When Interventions Fail: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Latin America

16 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2021

See all articles by Leticia Arroyo Abad

Leticia Arroyo Abad

CUNY - Queens College

Noel Maurer

George Washington University

Date Written: September 2021


On August 30, 2021, the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan after a 20-year presence in the country. During the intervention, the Americans had tried to improve the capacity of the Afghan state, maintain political stability, and end endemic political violence. While the U.S. intervention prevented violent extraconstitutional overthrows, it failed to improve Afghan state capacity or to end the war. The Afghan government fell to Taliban insurgents even before the Americans had fully departed. Afghanistan, however, was not the first American intervention that had these three aims. Over the first third of the 20th century, the U.S. intervened regularly across Latin America. We use this historical experience to test whether these earlier interventions produced similar outcomes and extract lessons. We find that U.S. interventions decreased state capacity but promoted political stability and peace --for only as long as American officials were present. The Afghan experience, despite the rapid fall of the regime, does not appear to be an outlier.

Keywords: Afghanistan, Civil War, Coups, Instability, Intervention, Latin America

JEL Classification: F51, F52, F54, H56, N46

Suggested Citation

Arroyo Abad, Leticia and Maurer, Noel, When Interventions Fail: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Latin America (September 2021). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP16585, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3960157

Leticia Arroyo Abad (Contact Author)

CUNY - Queens College ( email )

65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367-1597
United States

Noel Maurer

George Washington University ( email )

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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