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U.S. and the Good Neighbor Policy Essay

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Updated: Apr 11th, 2022

Introduction

The good-neighbor policy, viewed as the Golden Rule, ensures democracy at the international level. The main aim of this policy is to foster mutual respect among the nations. The Doctrine of Nonintervention forms a significant part of this policy.

The implication of this regulation is that there should be no imposition of a will of one nation on another one. However, it has been observed that what takes place within one country may have some effects on the neighboring states, and therefore, some exceptions to the Doctrine of Nonintervention have been allowed.

The US has defended the good-neighbor policy and advocated for its application by the nations of the world. However, it is perceived that in the 1950s and the 1970s, in Guatemala and Iran, and Chile in that order, the US violated the Doctrine of Nonintervention.

Using the evidence presented by Stephen Kinzer in his book Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, this article evaluates the perception that the US infringed the good-neighbor policy.

The Doctrine of Nonintervention

A good understanding on how the Doctrine of Nonintervention is applied in the context of international politics is required for a detailed coverage of the objective of this article. This doctrine bars any state from interfering in the rights of another state, which are guaranteed by state sovereignty.

Such rights include the right to choose a political system, economical system, social system and cultural system of choice. Intervention, which seeks to manipulate these choices, is unlawful because it is clear sign of disregard to the sovereignty of another state.

Human dignity has, however, been prioritized over state sovereignty. Consequently, interventions in the interest of preserving human dignity are allowed by the international community (Kinzer 1).

Stephen Kinzer’s Book

In Stephen Kinzer’s book, the cases of Iran, Guatemala and Chile are covered in part two. The book is divided into four parts arranged in a manner that covers the cases chronologically in the order they occurred. Kinzer significantly relates the three cases to an ambition to protect US foreign business interests. Particularly, US corporations are put on the spotlight on their contribution to these cases.

Kinzer argues that the corporations had a firm base of public and political support which enabled them to easily call upon the military or Central Intelligence Agency for defense in regions where they ran into trouble (Kinzer 4).

Fernandez-Armesto explores how the US attained such a status that gave it an upper hand in international politics (950). He notes that the US had run the business of large scale production before even railways were built (Fernandez-Armesto 782).

The US in Iran

According to Kinzer, the US overthrew the Iranian government in 1953. The author argues that the overthrown government was elected democratically. The reason that is given by Kinzer for this coup was that the Iranian government had nationalized the British Petroleum Company.

That denied the company enough space to exploit oil in Iran in a manner that would give benefits for the company. Prime Minister Mossadeq had the interests of the Iranians, but these interests, as it turned out, conflicted with US business interests (Kinzer 147). By having nationalized the British Petroleum Company, more benefits would go to the Iranians than to the foreigners.

The US intervened and overthrew the government of Prime Minister Mossadeq. This was a violation of the Doctrine of Nonintervention. The interests behind the intervention had nothing to do with upholding human dignity; ironically, the intervention aggravated human suffering by displacing a legitimate ruler and replacing him with a dictator.

Therefore, in this case, it is clear that the US infringed the good-neighbor policy by not upholding the Doctrine of Nonintervention.

The US in Guatemala

The Guatemalan government was overthrown in 1954. The overthrown government was a legitimate and democratic institution in Guatemala. Prior to the coup, the government of Guatemala passed the Agrarian Reform Law (Kinzer 133). This law required the United Fruit Company to sell to the Guatemalan government its idle pieces of land in Guatemala.

United Fruit was well established in Guatemala and owned more than 500,000 acres of land in the country (Kinzer 130). The acres which were not in the company’s use were to be bought by the government and later given out to Guatemalans who did not have land. Left with no option, the company called for help from Washington.

It is alleged that the company accused the Guatemalan government of being anti-American. There were also accusations that the Agrarian Reform Law was a brainchild of Kremlin authorities. Kinzer outlines many excuses that were floated by the US for overthrowing the Guatemalan government (140).

It is clear that the intervention of the US in internal Guatemalan affairs was purely done for the purpose of protecting American business interests, specifically those of the United Fruit Corporation. Kinzer clarifies that the US was aware that the Guatemalan government was not manipulated by Kremlin authorities.

The need to give Guatemalans land was clear because some of them were starving because of lacking land where they could support their lives by practicing some form of agriculture. The US ignored all these and went ahead to protect United Fruit from the Agrarian Reform Law by overthrowing the Guatemalan government.

The US in Chile

The US interests in Chile at the time of the Chilean coup were represented by giant corporations Kennecott and Anaconda. These two companies earned an after-tax profit sum of more than $50 million (Kinzer 174). The Chilean government, in a bid to ensure Chileans benefited from Chilean copper mined by international corporations, sought to nationalize Kennecott and Anaconda.

Due to the influence that Kennecott and Anaconda had in Whitehouse, they easily solicited for help from the US. In this plan, it was alleged that Chile was going the Marxist way, and therefore, the US had to intervene. Fernandez-Armesto explains that the views of Karl Marx are against capitalism because of the social classes created by this economic system (820).

The indirect intervention of the US in the Chilean coup was not in tandem with the Doctrine of Nonintervention. The intervention was carried out with a main objective of protecting the interests of US Corporations in Chile. Actually, this move by US government violated the right of the Chileans to run their country in a manner that they wanted.

Conclusion

It is quite clear that the good-neighbor policy is a great tool for governing the relationship among the nations in the world. The Doctrine of Nonintervention forms a significant part of this policy. In the three cases studied above, the US violated the Doctrine of Nonintervention.

It intervened in the governance of foreign states when its business corporations in these states ran into trouble due to changes in law. In Guatemala, the enactment of the Agrarian Reform Law led to the overthrow of the Guatemalan government by the US. The same case happened in Chile and Iran after they had attempted to nationalize companies in which US had interests.

Works Cited

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. The World, Volume C: From 1700 to the Present: A History, Volume 3. New York: Pearson Custom Publisher, 2009. Print.

Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007. Print.

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