What Next for Nicaragua?

Report Americas

What Next for Nicaragua?

May 2, 1985 22 min read Download Report
S. Anna
Visiting Fellow

(Archived document, may contain errors)


429 Way 2, 1985 INTRODUCTION U.S. policy toward Nicaragua seems paralyzed. Last fall Congress suspended U.S.assistance to the anti-San dinista rebels and in January of this year, the Reagan Administration broke off its bilateral talks with Nicaragua, since nothing had been accom plished after months of periodic meetings in Manzanillo, Mexico.

Congress now has refused to approve release o f 14 million in military assistance to the armed opposition in Nicaragua or even to provide humanitarian aid for Nicaraguan refugees in Central America, an end to the de facto alliance with the Soviet Union and Cuba, and genuineself-determination for the p eople of Nicaragua.

These objectives are widely accepted in the U.S where even former supporters of the Sandinista regime no longer dispute that it is fast becoming a communist, totalitarian state. U.S. goals in the region are also shared by Nicaragua's C entral American neighbors, who are threatened by Nicaragua's military capability and revolutionary ideology, and the Nicaraguan resistance in Nicaragua has called on the government to accept these same principles. 

Nicaragua's military build-up, fed with in creasingly sophis ticated weaponry' from the Soviet bloc and tightening repression of political and religious freedoms, have occurred while the Contadora negotiations and bilateral talks with the U.S have been going on with Cuba and the Soviet Union has p r oceeded apace even though the U.S. suspended its assistance to the opposition. There should be little doubt that, if left unchecked, the Sandinistas intend to build another Cuba. With or without U.S. aid for the Nicaraguan rebel forces, the U.S. must appl y firm and steady pressure on Nicaragua to prevent that outcome The U.S. seeks a halt to Nicaraguan destabi,lization activities Consolidation of the Sandinista dictatorship in alliance 2 As the conduct of the Nicaraguan regime has 'demonstrated its determi n ation to become a Soviet-aligned, totalitarian state debate in the U.S. has come to focus on the most effective policy tools to prevent its consolidation broader consideration of the full range of political, economic and military options open to the U.S. t o pressure the Sandinista government. Breaking or downgrading diplomatic relations with the Sandinista government, initiating sanctions of the Nicaraguan government by the Organization of American States, stepping up military assistance to Nicar.agua's ne i ghbors, and reviving a regional military defense organization are some of the options that deserve careful evaluation What is required now is a POLITICAL OPTIONS Downqrade Diplomatic Representation It is a curious anomaly that the U.S. government maintain s high-level diplomatic representation in Nicaragua, through its ambassador, even though the Reagan Administration has consistently questioned the legitimacy of the Nicaraguan government and the authenticity of the 1984 Nicaraguan Itelection.l1 The recall of ambassadors is a time-honored diplomatic signal .of disapproval or disassociation. It was used as recently as 1978, when the Carter Administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua to signal termination of U.S. backing of Anastasio Somoza.

Sandi nista leaders have been quite candid about the purpose of their November 1984 election, labeled by Commander Bayardo Arce Ita nuisance,It1 which was to legitimize their revolution in world public opinion and thus deflect pressure against the Marxist free n or fair, the U.S. should not acquiesce in the Sandinistas propaganda campaign by carrying on business as usual minimum, Washington should downgrade its diplomatic representation leaving the embassy in the hands of a charge d'affaires. Such a move would be consistent with the U.S. position that Nicaragua has steadfastly violated its 1979 pledge to the Organization of American States (OAS) to establish a broad-based, democratic government regime. With the solid ev.idence that the election was neither I I At a Break Diplomatic Relations The rationale for breaking diplomatic relations is essential ly the same as for downgrading relations, although it sends a In La Vanguardia, Barcelona, July 31, 19

84. In a speech by Commander Bayardo Arce in Managua, where he said Action is precisely what consti tutes the essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat-class ability to impose its will by utilizing the means at hand and go through bourgeois formaliti e s. For us, then the elections, viewed from that perspective are a nuisance." 3 T much stronger signal. Breaking relations would allow the U.S. to provide legal overt.assistance to the Nicaraguan armed resistance since a chief objection of some critics of the Administration's policy is the impropriety of arming the opposition to a government with which the U.S. has normal diplomatic relations. Severing relations also would prepare the way for recognizing an alterna tive, perhaps exile, government.

