This book examines the long, complex experience of American involvement in irregular warfare. It begins with the American Revolution in 1776 and chronicles big and small irregular wars for the next two and a half centuries. Examples taken from the American experience reveal that fighting - and, more so, winning - all types of wars is extraordinarily complex, frustrating, controversial and bloody. What is readily apparent in dirty wars is that failure is painfully tangible while success is often amorphous. Successfully fighting these wars often entails striking a critical balance between military victory and politics. America's status as a democracy only serves to make fighting - and, to a greater degree, winning - these irregular wars even harder. Rather than futilely insisting that Americans should not or cannot fight this kind of irregular war, Russell Crandall argues that we would be better served by considering how we can do so as cleanly and successfully as possible.
El Salvador's civil war between the Salvadoran government and Marxist guerrillas erupted into full force in early 1981 and endured for eleven bloody years. Unwilling to tolerate an advance of Soviet and Cuban-backed communism in its geopolitical backyard, the US provided over six billion dollars in military and economic aid to the Salvadoran government. El Salvador was a deeply controversial issue in American society and divided Congress and the public into left and right. Relying on thousands of archival documents as well as interviews with participants on both sides of the war, The Salvador Option offers a thorough and fair-minded interpretation of the available evidence. If success is defined narrowly, there is little question that the Salvador Option achieved its Cold War strategic objectives of checking communism. Much more difficult, however, is to determine what human price this 'success' entailed - a toll suffered almost entirely by Salvadorans in this brutal civil war.
In this book, Crandall examines the policies of three post-Cold War presidential administrations through the prism of three critical areas: democracy, economics, and security. He argues that any lasting analysis must be viewed through a fresh framework that allows for the often unexpected episodes and outcomes in U.S.-Latin American relations.
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