Bush II, Obama, and the Decline of U.S. Hegemony in the Western Hemisphere by Thomas Andrew O’Keefe

Date01 December 2019
Published date01 December 2019
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Thomas Andrew O’Keefe
Bush II, Obama, and the Decline of U.S. Hegemony in the Western Hemisphere
New York: Routledge, 2018. 199 pp. $52.00 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-138-08086-7
Reviewed by: Stephen J. Randall (srandall@ucalgary.ca), University of Calgary, Calgary,
Alberta, Canada
Thomas O’Keefe’s study tests a range of international relations theories explaining
the United States hegemony and its decline in the Western hemisphere, from realist
to the neo-Marxist theories of Antonio Gramsci. His approach is to provide a
series of case studies: the evolution of the Inter-American System under US hegem-
ony; the system post-hegemony; the development and failure of the Free Trade
Area of the Americas; the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas; and
China in Latin America and the Caribbean. He follows these more thematic chap-
ters with a short account of ‘‘other major United States foreign policy initiatives in
the Western hemisphere under George W. Bush and Barack Obama.’’ This f‌inal
chapter is the only one that justif‌ies the title of the book. The chapter provides
good snapshots of economic, political, immigration, and energy initiatives in the
region, including reminders of the extent to which successive administrations have
sought to address gang violence, corruption, narcotics, and arms traf‌f‌icking in
Central America and Mexico. Nonetheless, the treatment of major issues in the
Bush and Obama years, from Plan Colombia to the Me
´rida Initiative, among other
policy developments, tends to be rather superf‌icial. Only four pages are devoted to
Plan Colombia, one of the most important and controversial policies in the region
from the end of the Clinton administration through the Obama presidency. Cuban
relations receive a limited analysis. There is a one-sentence reference to the highly
controversial free trade agreement with Colombia, a debate that spanned the Bush
and Obama administrations. The volume does provide insightful discussion of the
Central American Regional Security Initiative and its Caribbean counterpart, as
well as the Pathways to Prosperity program.
That said, the volume provides an insightful analysis of the factors which have
reduced the extent to which the United States has been able to drive the policy
agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean. For a short period following the debt
crisis of the 1980s—the Lost Decade in Latin America—the United States appeared
able to focus the hemispheric trade policy agenda along private-enterprise, neo-
liberal lines (the Washington Consensus), but it soon ran up against the more
statist models preferred by many of the Latin American countries. There was
also still some legacy of hostility toward the United States in the region, derived
in part from the US role in the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 and
the US-backed Contras in Central America in the 1980s. The heavy-handed US
War on Drugs, beginning in the 1970s and escalating through the 1980s and 1990s,
was often perceived in Latin America as more the failure of the United States
to deal with narcotics’ consumption than the policies of the producing countries.
Book Reviews 621

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