Review: "The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America"

Updated on August 7, 2019
Larry Slawson profile image

Larry Slawson received his Masters Degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian History.

The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America.
The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America. | Source


Throughout historian Stephen Rabe’s work, The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America, the author provides a detailed analysis of Cold War politics (and policies) in Latin America as well as the United States’ struggle to cultivate (and preserve) potential allies within this region during the 1950s. In their attempt to stymy the expansion of communism in Central and South America, Rabe argues that the United States often betrayed its underlying principles of “liberty” and “democracy” as the American government often sought to aid in the destabilization of countless Latin American governments that stood opposed to its policies. Through the use of the CIA and covert military operations, Rabe argues that the United States helped to overthrow and weaken these countries through the financial-backing of rebel groups and repressive regimes.

Main Points

According to the author, many of the American-backed rebel groups relied heavily on terrorism, murder, assassinations, torture, and bribery to maintain power and control over their citizens. Consequently, Rabe’s work makes the case that American foreign policy often resembled many of the same tactics and strategies used by the Soviet Union and its agents; thus, posing the question, what ideals were the Americans fighting against (and trying to protect or preserve) in the Cold War? More importantly, was the fight against Communism always righteous?

Concluding Thoughts

Rabe’s work relies on an impressive array of primary sources that include: personal memoirs, oral-history interviews, CIA documents, letters, U.N. Commission reports, newspaper accounts (such as the New York Times), as well as reports and documents from the National Security Council and the United States Senate. A clear strength of Rabe’s account lies in its extensive discussion of the historiography that surrounds this particular field, as well as the author’s ability to transmute the large array of primary documents that he uses into a compelling, well-written, narrative-driven format. However, one downfall of this work lies in the fact that Rabe’s conclusion feels a bit rushed. Moreover, Rabe often provides an uneven analysis of various subjects throughout this work as well. Even with these small issues though, Rabe’s book is important to consider for this field of study as it highlights a negative aspect of American foreign policy that is often relegated or overlooked by scholars.

All in all, I give Rabe’s work 5/5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone interested in a Latin American perspective of the Cold War. You will not be disappointed. Definitely check it out if you get the opportunity!

Questions to Facilitate Group Discussion

1.) What was Rabe's thesis? What are some of the main arguments that the author makes in this work? Is his argument persuasive? Why or why not?

2.) What type of primary source material does Rabe rely on in this book? Does this help or hinder his overall argument?

3.) Does Rabe organize his work in a logical and convincing manner? Why or why not?

4.) What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this book? How could the author have improved the contents of this work?

5.) Who was the intended audience for this piece? Can scholars and the general public, alike, enjoy the contents of this book?

6.) What did you like most about this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?

7.) What sort of scholarship is the author building on (or challenging) with this work? Does this book add substantially to existing research and trends within the historical community? Why or why not?

8.) Did you learn anything after reading this book? Were you surprised by any of the facts and figures presented by the author?

Do the events in Latin America represent a failure of American foreign policy during the Cold War?

See results

Works Cited:

Rabe, Stephen. The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Larry Slawson


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • jo miller profile image

        Jo Miller 

        2 years ago from Tennessee

        I've been a news junkie for a long time. Without researching this topic in detail, I always thought we were not as morally superior as we liked to believe. We often supported dictators of the worst kind if they were opposed to communism. I also thought our capitalism was not as pure as we like to believe either. We raped those countries economically at times. So, I would probably like this book since I tend to like books that affirm what I already believe anyway.

      • Angel Guzman profile image

        Angel Guzman 

        2 years ago from Joliet, Illinois

        When we influence other countries politics it's okay but when they minipulate ours it's not okay? Sadly we got what we deserved in 2016 but it continues to sting :(


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)