Our Enemy’s Enemy: Human Rights and the U.S. Intervention in El Salvador, 1977-1992
Wilsman, Adam Richard
Throughout its history, U.S. foreign policymakers have struggled to balance ideals with the country’s strategic goals. The political rhetoric encourages U.S. citizens to perceive their country as fighting on behalf of freedom, democracy, and human rights across the world. At the same time, support for such ideals is often tempered by national security concerns. During the 1980s, El Salvador became a central battleground of the Cold War, and a place where this tension in U.S. policy was acute. The human rights violations of the Salvadoran regime shocked the world, and El Salvador’s anti-democratic traditions troubled many both in Washington and across the country. However, the presence of an intransigent, Marxist-inspired left in a region increasingly at risk for communist dominance caused some to overlook the abuses of this troubled ally. The period of the Cold War forged such uncomfortable alliances, dissimilar unions between partners with few common interests. Based on recently released government and private archival materials in the United States and El Salvador, this dissertation is a case study of how American policymakers, in the midst of hotly contested domestic debate, attempted to balance disparate goals in El Salvador during the late Cold War period. It also explores the nature of U.S. power in Latin America, and grapples with the Salvadoran response to the massive scale of U.S. intervention during that country’s civil war.