Stephen Kinzer’s book Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq is a fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions. The United States invades a foreign country, overthrows the government, and sets up a puppet regime that will do its bidding. The United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments. Overthrowing foreign governments has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. The overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 was the first, and Ukraine was the last. The U.S. overthrew Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, who refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union on November 21, 2013. The United States has not hesitated to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its political and economic goals. 

In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose foreign regimes. He details the three eras of America’s regime-change century. The imperial era brought Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras under America’s sway. Then the cold war era employed covert action against Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, and Chile. Then comes the invasion era, which saw American troops toppling governments in Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine. Kinzer explains why the U.S. government has pursued these operations and why so many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences, making Overthrow a cautionary tale that serves as an urgent warning as the United States seeks to define its role in the modern world.

In his book, All the Shah’s Men, 2004, Kinzer explains how the United States overthrew a Middle Eastern government for the first time. The victim was Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran. Although the coup seemed a success at first, today, it serves as a chilling lesson about the dangers of foreign intervention. The plot was code-named, Operation Ajax. It restored Mohammad Reza Shah, allowing him to impose a tyranny that ultimately sparked the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Bitter Fruit is a comprehensive account of the CIA operation to overthrow the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala in 1954. The Brothers, 2013, is a biography of John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles, who led the United States into multiple wars. In his latest book, The True Flag, 2018, he explains how America has launched foreign wars and deposed governments and then retreats before repeating the cycle. You can find a list of his books at

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Published by Kenneth E. Long

Author, college professor of economics, swimming and tennis enthusiast

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