A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990

Robert Kagan, Author Free Press $37.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-02-874057-7

Kagan contends that the Carter administration's halfhearted intervention in Nicaragua was in response to American feelings of guilt for Washington's longtime support of the Somoza dynasty. The Reagan-era intervention, on the other hand, originated in American anxiety over Soviet encroachment in the Western hemisphere. Kagan recounts how American popular aversion to the employment of U.S. military muscle in Central America led to the administration's covert support of the contras and goes on to explain how the clash between the Reagan White House and Congress over ``freedom fighter'' funding led to the Iran-contra affair in 1987. Although the surprising electoral victory of Violeta Chamorro over the Sandinistas was widely recognized as a success for American policy, the U.S. remains caught in a continuous cycle of intervention and withdrawal in Nicaragua, according to Kagan. As a member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, Kagan was a direct participant in many of the events described in this authoritative and definitive account of U.S.-Nicaragua relations from 1977 to 1990. (Feb.)