Research: Publications

Altered States: Post-Cold War U.S. Security Interests in Central America

December 4, 1995 |

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The Soviet military threat has disappeared, and with it east bloc assistance to governments and opposition movements in Central America and elsewhere. U.S. policy makers are left with a seemingly welcome challenge: how to redefine U.S. security interests in a world devoid of a competing superpower. The Clinton administration has acknowledged this new reality and proposed a fresh direction: "There is now no credible near-term threat to America 's existence," national-security adviser Anthony Lake said in September 1993. "The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement: enlargement of the world 's free community of market democracies."1

The administration's July 1994 "A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement" declares that with the end of the Cold War, U.S. national security imperatives have fundamentally changed. Although a complex array of new and old security challenges remain, this "new era" requires efforts "to bolster America 's economic revitalization" and "to promote democracy abroad."2

In Central America, this new reality has been marked by the end of two internal wars and progress toward democratization. After two and a half years, the Clinton administration has made a promising start toward a new post-Cold War national security policy with this neighboring region. In practice, however, this policy has been marked by occasional inconsistencies and troubling reminders that Cold War obsessions have not totally disappeared.

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