U.S. Record of Intervention

June 23, 1985

You have performed a valuable public service in publishing Doyle McManus' article (June 16) about the emerging "Reagan Doctrine."

According to this doctrine, our Washington policy-makers will involve us in overt intervention throughout the world because the Russians have been doing this. Because we have not, we must stop being the good guys and start "playing on a level field."

Before our leaders begin squandering American dollars and American lives, they might pause long enough to familiarize themselves with the history of their own country. They might read a report entitled "Instances of Use of U.S. Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-1945," prepared at the request of Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-Ill.) and published in the Congressional Record (June 23, 1969).

The report lists 160 occasions when American forces intervened in foreign countries. Between 1900 and 1925, for example, U.S. troops intervened in China and Honduras seven times each, Panama six times, the Dominican Republic four times, Colombia, Mexico and Cuba three times each, Guatemala, Haiti, Korea, Nicaragua and Turkey two times each and once each in Morocco, the Philippines and Syria.

Our leaders might note that most of those 160 interventions occurred before the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and before the Castro revolution in Cuba. They might also note that American interventionism has not decreased since 1945; rather it has increased.

For details, they might read the 700-page report commissioned by the Defense Department and issued by the Brookings Institution in 1976. This reports lists 215 occasions when U.S. armed forces were used abroad for political purposes between Jan. 1, 1946 and Oct. 31, 1975.

The lesson of these historical facts is that we have been "playing on a level field" throughout our history. When it comes to global interventionism, we have at least held our own with our competitors.

If the end result is not pleasing to our Washington policy-makers, why do they assume that more of the same is the answer? It might be more rational if they read and reflected on William Pfaff's wise article (Opinion, June 16) in which he describes the numerous national leaders who began what seemed like "good" little wars, and ended with disaster for themselves and for their peoples.


La Jolla

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