The two p rincipal objections are that a diplomatic rupture is too weak a tool to pressure the Sandinista government, and that by closing the U.S. embassy in Managua, the U.S. deprives itself of a valuable intelligence source. However, breaking relations could be a n effective element of a package of diplomatic economic, and military measures taken in concert. Further diplomatic contact is already so circumvented that breaking relations would probably not make much difference a U.S. diplomat, "no Warsaw Pact country r estricted access to government officials as much as Nicaragua does.lt2 According to Recognize a Government-in-Exile The U.S. should consider recognizing a Nicaraguan government in-exile. The Sandinista Government of National Reconstruction in exile attain ed respectability through a 1979 OAS resolution withdrawing recognition from the government of Anastasio Somoza and thus implicitly recognizing the legitimacy of the Sandinistas.

But the primary consideration should be effectiveness rather than historical precedent. Recognition of an alternative government should not be an option adopted in isolation, but as a prelude to or part of an overall policy that includes other measures.3 transfer of recognition to the armed opposition to the Sandinistas would beco m e more viable were the rebel forces to succeed in taking and holding a significant portion of Nicaraguan territory A Support the Democratic Opposition With the March 2 announcement by Nicaragua's beleaguered democratic opposition of its political platform and a call for dialogue with the Sandinista g~vernment the U.S. is in a better position to challenge the legitimacy of the Sandinista regime.

The opposition comprises a broad spectrum of Nicaraguans who cannot be smeared with the ttSomozistalt label. It h as called for free elections, separation of powers, authentic pluralism, and 2 "In Nicaragua, the American Embassy Feels the Effects of a Widening Rift,"

The New York Times, February 1, 1985, p. A8.

For a more in-depth study of legal and diplomatic issues surrounding recognition of governments-in-exile, see The Heritage Foundation's forth coming Backgrounder by Thomas Miller.

Document of the Nicaraguan Resistance on National Dialogue, published in Diario Las Americas, March 10, 1985, p. 13-A. 4 full resp ect for human right The opposition's platform rei terates the goals proclaimed from Costa Rica in 1979 by the Nicaraguan government of National Reconstruction, composed of a broad coalition including Sandinistas and democratic forces, and it is fully cons i stent with the Contadora group's 21 objectives The U.S. should support the democratic opposition and its objectives. A key element of this effort should be to give wide public exposure to the leaders of the democratic opposition and to the validity of its goals. Its leaders should be welcomed in the White House and introduced to U.S. policy makers and the American public. The U.S. also can help the opposition within Nicaragua, as it is currently doing through the National Endow ment for Democracy's $100,00 0 grant to Nicaragua's only independent newspaper, La Prensa. Assistance also should be offered, perhaps through the Inter-American Foundation, to the small remaining private sector, free trade unions, and independent political parties, who are resisting t h e consolidation of the Sandinista Marxist regime PLAN FOR A POST-SANDINISTA TRANSITION Part of the rationale for U.S. support to the democratic opposition to the Sandinista dictatorship should be to help the U.S. plan for a possible transition in Nicaragu a and to avoid the kind of misjudgments that helped the Sandinistas consolidate power. To ensure this, Washington must maintain close contact with democratic Nicaraguan leaders to keep abreast of changing circumstances in the country. Should the Sandinista government be replaced by a democratic, representative government, the U.S should be prepared to extend prompt diplomatic recognition of the new government, encourage its friends and allies to do the same and provide economic and technical assistance to h e lp stabilize the incoming government. The U.S. should be prepared to use its influence, if necessary, to block any attempt to reimpose an authoritarian dictatorship A Role for the Orqanization of American States The OAS, which played a key role in the suc cess of Nicaraguals 1979 revolution by calling on Somoza to step down and by recogniz ing the provisional Government of National Reconstruction, has since kept its distance from Central Americals volatile conflicts.

Costa Rican and Honduran protests against Nicaraguan harassment have been given hearings, as have Nicaraguan counterprotests.

But these issues have been routinely shuffled off for consideration by the Contadora group, conveniently allowing OAS members to sidestep the troubling appearance in the hemisphere of a new Marxist dictatorship with Cuban and Soviet ties In fact, all of the chief opposition leaders also opposed Somoza, and many previously served in the Sandinista government Alfonso Robelo, Violetta Chamorro, Eden Pastora, Alfred0 Cesar.

