In this book, Lars Schoultz explores the culture of "improvement" that defines the attitudes and values shaping all United States policies towards Latin America in the past and present. Schoultz's aim is to find the sources of this political and intellectual culture which has informed our relations with our southern neighbors and which continues to do so despite its faulty premises and its failure to effect change and transformation. Schoultz focuses on two period in the past as critical to embedding the culture and policies of improvement: the Progressive Era, which established the belief in "uplifting" others for their betterment, and the Cold War Era, which established the institutions for sustaining and implementing the process of uplifting a people and state. In Their Own Best Interest: A History of the U.S. Effort to Improve Latin Americans is a powerful historical indictment of a "constellation of beliefs" that has been a central part of Washington's foreign policy establishment and culture. The notion that the United States knows better than its allies and neighbors what is best for each of them resonates beyond Latin America and underlies much of the United States' foreign policies around the world.--
Introduction: Altruists and realists -- Latin Americans' need for improvement -- "Hard" uplifting begins -- "Hard" uplifting becomes normal: dollar diplomacy -- Latin Americans resist: no protectorates -- Latin Americans resist: no intervention -- "Soft" uplifting begins: the Good Neighbor years -- Latin Americans rebuffed: the early Cold War -- Uplifting's golden years, 1959-1964 -- Soft uplifting becomes normal: the later Cold War -- From economic to political uplifting -- Good governance in the twenty-first century -- Conclusion: Whose best interests?
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