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Western Hemisphere
Defining Trends
U.S. Security Interests In The Region
Key U.S. Security Policy Issues
Latin America is reemerging after a long depression as an important and dynamic economic zone. A sweeping shift to market economics, the formation of cooperative sub-regional trade regimes, and a dramatic turn to democracy have not only stimulated international trade and investment, but have promoted an unprecedented sense of community based on common values and interests. The United States has reinforced these trends by ratifying the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada, joining the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and organizing the trade-oriented Summit of the Americas in Miami, Florida. Of both symbolic and practical importance, these historic events have broken through a long-standing U.S. and Latin American mental barrier against regional cooperation.

Despite the noble sentiments of the Good-Neighbor Policy of the 1930s, the 1947 Rio Pact, and the Alliance for Progress in the 1960s, economic integration and security cooperation have never been dominant aspects of U.S. strategic thought for the region. Rather, the central aim, with roots dating back to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, has been exclusion--using diplomacy and on occasion military might to keep rival powers from the hemisphere. During the Cold War, this view led the U.S. to try to limit the influence of the Soviet Union and its Cuban surrogate. Such concerns, especially in the Caribbean basin, have resulted in a number of U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military interventions.

Neighbors have long regarded Washington's approach to the region as fixed upon U.S. goals, with little concern for the interests and priorities of other American states. In years past, Latin and Caribbean leaders often complained about the United States' tendency to see the region through North American eyes and to impose its views on regional issues unilaterally without consultation. Confrontation and distrust between the United States and its southern neighbors became the norm. These days, however, relations across the hemisphere are more positive as shared interests promote mutual confidence and cooperation.

Strategic Assessment 95 ContentsNext
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