The imperial mind and U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1961--1966

Date of Completion

January 1999


History, Latin American|History, United States|Political Science, International Law and Relations




An imperialist mindset frustrated U.S. efforts to aid the transition to democracy in the Dominican Republic after the fall of Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship in 1961. Between 1961 and 1966, U.S. attempts to democratize Latin America politics stumbled because of longstanding prejudices that depicted Latin Americans as unfit for self-government. This dissertation presents U.S. responses to the Dominican crisis as a case study of the effects of a multifaceted imperial mind on U.S. foreign policymaking. Under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, the historical experience of the United States as a hegemonic power in the Caribbean shaped U.S. perspectives on events in the Dominican Republic. Stereotypes of race and gender, pride in the superior technology and wealth of the United States, dubious Latin American and Cold-War analogies, and the iconography of savagery and the frontier combined to inflate U.S. estimates of the dangers inherent in Dominican political culture. Exaggerated fears of disorder overwhelmed the optimism of the Alliance for Progress, culminating in the U.S. invasion and occupation of 1965–1966 and U.S. support for renewed dictatorship. ^ This study employs declassified U.S. government documents and materials from archives in the United States, Europe, and the Dominican Republic to reconstruct U.S. deliberations on the Dominican crisis and Dominican responses to U.S. policies and assumptions. Chapter I details the concept of the imperial mind and its historical context. Chapter 2 describes the conflict between the goals of the Alliance for Progress and the Kennedy administration's condescending estimate of Dominican character. The third chapter explores the tensions that crippled Kennedy's policy toward the democratically-elected government of Juan Bosch. In Chapter 4, the Johnson administration's undemocratic alliance with Bosch's usurpers in the Dominican military collapses amid the April Revolution of 1965. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 examine the mind of imperialism at work during the U.S. military intervention, addressing the ideology of anti-communism, technological determinism, and the decision to abandon the U.S. commitment to democratization. The final chapter discusses the role of the Dominican intervention in stimulating domestic political controversy and critiques of the arrogance of power during the 1960s. ^