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Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
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Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  1,560 ratings  ·  186 reviews
A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen 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 m...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Times Books (first published April 4th 2006)
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Feb 25, 2008 Anna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ross
Overthrow made me realize how poor my education of US history is, and saddly my foreign policy understanding as well. I am shocked that I hadn't learned about some of these coups in, say, my foreign policy to Latin America class in college or any one of my other international relations courses. This is an excellent primer for anyone who wants to understand current world events and why "they" might possibly hate "us."
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Neil Taylor
The American government has consistently invaded sovereign nations and gone to war to defend big business concerns and help corporate America pillage the natural resources of foreign nations. Hawaii was a stable monarchy before the American sugar plantation owners felt they were being prevented from making as much profit as they "deserved" so a coup was instigated and funded by the US government. A disturbing read about the lengths the US government will go to in order to protect the almighty do...more
Ever ask yourself something along the lines of, 'Wouldn't it be great if a book about [insert topic] existed?' Well, I thought it would be cool if there was a book about the United States' um, ...'interventions' in foreign countries. Imagine my surprise to find this one. And while the author mentions that this book 'focuses only on the most extreme set of cases: those in which the United States arranged to depose foreign leaders' and 'treats only cases in which Americans played the decisive role...more
Stephen Kinzer's "Overthrow" sought to illustrate a trended pattern of regime changes driven by the United States government on foreign land. He detailed specific situations and defined the categories of coups coupled with commonalities of the countries in which the USA initiated overthrows of key politicians.

Blatant coups took place in countries with rich, natural resources that fell under foreign (namely, American) control; or in scenarios where nationalization of those resources were attempt...more
I didn't particularly enjoy this book. Foreign policy isn't really my thing. Just ask my husband, who loves the stuff yet has to witness my eyes glaze over as I involuntarily tune out every time he wants to have a conversation about some foreign-policy type article he read in the paper or The Economist.

I hated the writing style (very repetetive - he needs an excellent editor) and I had a hard time with the one-sided point of view - in particular, I thought Kinzer was extraordinarily freehanded i...more
Mark Desrosiers
This gripping narrative should underscore a deeper historical current, and I bet the author was a tad too anti-ideological to pick it up. And that's the major failing of this astonishing book. The story of Hawaii, for example, seems bizarre in a way because such B-grade characters carried it out against an obviously powerful Queen. How did that really happen? Benjamin Harrison's mighty approval?

And where did Noriega REALLY come from? Not to mention Edward Landsdale, who was Magsaysay's kingmaker...more
Downloaded from

Narrator: Michael Prichard
Publisher: Tantor Media, 2006
Length: 15 hours and 13 min.

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 mon...more
Aug 01, 2014 Naeem rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: listeners of smooth jazz
Kinzer writes well and knows how get the reader to keep turning the pages. He is at his best when he is putting together individual stories of little known characters who played decisive roles in the history of US interventions. The book is worth it for these stories and for the characters that Kinzer unearths. But Kinzer tries to play two other roles for which he, as a former reporter, simply does not have the skills.

What happens when news turns into patterns? Answer: then it is no longer news...more
Every American should read this book. Talking to people outside the
U.S., especially in Latin America, I was always surprised about how
much there is a dislike of U.S. interference in foreign affairs. Not
any more. Sure, Kinzer has somewhat of an agenda, but it never hurts to
know one's own history better. Kinzer explores the 14 regimes the U.S.
has directly overthrown, and then, after each epoch, gives nice summary
of the results of those actions. Needless to say, things rarely turned
out as expected....more
very odd book detailing the U.S.'s covert efforts to overthrow a dozen governments in the past century, a pretty radical topic, but from a liberal mainstream perspective. hwwaahh??

fails to make obvious conclusions about american empire. instead presents the case that meddling in other countries' affairs is bad for the u.s. government. doh!
If you are feeling anti-American and want some fodder to fuel your righteous indignation, look no further. Ever wondered why so many Yanks travel with Canadian flag patches on their rucksacks? Kinzer describes why in painful, explicit detail. Every single page I turned was like torture, but I couldn't look away. The chapter titled 'Despotism and Godless Terrorism' even caught my travel neighbor's eye on a recent flight. The greed and hubris of some of the American leaders described in the book i...more
Though it's now three years old, Kinzer's survey of America's century of "regime change" is still an impressive work for anyone interested in American foreign policy and diplomatic history. Starting with the coup that overthrew Hawaii's native monarchy and ending with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Kinzer takes the reader through three distinct phases of American regime change: the imperialist phase, the covert phase, and the invasion phase. Each chapter focuses on a specific country and the coup or...more
Kathleen Brugger
What a dismal read. Of course I knew about all of these American-sponsored coups, except for Hawaii, but I learned some details that just made it all worse. And the worst part is the sense that we haven’t learned a thing in these hundred years; if anything, we’ve gotten more arrogant which has made us stupider.

For example, when we invaded Panama in 1989, there was absolutely no plan for a post-Noriega administration. So after Noriega was deposed “Panama City degenerated into violent anarchy. Thi...more
The only bad thing I could say about this book is that each chapter didn't flow into the next. You could read a chapter in the end of the book, then skip towards the beggining and it would not be of consequence. So I immediatly flipped to the chapters that interested me most, read them all in a week, then it took me months to complete the chapters that I felt I already had knoledge in. Excellent book though, it definitly gave me some extra knoledge to spout out when I'm drunk and discussing poli...more
This book is chock-full of information, but somehow never dense. The author's ability to transform fact into narrative is first-rate. Not only can each chapter can be read as a self-contained story, an overarching narrative propels the action and keeps the pages turning quickly.

