Overthrow

  • by Stephen Kinzer
  • Narrated by Michael Prichard
  • 15 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled 14 foreign governments, not always to its own benefit. "Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and continuing through the Spanish-American War and the Cold War and into our own time, the United States has not hesitated to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its political and economic goals. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 is the latest, though perhaps not the last, example of the dangers inherent in these operations.
In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers. He also shows that the U.S. government has often pursued these operations without understanding the countries involved; as a result, many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences.

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What the Critics Say

"[Kinzer] brings a rich narrative immediacy to all of his stories." (Publishers Weekly)
"Kinzer's narrative abounds with unusual anecdotes, vivid description, and fine detail, demonstrating why he ranks among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (The Washington Post's Book World)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Looking at the dark side

Like most countries, the US tends to highlight its successes and downplay its failures, thinking itself an idealistic champion and denying avaricious or base motivations.

This book provides some balance to that PR-driven view by filling in some of the darker chapters of our history, ones rarely taught in our public schools.

As the author states in his introduction, "The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not an isolated episode. It was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew fourteen governments that displeased them for various ideological, political and economic reasons."

The author isn't talking here about the world wars. He describes actions that were often based on a desire to protect American (sometimes multinational) corporations, though the public rationale was spun as protecting our national security or liberation of those in the country whose government was to be overthrown.

Some of these histories are well known, most are not to anyone who hasn't benefited from some college-level exposure to the history and politcs of the 20th century.

There's plenty here that will help put our actions into better perspective.

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- Stanley

Barely worth the read

Although presented as an overview of the dozen or so US regime change operations of the past 100 years, the author spends the last third of the book on an excruciating, partisan criticism of Iraq and Afganistan. This is unfortunate because it belies his bias and it's material that most readers will have the most familiarity with. I would have rathered greater detail on the more obscure aspects of history that are not taught in school than a rehashing of how the evil Bush deposed poor Saddam.

Although the stories are full of viscious power hungery men (and the US clearly has blood on it's hands), the author can not bring himself to apportion blame to anyone but Americans. All the villians are Americans and all the victims are foreigners. It is ironic that he can not escape the paternalism he spends so much of the book eloquently dismantling. The fact that many of these countries have had generations of corruption and instability after American intervention is in no way their own fault. Rather it is further evidence of how pervasive and insidious the taint of American imperialism is.

I enjoyed reading about the various US sponsored coups and revolutions which I previously knew little of. The author writes in an engaging style that seems to capture the atmospheres of these various countries. He is obviously very well informed and has thought deeply about the subject.

If you are interseted in modern history it provides a background for understanding the roots of many modern conflicts. But if you've read a newspaper in the last 8 years you can stop reading two-thirds of the way through.
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- Sean

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-08-2006
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio