From former Newsweek correspondent Buckley, an intriguing history of the demise of the corrupt Noriega regime--and of America's close relationship with it. Buckley's tale of the rise of Noriega to power is, for Americans, not simply the standard story of Third World despotism. Since its creation by a group of Americans and European businessmen, Panama's domestic and foreign affairs have been dominated by the US. Buckley shows convincingly how Noriega exploited American ties in order to perpetuate his own power within Panama and maximize profit--Reagan Administration officials knew of Noriega's drug activities, but tolerated them because of Noriega's help in their efforts to subvert the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Buckley describes straightforwardly how Noriega's murder of a political rival, Dr. Hugo Spadafora, led to sensational stories in the American press, an international outcry, calls for Noriega's ouster, and ultimately to a collapse of relations between the US and Panama. Buckley tells also of the plebiscite that resulted in the election of Guillermo Endara, which Noriega invalidated, and of the failed coup attempt. Finally, he describes ``Operation Just Cause,'' the American invasion that resulted in Noriega's ouster but that failed to achieve the Bush Administration's goals for Panama (Bush promised $1 billion in aid, but Congress eventually approved only $420 million, of which only $120 million reached Panama; poverty, unemployment, and crime levels soared in the ruined country) or for Noriega (while Noriega remains in prison, it appears increasingly unlikely he will be punished for any crime. A forthright, fast-paced story that illustrates the frequent absurdity of American intervention in Panama, and the failure of American policy toward that country.