How Many Governments Has the US Overthrown?
Foreign Policy has posted a nifty map of the world noting “the 7 governments the U.S. has overthrown.” It’s cool and all, but this number 7 is a significant undercount.
J. Dana Stuster, who posted this map, does specify that these are covert CIA-supported coups only and mentions it doesn’t include “a number of U.S. military interventions against hostile regimes and U.S.-supported insurgencies and failed assassination attempts, including a plan to kill Fidel Castro with an exploding cigar.”
But if you go by Stephen Kinzer’s book Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, this map leaves out quite a bit of history. In addition to Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Brazil, and Chile, the U.S. also had a hand overthrowing the governments of Hawaii in 1893, Cuba in 1898, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Grenada, Afghanistan, and of course Iraq.
That’s quite a record. And no, these acts of aggression against foreign governments were not aimed at eliminating an existential threat to Americans, nor were they intended to spread democracy. For the most part, as Kinzer points out, these cases were ones in which the U.S. was attacking a much weaker nation, and it was “usually because it [sought] to impose its ideology, increase its power, or gain control of valuable resources.” In other words: Empire.
Keep in mind that this list includes regime change specifically. The record of U.S. interventionism in general is much uglier. For a detailed yet partial history, I highly recommend William Blum’s Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II – although you’ll miss out on many hideous pre-war misadventures.