (November 2003): 637-676.

[23] For recent treatments, Vanessa Walker, “At the End of Influence: The Letelier Assassination, Human Rights, and Rethinking Intervention in US-Latin American Relations,” Journal of Contemporary History 46:1 (January 2011): 109-135; William Michael Schmidli, The Fate of Freedom Elsewhere: Human Rights and U.S. Cold War Policy toward Argentina (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013); Debbie Sharnak, “Sovereignty and Human Rights: Re-examining Carter’s Foreign Policy toward the Third World,” Diplomacy and Statecraft 25 (2014): 303-330; Alan McPherson, Ghosts of Sheridan Circle: How a Washington Assassination Brought Pinochet’s Terror State to Justice (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019).

[24] Jussi M. Hanhimäki, The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Lawrence, “History from Below;” Lawrence, “Latin America and the Quest for Stability;” Gary J. Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013); Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2015).

[25] Among the most recent biographies are Thomas A. Schwartz, Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography (New York: Hill and Wang, 2020); Barry Gewen, The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World (New York: W.W. Norton, 2020); Niall Ferguson, Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist (New York: Penguin Press, 2015); and Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman (New York: Henry Holt, 2015).

[26] For instance, Rabe identifies Niall Ferguson and Jeremi Suri as scions of the “Dr. Kissinger” school, while Greg Grandin and Christopher Hitchens fall into the “Mr. Kissinger” camp and Jussi Hanhimäki attempts to transcend the binary altogether (7-11).

[27] Quoted in Kristian Gustafson, Hostile Intent: U.S. Covert Operations in Chile, 1964-1974 (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2007), 100.

[28] See, for example, Stephen Rabe, U.S. Intervention in British Guiana: A Cold War Story (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), and Rabe, The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).

[29] See, for instance, Aaron Coy Moulton, “Building their own Cold War in their own backyard: The transnational, international conflicts in the greater Caribbean basin, 1944-1954,” Cold War History 15:2 (2015): 135-154; “Counterrevolutionary Friends: Caribbean Basin Dictators and Guatemalan Exiles against the Guatemalan Revolution, 1945-50,” The Americas 76:1 (January 2019): 107-135; “The Dictator’s Domino Theory: A Caribbean Basin Anti-Communist Network, 1947-1952,” Intelligence and National Security 34:7 (2019): 945-961; Michelle Denise Getchell (Paranzino), The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War: A Short History with Documents (Cambridge/Indianapolis: Hackett, 2018); “Revisiting the 1954 Coup in Guatemala: The Soviet Union, the United Nations, and ‘Hemispheric Solidarity’” Journal of Cold War Studies 17:2 (Spring 2015): 73-102; Lukáš Perutka, “Arms for Arbenz: Czechoslovakia’s Involvement in the Cold War in Latin America,” Central European Journal of International and Security Studies 7:3 (2013): 98-114; Vanni Pettinà, Historia Mínima de la Guerra Fría en América Latina (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 2018); Tobias Rupprecht, Soviet Internationalism after Stalin: Interaction and Exchange between the USSR and Latin America during the Cold War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); and Michal Zourek, “Political and Economic Relations between Czechoslovakia and the Military Regimes of the Southern Cone in the 1970s and 1980s,” Central European Journal of International and Security Studies 7:3 (2013): 74-96.

[30] Thomas Schwartz, Henry Kissinger and American Power (New York: Hill and Wang, 2020).

[31] Jussi M. Hanhimäki, “‘Dr. Kissinger or Mr. Henry’?  Kissingerology, Thirty Years and Counting,” Diplomatic History 27 (November 2003): 637-676; Mark Atwood Lawrence, “History from Below: The United States and Latin America in the Nixon Years,” in Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations, 1969-1977, ed. Fredrik Logevall and Andrew Preston (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 269-288.

[32] Stephen G. Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988).

[33] Rabe, “Marching Ahead (Slowly): The Historiography of Inter-American Relations,” Diplomatic History 13 (July 1989): 297-316; Rabe, “Marching Ahead (Forthrightly): The Historiography of Inter-American Relations,” Passport 45 (September 2014): 25-31.

[34] Max Paul Friedman, “Retiring the Puppets, Bringing Latin America In: Recent Scholarship on United States Latin American Relations,” Diplomatic History 27 (November 2003): 621-636.

[35] Jonathan Haslam, The Nixon Administration and the Death of Allende’s Chile: A Case of Assisted Suicide (London: Verso, 2005).

[36] Friedman, “Retiring the Puppets,” 631.

[37] Rabe, U.S. Intervention in British Guiana: A Cold War Story (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).