World Policeman

Colin Legum

  • With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua by Christopher Dickey
    Faber, 327 pp, £12.50, September 1986, ISBN 0 571 14604 X
  • Jonas Savimbi: A Key to Africa by Fred Bridgland
    Mainstream, 513 pp, £14.95, October 1986, ISBN 0 906391 99 7

Because Americans have never quite made up their minds about whether they want to play the role of ‘world policeman’ or to restrict themselves to policing their own hemisphere under the writ of the Monroe Doctrine, US foreign policy has changed in pendulum swings. In the post-Vietnam/post-Nixon mood which brought Jimmy Carter to the White House, it swung quite a long way against interventionism, and even conservative Republicans like California’s Governor, Ronald Reagan, fulminated against the idea of America being expected to act as policeman for the world. Sickened by exposures of Nixon’s misuse of the CIA, Congress asserted itself in the mid-Seventies, appointing its own committee to share with the Executive political control over the Agency’s operations, and passing the Clark Amendment which forbade clandestine support for movements such as Unita, the Union for the Total National Independence of Angola.

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