Making Lemonade

The Bush administration assumed that the Sandinistas would win in Nicaragua, writes Robert Kagan in his massive study of the Nicaraguan drama.

Issue: Summer 1996

Robert Kagan, A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990 (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 903 pp., $37.50.

Fidel Castro warned the Sandinistas not to hold real elections. "The people can make mistakes", he told them, acidly. But the "comandantes" thought they knew better. They convinced themselves that the mass organizations of the Sandinista party would deliver a crushing victory in February 1990, in spite of all that had happened since the Revolution.

The Bush administration assumed that the Sandinistas would win too, writes Robert Kagan in his massive study A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-90. President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker had pushed for the elections as a graceful way to disengage from a nasty dispute that had consumed far too much time and passion in Washington. They hardly expected the motley and chaotic opposition to mount a real challenge. Practically speaking, they had written off Nicaragua.

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