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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

May 26, 1991|Alex Raksin

PANAMA: The Whole Story by Kevin Buckley (Simon & Schuster: $19.95; 268 pp.) An irony of political life in America is that by the time "the whole story" comes out about how our military maneuvers have affected some corner of the globe, we have moved on to intervene elsewhere, making mistakes we might have avoided had we examined our last adventure more closely. We might not have been surprised that our victory in Iraq has led to social tumult rather than to democracy, for instance, had we studied the aftermath of our "victory" in Panama, as ably reported here by former Newsweek correspondent Kevin Buckley: President Endara's approval rating has slipped from 90% to the teens; only 37% of Panamanians thought the invasion brought more benefits than problems, and the U.S. military assessments of the civilian Panamanian deaths have multiplied by five times. The lesson Buckley illustrates in this narrative--tauter than the books on Panama published last year--is that surgical strikes alone cannot ensure democracy; we must first back indigenous leaders with genuine solutions to popular frustrations.

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