The Fate of Freedom Elsewhere

The Fate of Freedom Elsewhere: Human Rights and U.S. Cold War Policy toward Argentina

William Michael Schmidli
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Fate of Freedom Elsewhere
    Book Description:

    During the first quarter-century of the Cold War, upholding human rights was rarely a priority in U.S. policy toward Latin America. Seeking to protect U.S. national security, American policymakers quietly cultivated relations with politically ambitious Latin American militaries-a strategy clearly evident in the Ford administration's tacit support of state-sanctioned terror in Argentina following the 1976 military coup d'état. By the mid-1970s, however, the blossoming human rights movement in the United States posed a serious threat to the maintenance of close U.S. ties to anticommunist, right-wing military regimes.

    The competition between cold warriors and human rights advocates culminated in a fierce struggle to define U.S. policy during the Jimmy Carter presidency. In The Fate of Freedom Elsewhere, William Michael Schmidli argues that Argentina emerged as the defining test case of Carter's promise to bring human rights to the center of his administration's foreign policy. Entering the Oval Office at the height of the kidnapping, torture, and murder of tens of thousands of Argentines by the military government, Carter set out to dramatically shift U.S. policy from subtle support to public condemnation of human rights violation. But could the administration elicit human rights improvements in the face of a zealous military dictatorship, rising Cold War tension, and domestic political opposition? By grappling with the disparate actors engaged in the struggle over human rights, including civil rights activists, second-wave feminists, chicano/a activists, religious progressives, members of the New Right, conservative cold warriors, and business leaders, Schmidli utilizes unique interviews with U.S. and Argentine actors as well as newly declassified archives to offer a telling analysis of the rise, efficacy, and limits of human rights in shaping U.S. foreign policy in the Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6962-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-7)

    Jimmy Carter’s victory in the 1976 presidential election was a defining moment for U.S. foreign policy. Over the previous quarter century, Cold War national security concerns had dominated U.S. relations with the developing world. It was an approach particularly evident in U.S. policy toward Latin America; guided by visceral anticommunism combined with an abiding fear of Latin American leftist insurgencies in the aftermath of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, American policymakers cultivated close ties with politically ambitious Latin American military leaders.¹ By the mid-1960s, the imperial nature of U.S. Cold War policy was unmistakable in Latin America, where generous transfers of...

    (pp. 8-28)

    The 1976 Argentine coup d’état was a swift and bloodless affair. On the official television network, the Sunday afternoon soccer match was followed by an uninterrupted World War II documentary, and most Argentines were unaware that the military had arrested President Isabel Martinez de Perón until the ruling junta was firmly ensconced in power.¹ When the commanders of the three branches of the Argentine service appeared on television to gravely announce the inauguration of the “National Reorganization Process,” however, few Argentines expressed genuine surprise; in the days preceding the coup, it was an open secret that military preparations for a...

  7. 2 THE “THIRD WORLD WAR”: U.S.-Argentine Relations, 1960–1976
    (pp. 29-55)

    Counterrevolutionary training in Argentina was well under way by the time John F. Kennedy began promoting internal security as the primary Latin American military mission in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. In fact, Argentine training programs for regional military officers preceded the development of similar U.S. programs focusing on counterinsurgency. Although sharing Washington’s anticommunist fervor, in the early 1960s Argentine military leaders looked to the French, rather than the Americans, for military assistance and training. Recognized as counterrevolutionary experts thanks to their participation in the brutal suppression of anticolonial revolutionary movements in Vietnam and Algeria, in 1957 French military...

  8. 3 “HUMAN RIGHTS IS SUDDENLY CHIC”: The Rise of The Movement, 1970–1976
    (pp. 56-82)

    News of Olga Talamante’s kidnapping reached her parents by telephone in mid-November 1974. The call, dialed by a friend in Azul, Argentina, to the elder Talamantes’ residence in Salinas, California, was brief, the details agonizingly vague. There had been a gathering, a classic Argentine asado, a daylong barbecue held as a kind of despedida for Talamante as she prepared to return to the United States and pursue graduate studies. Late in the evening, as Talamante and a group of friends started to leave, an unidentified car pulled up to the curb, and a man identifying himself as a policeman demanded...

  9. 4 “TOTAL IMMERSION IN ALL THE HORRORS OF THE WORLD”: The Carter Administration and Human Rights, 1977–1978
    (pp. 83-119)

    Three days after the first anniversary of the Argentine military coup against Isabel Perón, a passenger jet carrying Patricia Derian touched down on the tarmac at Ezeiza International Airport. Met by U.S. officials and ushered into an embassy car, President Carter’s newly appointed Department of State coordinator for human rights and humanitarian affairs was whisked to the United States Embassy, where ambassador Robert C. Hill was awaiting her arrival. Sparing Derian a long-winded greeting, Hill went straight to the point. “I’m going to tell you a secret, you have to promise not to tell anyone,” he began. Secretary of State...

  10. 5 ON THE OFFENSIVE: Human Rights in U.S.-Argentine Relations, 1978–1979
    (pp. 120-155)

    In the fall of 1977, a tall, gregarious junior foreign service officer hailing from west Texas arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires. Selected to serve as the embassy’s external affairs officer, Franklin A. “Tex” Harris had attended briefings in Washington, DC, on issues such as nuclear proliferation, Argentine actions in the United Nations, and the disputed Falkland/Malvinas Islands. Shortly after his arrival in Argentina, however, Harris was asked if he would switch positions with the embassy’s internal affairs officer, whose basket of assignments centered on monitoring the status of human rights. Lacking expertise on the issue, Harris agreed...

  11. 6 “TILTING AGAINST GRAY-FLANNEL WINDMILLS”: U.S.-Argentine Relations, 1979–1980
    (pp. 156-181)

    Patricia Derian’s frustration was palpable. “Unless things change I’ll probably resign in a few days, over a major policy disagreement,” the assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs informed the New York Times reporter Ann Crittenden in late May 1980. Having spearheaded U.S. efforts to promote human rights in Argentina for the previous three years, Derian was outraged when she returned from a brief vacation to discover that the Carter administration had decided to initiate “a major policy shift” toward the South American nation that aimed, in her view, to “normalize relations and end our official criticism...

    (pp. 182-194)

    In the opening months of Ronald Reagan’s tenure in the White House, human rights advocates’ fear that the new administration would systematically uproot the hard-won advances to institutionalize human rights in U.S. foreign policy appeared to be borne out. Reagan’s vehement anticommunism and determination to reverse perceived Soviet advances harkened back to the uncompromising rhetoric of the early Cold War. Capturing the strident tone that would guide Reagan’s foreign policy approach, an influential 1980 monograph by the right-wing Committee of Santa Fe asserted that “containment of the Soviet Union is not enough. Détente is dead.”¹ Determined to stem the spread...

  13. Abbreviations Used in the Notes
    (pp. 195-196)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 197-244)
  15. Primary Sources
    (pp. 245-246)
  16. Index
    (pp. 247-256)