As we consider the ongoing wars and threats of war in 2018, we might step back and consider the results of military interventions from the past. The current turmoil in Central America, pressuring our southern border, provides an opportunity to reflect on the true costs of war.
In 1900, Nicaragua’s president was heralded by the U.S. as a responsible leader, guiding his nation out of imperial rule. Acknowledging Nicaragua as a valuable partner, Congress authorized $140 million for the Nicaragua Canal project. Corporate lobbyists interfered, touting the profits to be made by building a canal farther south. The alternate route required a revolution to separate land from Colombia, and the U.S. complied. The new nation of Panama materialized for the benefit of northern interests, with little regard for the interests of the local population. The formerly respected president of Nicaragua became an inconvenient problem. Though good for his own nation, he offered too little to U.S. corporate interests. A century of hostility followed, revolving around whether Nicaragua’s first duty was to its own people or to U.S. business. Military interventions in Nicaragua in 1907, 1910, 1912-1933 and 1981-1990 left the country reeling, with repercussions being felt to this day.
Problems also arose in the early 1900s in Honduras, where United Fruit Co. controlled the banana market. Corporate concessions, the abatement of local taxes and fees that are normally charged for business operations, became a topic worthy of war. United Fruit pushed the Honduran government to end concessions to a competing U.S. banana company, but the competitor led a revolution and installed a concessions-friendly president. The Banana Wars continued for decades, with eager support from the U.S. government. With attention diverted to the needs of foreign business, development in Honduras languished. Railroad tracks ran from plantation to port, with every fruit a guest and every human a pest.
Some form of the question “why is our oil under their soil?” has persisted for generations, along with the use of military action. The public has generally accepted forced regime change in other lands as the price to be paid for advancing civilization. However, as the U.S. separates children from their parents at our southern border in response to families fleeing the violence in Central America, our government has become the recipient of international shaming. Are we finally ready to admit that it is time for a new international strategy?
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