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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  3,552 ratings  ·  320 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
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Times Books (first published April 4th 2006)
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Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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." ...more
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Neil Taylor
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the third book I've read this year on US Empire (The others were The End of the Myth by Grandin and How to Hide an Empire). I am so happy (as someone who comes from one of the countries that has been meddled with consistently by US and UK policymakers) that American writers are starting to really study this history and name it what it is.

This is also the third Kinzer book I've read (I loved All the Shah's Men and The Dulles Brothers). Some of the stories were repetitive, but not too muc
5-star topic (especially presenting it to the US mainstream in an accessible manner), -2 stars for Kinzer's career of shilling for NYT when courageous journalism is inconvenient...

The Good:
--We have to start somewhere, and Kinzer's account of a century of US terrorism on other countries does provide the bare-bone names, dates and places.
--Themes of US capitalist interests (against foreign independence), missionary racism, and empire geopolitics are introduced.
--The reporter-style writing and b
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
A good work of history with some frankly abysmal analysis attached. I say it's a good work of history because Kinzer's research clearly does not back up a lot of his claims -- for instance, he states multiple times that people like Jacobo Árbenz or Mohammed Mosaddegh were people who believed in "American" values, while at the same time clearly illustrating that "American" values are a lie and a sham, given our propensity for overthrowing foreign governments and the clear fact that this is not ne ...more
Antonio Nunez
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kinzer’s Overthrow is a history of the USA taking over countries by overthrowing their governments over the past 125 years. It all began in January 1893 when president Mackinley’s administration supported schemes by planters to take over Hawaii by dethroning the queen. This first overthrow included most of the elements that would characterize later ones: an economic interest by powerful business cartels (in this case, sugar), religious justification (redeeming benighted natives) and geopolitical ...more
Thomas Ray
Jun 17, 2017 marked it as to-read
This book only one century. But it didn't start with Hawaii. Thomas Jefferson changed the regime in Tripoli. The U.S. intervened in other nations 102 times between 1798 and 1895 (Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States). Always, U.S. military power has been used to enrich business interests.

Nor are the consequences to the target countries unintended! As Noam Chomsky says in Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Cuba’s “crime” is successfully caring for its people: a virus
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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. ...more
It’s a long list of nations, either invaded or intruded upon. Kinzer believes Americans “psychologically, always been on top”; yet in a “more equal and multipolar world” things may get different. Uneasy?
Kinzer is an American.
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Miebara Jato
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Civilization progresses only when the strongest nations and Army respects the rights and dignity of the weakest" -- Homer
America, as far is Overthrow goes, never gave any regarded for Homer's brilliant submission.
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: capitalism, history
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!
Azmar Khan
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the best book I’ve read in ages. This book is an answer to the question, “why do they hate us?”
Nov 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

There are fourteen chapters in this book covering America’s imperialism and transgressions over the past century. Most of the topics are interesting although the writing from chapter to chapter is a little uneven.

I found the chapter on the 1973 CIA led coup in Chile most fascinating and one of the best researched. I also liked the coverage on the American invasion of Panama.
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 American coun
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Got the book to read the section on Hawai'i. Should have stopped there as I had originally planned. Found the book rather one sided & biased at times. I am sure we have many skeletons in the closet & much to be ashamed for but in light of 9/11, al-Qaeda and now ISIS, the United States is fighting their own terror and daily overthrow plots. Found parts of it very interesting & other parts dull. As others have said some of the claims in this book are very shocking & sensational. Wondering how well ...more
Ian .
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been interested in the history of U.S. for a while, especially the foreign policy, military operations, corporations and finance. This book covers basically all these topics. It is well known that U.S. government has overthrown many legitimate foreign governments back in the history, this book just covers all these operations in sequence, analysis the background and similarities.

It is also interesting to compare U.S. to Soviet Union and Russia. Common belief is that U.S. intervenes in othe
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
This narrative history provides an overview of US interventions in foreign countries that led directly to the fall of those countries' governments from the toppling of the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 19th century to the invasion of Iraq. A good starting point for those wanting to dig into some of America's more unsavoury (to put it mildly) foreign policy moves in the past century (and then some), though it could have used more detail and the analysis part was somewhat lacking in places. 3.5/5 ...more
The prolonged debacle in the middle east is not, sadly, an exception in modern American foreign policy. Since the late 19th century, the powers that be in DC have repeatedly looked abroad – both with honest avarice and with idealistic dreams of remaking the world in an Empire of Liberty. In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer delivers a review of its actions, beginning with the seizure of Hawaii, covering seemingly every country in central and South America save Brazil, and ending up in the Ozymandian was ...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
Oct 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mark Desrosiers
Jun 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
If I had to summarize my thoughts about this book into a single sentence, I would only need to say that Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow should be required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the relationship of the U.S. to the rest of the world. In it, Kinzer looks at over a dozen examples of U.S. intervention in foreign countries since the turn of the 20th century and presents them together to illustrate a sordid, damaging, and largely unbroken history of what is now blandly called “r ...more
Allison Kay
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This took me about a month to read because I really wanted to read and soak in every word. I think this should be a required reading for every American.
I thought since the beginning of my IR degree that the US government thinks they're ideologically superior, and believe it is their duty to spread that ideology abroad. However, reading more literature like Kinzer, teaches you that's all cover-up-eugenic bullshit. The US is not based on ideology of spreading freedom and democracy to all. The US b
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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

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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
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