Mr. Kinzer covers the U.S.'s involvement in the overthrow of several different governments, beginning with Hawaii in the 1800s and culminating with Iraq in the early 2000s. In so doing, he draws disquieting parallels betw...more
Bill Glover
ESSENTIAL READING, especially if you are an American and intend on having any views on foreign policy. Fourteen regime changes (a sliver of our overall involvement) examined.

Interesting idea on a seemingly inconsequential micro-state, Grenada (just a bit larger than Central Park). After we deposed the local idiots, we left behind a failed state due to our habit of not following up even when it would be easy and cheap. A tiny island with no real products then turned to selling passports and money...more
This is a rather uneven read of US history. I sympathize with the author and get what he is doing - namely, describing a variety of rather sordid instances where the "US" overthrew, undermined, encouraged, aided & abetted regime change.

Not a pretty picture, and for the instances Kinzer covers, I don't doubt his narratives are true.

My problem with the book is the rather arbitrary selection of events, and varied coverage of each. Hawaii leads it off, there is a lot on the small Central America...more
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I was going to read this but ended up skimming it instead. Its an interesting topic, but this wasn't a very scholarly attempt. Its also blatantly partial in some rather naive ways.
Considering the current events of what's happening in Iraq, I suppose I read Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq at an opportune time. Overthrow puts forth the idea that what happened in Iraq in 2003 was not an isolated episode, rather it was the culmination of a 110-year period in which the United States has overthrown 14 governments for various economic, political, or even ideological reasons. US's foreign policy in recent history at times seems largely guided by...more
Diana Olivares
"Although the American economy grew tremendously during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, much of the country's fabulous new wealth enriched only a few thousand captains of industry. Conditions for most ordinary people were steadily deteriorating. By 1893, one of every six American workers was unemployed, and many of the rest lived on subsistence wages."

"The first American "regime change" operations had effects that rippled across the country and across the world. Within the United Sta...more
I'm very disappointed with this book. The leftist distortion of facts and the use of opinions as fact are too much to ignore. I was really looking forward to reading this book as the subject is crucial to understanding American foreign policy and is seldom, if ever, taught in schools. I find myself still very much interested in the subject, but left to do the research on my own. Is it so much to ask for a book of history to be, if not unbiased, then at least untainted by contemporary political d...more
Kinzer provides a brief survey of fourteen auspicious moments in US foreign policy: the times that Presidents, military leaders, and influential businesspeople collaborated to engineer the downfall of the leader of another country. In Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile,Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the US intentionally deposed foreign leaders in order to install conditions more friendly to US business interests and more amen...more
Thomas Dean
Overthrow is an overview of the foreign policy of The United States of America for the past century. Stephen Kinzer details the U.S. intervening in the affairs of other nations to the extend of initiating coups and destabilizing governments, overthrowing often duly and democratically elected leaders. Kinzer reveals that these acts are usually initiated and caused by a few select individuals either in power or with connections to power in the White House.

I was amazed by this book because I was n...more
Steven Peterson
Stephen Kinzer's "Overthrow" traces American intervention, in the form of regime change, from the time that the Hawaiian Queen was toppled by Americans in 1893 through Iraq. These represent a part of American history that does not always fully comport with American political ideals. He concludes that (page 309):

"A century of American `regime change' operations has shown that the United States is singularly unsuited to ruling foreign lands. Americans never developed either the imperial impulse o...more
Zachary Moore
A strong book detailing the destructive role of US foreign policy in those countries that have suffered the misfortune of being subject to US intervention. My main criticism of this book is that Kinzer, like most on the Left, is not opposed to US imperialism per se but only US imperialism when carried out for the "wrong" reasons (ie to protect the interests of US corporations or install friendlier regimes). Thus, after detailing one example after another of tragic US interventions into foreign c...more
Stephen Kinzer lays out a little over 100 years of modern American history. He offers warrant for his propositions, and throughout the book refers to the sources (often 1st source). Starting with sugar plantations in Hawaii, Kinzer meticulously goes through both supposed scenarios and historical narratives to make his conclusive point: America is good at overthrowing countries and very bad at knowing what to do afterwards.

Kinzer puts many of the vague and unwarranted discussions that most likely...more
Cole Stratton
Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, The Philippines, Nicaragua, Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Chile, Afghanistan, Iraq. Over the last century of US foreign policy, these countries have been the target of regime change operations by the United States government. Sometimes in the form of outright invasion, other times by covert methods, these sovereign governments were overthrown for economic interests and with ideological purpose.

This is the picture that Kinzer's historical narrati...more
The most startling thing about this book is the extent to which the official propaganda about US imperialism has remained unchanged over the past century. In each case of 'regime change', the official explanation is always that the US is 'intervening' to 'combat repression' and 'promote democracy'. The real reasons are usually evident to anyone who is paying even moderately close attention: the country in question either has resources that are wanted by US corporations, or the existing governmen...more

In the fall of 1963, US ally and Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem indicated he might negotiate with the communist insurgents in his country. President John F. Kennedy gathered senior foreign policy advisors for a final meeting to consider overthrowing Diem. Anxious about growing chaos in Vietnam, the advisors expressed doubts, and Kennedy never announced a clear decision. Three days later, Diem was murdered.
With "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from...more
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Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him "among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (source)
More about Stephen Kinzer...
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