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The Salvador Option
The United States in El Salvador, 1977–1992


  • Date Published: July 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316500644

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About the Authors
  • El Salvador's civil war between the Salvadoran government and Marxist guerrillas erupted into full force in early 1981 and endured for eleven bloody years. Unwilling to tolerate an advance of Soviet and Cuban-backed communism in its geopolitical backyard, the US provided over six billion dollars in military and economic aid to the Salvadoran government. El Salvador was a deeply controversial issue in American society and divided Congress and the public into left and right. Relying on thousands of archival documents as well as interviews with participants on both sides of the war, The Salvador Option offers a thorough and fair-minded interpretation of the available evidence. If success is defined narrowly, there is little question that the Salvador Option achieved its Cold War strategic objectives of checking communism. Much more difficult, however, is to determine what human price this 'success' entailed - a toll suffered almost entirely by Salvadorans in this brutal civil war.

    • Accessible to educated general readers, policy specialists, and scholars and their students
    • Offers a new and fair-minded interpretation of the role of the US in El Salvador's civil war
    • Reflects on what human price the American 'success' entailed
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Crandall is an elegant writer and keen storyteller, and The Salvador Option covers an important but little-understood episode of the Cold War with considerable historical and analytical skill. For students of U.S. foreign policy, diplomats with an eye on Central America, or even casual film buffs wondering if Oliver Stone has any idea what El Salvador is really like, this book is essential reading.' Benjamin Russell, Americas Quarterly

    'The great virtue of Crandall's comprehensive overview of US foreign policy toward this small Central American country is the balance and fairness with which he tells the story. Building chiefly on secondary sources, Crandall (Davidson College) describes the emergence and evolution of revolutionary conflict in El Salvador from the late 1970s to the early 1990s and shows how foreign powers influenced the ongoing war … This well-written book is recommended for scholars and general readers alike.' M. Amstutz, Choice

    'At the time of its publication, there was no other book on the market that provided a comprehensive survey of US policy in El Salvador in the 1980s, and Crandall did us a service by assembling this one.' Erik Ching, Latin American Research Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316500644
    • dimensions: 228 x 153 x 40 mm
    • weight: 0.98kg
    • contains: 41 b/w illus. 5 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    Part I. El Salvador in the Cold War:
    2. Farabundo Martí, la matanza, and a stolen election
    3. The United States in Latin America
    4. American military mission in El Salvador
    5. A divided nation: military traditions, democratic third way, and liberation theology
    6. Guerrillas are born
    Part II. Jimmy Carter:
    7. Revolution and counterinsurgency in Guatemala
    8. Mass organizations
    9. Carter arrives
    10. Carter and the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, 1979
    11. An October coup
    12. Carter engages Salvador
    13. Archbishop Romero
    14. Land
    15. The American churchwomen
    16. Arming the rebels
    17. Guerrilla final offensive, January 1981
    18. Death squads
    Part III. Ronald Reagan:
    19. Reagan arrives
    20. Reagan and Salvador
    21. El Mozote
    22. Another Vietnam
    23. Solidarity
    24. Troop cap and certifying human rights
    25. Reagan gambles on elections, 1982
    26. The Shultz doctrine
    27. Human rights
    28. Henry Kissinger
    29. Contras
    30. 'Elections yes, dialogue no', 1984 presidential election
    31. La Palma
    32. Esquipulas
    33. Counterinsurgency I
    34. Counterinsurgency II
    35. Zona rosa
    36. Air war
    37. José Napoleón Duarte
    38. Iran-Contra
    Part IV. George H. W. Bush:
    39. Elusive justice
    40. Pessimism
    41. Bush arrives
    42. Bush, Cristiani, and the 1989 vote
    43. Guerrilla 'second' final offensive, 1989
    44. Jesuit killings
    45. SAMs
    46. United Nations and peace
    47. Demobilization
    Part V. Post-war:
    48. Post-war Salvador
    49. Concluding thoughts

  • Author

    Russell Crandall, Davidson College, North Carolina
    Russell Crandall is a Professor of American foreign policy at Davidson College. His previous books include America's Dirty Wars: Irregular Warfare from 1776 to the War on Terror (2014), The United States and Latin America after the Cold War (2008), Gunboat Democracy: US Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama, and Driven by Drugs: US Policy toward Colombia (2006). Interwoven with his academic career, Crandall has held foreign policy appointments within several sectors of the US government, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, and the National Security Council at the White House. He is also a writer at American Interest magazine, a member of the editorial board at America's Quarterly magazine, and a contributing editor and book reviewer at the journal Survival: Global Policy and Strategy.

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