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International relations in the Americas

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Book Review Essays

There Is No Map: International Relations in the Americas

Author:Tom Long 


This essay reviews the following works:

Reconceptualizing Security in the Americas in the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Bruce M. Bagley, Jonathan D. Rosen, and Hanna S. Kassab. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015. Pp. xix + 368. $49.99 paperback. ISBN: 9780739194874.

Brazil in the World: The International Relations of a South American Giant. By Sean W. Burges. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017. Pp. xi + 280. £30.00 paperback. ISBN: 9781526107404.

U.S.-Venezuela Relations since the 1990s: Coping with Midlevel Security Threats. By Javier Corrales and Carlos A. Romero. New York: Routledge, 2012. Pp. xii + 228. $47.95 paperback. ISBN: 9780415895255.

21st Century Democracy Promotion in the Americas: Standing Up for the Polity. By Jorge Heine and Brigitte Weiffen. New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. xii + 208. $47.95 paperback. ISBN: 9780415626378.

Aspirational Power: Brazil on the Long Road to Global Influence. By David R. Mares and Harold A. Trinkunas. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2016. Pp. x + 224. $32.00 hardcover. ISBN: 9780815727958.

Precarious Paths to Freedom: The United States, Venezuela, and the Latin American Cold War. By Aragorn Storm Miller. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016. Pp. xxi + 278. $65.00 hardcover. ISBN: 9780826356871.

How to Cite: Long, T. (2019). There Is No Map: International Relations in the Americas. Latin American Research Review54(2), 548–555. DOI:

Over the last fifteen years, both the practice and study of International Relations (IR) in the Americas have seemingly been transformed. The United States, many have argued, no longer plays the hegemonic role of yesteryear, perhaps because its power has been hollowed, its attention pulled away, or its role challenged by rising Latin American and extra-hemispheric powers.1 
This was a dramatic change from the Cold War, where the possibility of US intervention was never far offstage and the United States amassed allies and isolated foes. It was an even more surprising turnaround from the immediate post–Cold War period, where US influence seemed uncontested, even as coercion (usually) faded into the background. The transformation started on September 11, 2001, when the US Secretary of State Colin Powell left Lima, where the American states had just signed the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to turn US diplomatic attention decisively away from Latin America and toward the Middle East.
Within a few years, the bloody aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq demonstrated the limits of US military might while the 2008–2009 financial crisis exposed the vulnerabilities of US economic power. However, the US leadership role in the Western Hemisphere was already shrinking. Brazil and Venezuela surged during the first decade of the twenty-first century, giving substance to old dreams of autonomy. To grasp these changes, old paradigms and concepts were deconstructed. Above all, the centrality and omnipotence of the United States, once a common feature of both establishment and revisionist accounts of IR in the Americas, was questioned.2 
Instead of a contest between well-defined, but opposed, powers or positions, as one might imagine the Cold War in the Americas to have been, the theme today seems to be uncertainty—or better put, complexity—without a unifying theory to give it order. The Americas are hegemonic no longer, but multipolar not yet.

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