"Have our values been so twisted?" American governmental dissent in the Guatemalan civil war, 1960-1996

Davis-Abraham, John (2022) "Have our values been so twisted?" American governmental dissent in the Guatemalan civil war, 1960-1996. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This thesis examines American diplomats, policymakers and officials who criticized US policy choices in Guatemala during the 1960-1996 Guatemalan Civil War. Using recently declassified American government documents, this thesis makes four primary arguments. First, it analyzes the volume, spread, and nature of voices of dissent within the US government and illustrates that dissenting opinions were more numerous and widespread in the second half of the conflict. Dissent was largely based on moral grounds, but other categories of dissent emerged as the US pursued human rights policies. Second, this thesis explores whether Jimmy Carter’s human rights-based foreign policy impacted the nature of governmental dissent during the remainder of the Civil War. It argues that while Carter’s policies led to an immediate explosion of dissent, there was very little short-term impact on policy changes. In the long term, however, the language of human rights served as a powerful tool of dissent and criticism, and Carter’s legitimization of human rights policy laid the groundwork for future dissenters to achieve meaningful policy changes at the end of the Civil War. Third, it considers whether the creation of a formal Dissent Channel meaningfully impacted US officials concerned with American actions in Guatemala and concludes that the Dissent Channel had minimal impact on officials who disagreed with policy choices. Instead, officials overwhelmingly opted to dissent through informal procedures that clearly identified themselves rather than hiding behind the Dissent Channel’s anonymity. Finally, it analyzes whether dissenters (both those who did and did not use the Dissent Channel) meaningfully impacted US policy choices. It argues that despite the overall lack of interest in using the Dissent Channel, dissenters still meaningfully impacted US foreign policy choices in Guatemala. In particular, dissenting opinions helped legitimize human rights as a viable policy choice and served as a check on the US government’s activities in Guatemala. This thesis makes a worthwhile contribution to both scholarship on US policy in Guatemala and the emerging field of dissent literature, as it allows for more nuanced analysis of US Cold War foreign policymaking.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/15495
Item ID: 15495
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 145-156).
Keywords: dissent, foreign policy, Guatemala, American history
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: May 2022
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Guatemala--History--Civil War, 1960-1996; United States--Foreign relations--Guatemala; Dissenting opinions--United States; United States--Politics and government; Dissenters--United States; United States--Politics and government.

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