Arturo Cruz 5 OAS timidity stems in part from a commitment to the OAS Charter's principle of nonintervention in.the internal affairs of other member states and perhaps a self-conscious wariness about adopting a tough standard of political pluralism OAS, m o reover, it probably is assumed that if tougher action is warranted, then the U.S. ultimately will take.it Inside the Yet the OAS in the past overcame its aversion to involvement in other countries' internal affairs when it called for the resignation of An a stasio Somoza. Several member states also submitted a formal protest in the OAS in September 1981 of the joint French-Mexican declaration that recognized the Salvadoran rebels,as a legitimate representative political force and demanded a "restructuring1' of the Salvadoran government and army to include rebel forces.

In view of the impasse in the Contadora negotiations, these precedents are sufficient reason for the OAS to address directly the issues of Nicaraguan aggression and its denial of political free dom. This could be done by reconvening the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers, which was convoked in September 1978 to examine Central America's political situation and never formally adjourned. In fact, should the OAS take action to censure the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, it could well use the same language as that contained in the resolu- tion calling on Somoza to resign.6 The time may be ripe for a U.S. initiative on Central America in the OAS. Many OAS members, who were en thusiastic supporters of the overthrow of Anastasio Somoza, have become less than keen on the direction and behavior of the Sandinista government.

Venezuela, for example, has suspended its subsidized oil. sales to Nicaragua until payment for past shipments has been made current.

The political distancing from Nicaragua also was reflected in the failure of Latin American governments to send high-level represen tation to the 1985 presidential inauguration ceremonies in Managua member of the Kissinger Commissi on, has noted, many Latin American leaders express deep concern about Nicaragua in private discus sions, even though their public statements are cautious U.S And as John Silber, President of Boston University and The OAS resolution of June 23, 1979, reads , in part, "That in the view of the Seventeenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs this solution should be arrived at on the basis of the following 1) Immediate and definitive replacement of the Somoza regime 4 establishment of a truly democratic government John R. Silber, "Plain Talk behind Closed Doors in Central America,"

The Wall Street Journal, February 8, 1985, p. 21 The holding of free elections as soon as possible that lead to the 1 6 leadership and concrete evidence of a consistent, committed U.S policy in Central America could reassure them in discussing their own s ecurity concerns.

Central American Diplomacy While there are strong arguments for an active U.S. role in challenging the Sandinistas, their impact would be even greater were the parties most immediately affected by the Nicaraguan government to speak even m ore directly about the need for U.S involvement. The U.S. should make the case to the leaders of the Central American democracies (Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Hon duras as well as the internal Nicaraguan democratic opposition that their unambiguous publi c support for a strong U.S. posture vis-h-vis Nicaragua is crucial to congressional approval of such a policy.

Western Europe A crucial element of U.S. diplomatic pressure on Nicaragua should be to engage U.S. allies in Western Europe in efforts to assure that the Nicaraguan government fulfills its pledges to allow political pluralism and respect human rights countries originally sympathetic to the Sandinistas have recently become wary of lending financial and diplomatic support to the increasingly militan t and repressive regime in Managua.

The U.S. should increase its efforts to explain the basis for U.S. policy to its allies and to highlight this policy's importance for Western Europe's own security interests. Washington should marshal the persuasive evid ence of Nicaragua's movement toward a totalitarian dictatorship: the European Democratic Union's detailed report on the sham election in 1984, complaints of repression o'f free trade unions submitted to the International Labor Organization, reports of hum a n rights organizations on torture by government security agents, and the Sandinista govern ment's blatant manipulation of the committee to draft the new constitution to ensure permanent one-party control of government. In particular, the U.S. should stres s these facts to the Socialist International, and encourage it to speak out on repression in Nicaragua Some European Also at issue is Western Europe's economic support for Nicaragua. U.S. economic pressures will fail if offset by loans and donations from E u rope. By the end of 1983, Western Europe had provided Nicaragua $263.4 million in bilateral loans and lines of credit. This freed up Nicaraguan resources for invest ment in military expansion and allowed the Sandinista governm'ent to pretend that it enjoy s the support and solidarity of democratic western nations. Moreover, Nicaragua reportedly sells goods donated to it by Europe at below market prices in neighboring countries, to the detriment of local producers and exporters.

