Jorge G. Castañeda writes on when the Yanquis go home.
The ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has provided Latin America with a revelatory moment. Beginning with the Monroe Doctrine--and extending through countless invasions, occupations, and covert operations--Washington has considered the region its backyard. So where was this superpower these past few months, as Honduras hung in the balance? More or less sitting on its hands. The fact is that the United States is no longer willing, or perhaps even able, to select who governs from Tegucigalpa, or anywhere else in the region for that matter. Looking back at the history of the hemisphere, this fact is remarkable--and certainly transformative. For the first time in centuries, the United States doesn't seem to care much what happens in Latin America.
The roots of the diminishing U.S. presence can be found in the end of the cold war. It's not that the rivalry with the Soviets was the only factor driving U.S. involvement in Latin America. Clearly, James Monroe and Teddy Roosevelt didn't plunge their country deep into the hemisphere out of an anti-communist impulse. But the conclusion of the long struggle with the Soviets sharpened a question that may have long lurked in Washington's subconscious: What national interests, exactly, did the United States have in Latin America?