El Salvador

in brief

  • Popular support
  • Reality of modern conflict
  • dynamics and demographic upheaval complicated matters
  • absent liberal values
  • infighting
  • no compromise
  • final offensive

Sources of American Frustration

A Clear Vision

  • measure of peace
  • respect for human rights
  • institutionalization of democratic processes


  • The Us recognizes these elements as necessary for success
  • therefore it has focused on finding a catalyst to set them in motion

a flawed instrument: the Obdurate Right

  • reliance on the good faith of the host government
  • the host government adopts the language and ignores the principals

political violence, political space

  • el salvador was the third most dangerous country in the world for trade union activity
  • authoritarian culture prevented moderate and leftist influence
  • union activity provokes death squads - alienate any support for leftist causes
  • the amount of protests is tied to amount of disappearances
  • if 120 k protest then 500 a month disappear, if 6 k protest then 5 a month disappear

the centre cannot hold: a nation polarized

  • US goals assume a working social consensus, which that country has yet to achieve
  • centuries of repression
  • profound fear of reform
  • peasantry's deep suspicion of government and armed forces
  • absent values of moderation, democratic fair-play,

the tragic impact of the death squads is more severe than the 40 k death toll indicates

  • among the first targets were the core of the political centre
  • moderate and enlightened members of the upper class and business community

The Chimera of Compromise


  • as extremism increases tolerance decreases
  • the in-group turns on itself
  • it begins to kill its own as an example
  • it wants to show what will happen to people not fully committed to the cause

no compromise

  • all or nothing campaign zero sum environment
  • both sides think peace is useless
  • the ruling elite was confident that the US would maintain support
  • this is because of the domino theory regardless of how well the US terms were implemented.
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