SOMOZA FALLING by Anthony Lake


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A most valuable case study in US foreign policy-making by Lake (Political Science/ Mount Holyoke College), former director of policy planning in the State Department during the Carter Administration. By detailing the response of US policy-makers to the fall of Somoza in Nicaragua in the late 1970's, Lake offers a primer on the ins and oats of foreign policy, replete with the power struggles between various levels of departments at State, the ways in which policy memos are framed before the President gets to read them, and the little ego games that are played (using rules such as office and desk placement). Dating Somoza's slide from power at the moment of Pedro Chamorro's assassination in January 1978, Lake begins with the scurrying of officials on the vaunted Seventh Floor (the pinnacle of power at State), where "the paneled walls, the carpets, the understated style. . .made it seem surprisingly quiet. But the quiet was deceptive. . .the stillness. . .of a highly charged atmosphere." The author weaves the troubled history of Nicaragua into his narrative back to the rivalry between the original Somoza and Sandio, showing how the Somoza patriarch fashioned his command of the National Guard into the main avenue of power, becoming, in FDR's famous dictum, a "son of a bitch. . .but our son of a bitch." But the relationship was to later haunt us--at State, "policy dilemmas are often seen as conflicts between principle and preservation." Ultimately, Somoza fell victim to a determined US policy of "distancing" from repressive military regimes. Lake reasonably posits that the voice of middle-level career bureaucrats should be heard in future policy-making as a sort of supra-political brigade of expertise. All in all, then: a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the US became involved in the quagmire of Nicaraguan politics--and what goes into the working lives of the people who shape policy.

Pub Date: March 7th, 1989
ISBN: 395-41983-2
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
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