Thursday, October 25, 2007

Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

I just finished reading Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. It is by Stephen Kinzer. A description of the book reads, "A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments—not always to its own benefit."

I really enjoyed this book. It was well laid out and provided the stories of the American overthrows in an informative way. Kinzer told the tale of each of the overthrows and explained what he felt the consequences of each were. I understand why this book has been getting such good reviews.

I have a few quibbles. Why did Kinzer include the overthrow of the the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan while ignoring the American overthrows of Germany, Italy, and Japan during World War Two? The latest American overthrows were a result of war just as the World War Two regime changes were. This make them very different than the overthrow of Allende in Chile in the 1970s for example. Also, Kinzer claims the United States has overthrown more foreign governments than any other modern state. Really? I would think that the Soviet Union would hold that dubious honor. The Soviets overthrew the governments of the three Baltic states, participated in the partition of Poland in 1939, and were involved in other overthrows in Europe, Asia, and Africa throughout the short history of the Soviet state. The Soviets overthrew the government of Afghanistan long before the USA did. Maybe Kinzer does not consider the Soviet Union a modern state as it no longer is around but I do.

On the positive side, Kizner also is not an anti-American revisionists who only interprets historical events through a USA is always bad lens. He acknowledges that some of these overthrows may have been good things. He writes that most were bad but he lists exceptions.

On Hawaii, Kinzer noted, "Most people on the islands, however, are pleased with the way their history has turned out. They enjoy the prosperity and freedom that comes with American citizenship, and especially with statehood. Their experience suggests that when the United States assumes responsibility for territories it seizes, it can lead them towards stability and happiness" (p. 88).

On Puerto Rico, he wrote, "As colonial experiments go, American rule over Puerto Rico has been relatively benign. It did not produce the violent backlash that emerged in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Philippines. This is due mainly to the fact that the United States agreed to take direct political responsibility for governing Puerto Rico, rather than governing it through local clients" (p. 94).

And on Grenada, "Almost every American overthrow of a foreign government has left in its wake a bitter residue of pain and anger. Some have lead to the slaughter of innocents. Others have turned whole nations, and even whole regions of the world, into violent cauldrons of anti-American passion. The invasion of Grenada had quite the opposite effect. Of the fourteen countries whose governments the United States has forcibly deposed, Grenada is one of the few in which most citizens were, and have remained, genuinely grateful for intervention" (p. 302).

This is a nice book which will annoy people from all over the political spectrum. It is also well written and very educational. Kizner is upfront on his biases in interpreting history and I think most people will enjoy reading this book.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lenin's Russia

Lenin's Russia. This site offers annotated links to biographies of Lenin. It also has information on his ideas, foreign and domestic policies, death, and historical analysis.

I rarely link to sites which are primarily a directory of links to other sites. However, this page is so well done I thought I would blog it today. There is some good quality information on the Web regarding Lenin and this site will lead you to some of the best of it.

From the site:

The web has numerous sites to Lenin and Trotsky, however most are either over sycophantic or of limited academic interest. Those offered below are of greater value. What is missing are sites with critical analysis.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Justa Grata Honoria, Roman Brat Princess

Was Justa Grata Honoria responsible for the fall of the Western Roman Empire? I highly doubt it but this claim is made by Mark S. Longo in an article titled Scheming princess behind Empire's fall.

Clearly, the princess was not well behaved in trying to have her brother the Emperor killed. She also committed treason by offering to marry Attila the Hun and give half the empire to him as a wedding present. However, the Western Roman Empire was already well on its way to collapse long before Honoria was born. And Attila would have invaded anyway...

However, this is still an entertaining read. Longo's writing makes me wish someone would make a good movie about Justa Grata Honoria. This is a great story which also happens to be true.

From the article:

Everyone goes through a rebellious phase. And, if you're lucky, you'll be able to look back on those years and laugh. If you're less lucky, you spent those years on a reality show, so for the rest of time, millions of strangers can look back on them and laugh instead.

But, hey, it could be worse. You could be responsible for the fall of Western Civilization, just like Justa Grata Honoria, the Roman princess whose wild ways and (literally) naked ambition set off a chain reaction that culminated in the destruction of the Roman Empire.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sheroes Central

Sheroes Central. This site was founded by authors Tamora Pierce and Meg Cabot. It is dedicated to female heroes past and present.

The index page lists fun facts, has links to other sites, and ultimately leads to an active online community centered on a discussion board. This site has a lot of potential and I hope it starts adding content beyond bulletin boards.

This is a nice women's history site even it is just a supped up discussion board. However, it is not perfect. It repeats on the index page the tale that Cleopatra may have been ugly. The site notes, "Did you know that Cleopatra wasn’t particularly attractive, yet men fell for her because she was smart and charming?" Attractiveness is a cultural norm. Marc Anthony thought she was attractive. Good bet she was at least somewhat attractive under the standards of her day...

From the site: is about female heroes, "Sheroes", of every age, race, and country. Here, we discuss women and girls who get out there and do it, females who kick butt and take no prisoners, role models who inspire women and men, girls and boys. (In other words, guys are welcome, too.)

Everyone here is encouraged to express opinions, ideas, and feelings regardless of age. Too often, teens and young people are ignored or deliberately silenced because they have not achieved an age that those around them feel entitles them to be heard. On Sheroes age is not a factor. Here, your opinions count. Adult, teen, or child, you will be heard with respect.

SheroesCentral is a place for us to talk about everything - about sheroes, about history, about books and movies and plays we've been to see. We're a community here, where the members care about what's in the newspapers and what happens in the world all around them. We're silly and serious, sad and happy all in turn. Be honest, be funny, be sad, be yourselves.