Should the U.S. apply economi c sanctions against Nicaragua, it must persuade its European allies to.cooperate. 7 Contadora Negotiations The peace negotiations initiated by the Contadora countries Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, and Colombia) in 1983 have proceeded in fits and starts. They recently resumed after a boycott by El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Honduras protesting the abduction of a Nicaraguan from the Costa Rican embassy in Managua by Nicaraguan security forces. The countries are now addressing the difficult issue of verification a nd enforcement of whatever provisions the final treaty contains and not directly involved in the talks, it should continue to support regional efforts to draft and enforce a peace treaty. The Contadora "Document of Objectives, It signed by the Central Ame rican countries in 1983, calls for self-determination, democra tic and pluralistic governments, and respect for human rights.

All Central American countries except Nicaragua have made progress toward meeting these objectives. The Contadora process is an ap propriate forum for calling Nicaragua to account for violating the principles it accepted in signing the Document of Objectives.

U.S. support for the Contadora negotiations should depend on Nicaragua's fulfillment of those principles and on finding reliab le verification and enforcement procedures for any Contadora agree ment. 8 Although the U.S.'is not a member of the Contadora group Resume Bilateral U.S.-Nicaraguan Talks The Sandinista government seems very anxious to resume bilateral talks with the U.S. As such, Washington should make resumption contingent upon Sandinista agreement to begin a dialogue with its internal political opposition that would include such matters as political liberties and press freedom. Washington must link the two sets of talks , because Managua's insistence on negotiating with the U.S rather than with its own opposition is an integral element of its propaganda campaign, at.home and abroad, to portray the Sandinista government as threatened only by foreign aggression and to minim ize the level of internal opposition to its policies.

International Peacekeeping Force As the regime of Anastasio Somoza was caving in to pressure from the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in mid-1979 an emergency OAS session on the crisis conve ned. There, the U.S proposed a peacekeeping force to enforce a cease-fire and oversee a peaceful transition from the Somoza government. The proposal was withdrawn when it won little support from Latin American governments committed to the overthrow of Som o za For further discussion of the Contadora negotiations, see Virginia Polk The U.S. and the Contadora Effort for Central America," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 372, August 1984 8 The OAS Charter provides for inter-American peacekeeping forces, and the OAS in fact approved sending such a force to the Dominican Republic in 1965 to restore order hostilities between the government and anti-government forces erupt into full-scale civil war, the U.S should consider pressing the OAS for peacekeeping actio n in Nicaragua If Nicaraguan Cuba and the Soviet Union U.S. policy options in Nicaragua are not necessarily limited to pressure on Managua. They also include measures to restrain Soviet and Cuban backing for the Sandinistas that the possibility of direct m i litary intervention has not been dismissed is essential and in fact was the position of the Kissin ger Commission. The threat of force is more credible in the aftermath of the U.S. operation in Grenada, and it may account for the fact MiG fighter jets hav e not been delivered to Nicaragua despite repeated Nicaraguan attempts to obtain them.

Militarily overextended by its commitments in Africa and Central America, and pressed by the Soviet Union to export more sugar, nickel, and tobacco to soft-currency Sovi et bloc countries Cuba may be susceptible to U.S. pressure to halt its intervention in Nicaragua. Fidel Castro, cornered by a stagnant economy and reduced Soviet financial assistance, has recently launched another public relations campaign that advertises Cuba's eagerness for a resumption of bilateral talks with the U.S. Washington should let Castro know that a bilateral agenda that includes lessening U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba will be contingent, among other things, upon a Cuban disengagement fr o m Nicaragua. The broadcasts of U.S.-based Radio Marti, a news service to Cuba could also raise internal Cuban opposition to its foreign adven tures A clear message ECONOMIC OPTIONS Reduce Bilateral Trade In 1984, the U.S. imported $57 million of such Nica r aguan products as bananas, beef, shellfish, and coffee. U.S. exports to Nicaragua were $112 million, virtually all of it such agricul ture-related products as insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides and farm equipment its PO1 Suspending trade with Nicaragua would have a major impact on economy, already severely damaged by the Sandinistas' economic icies. It would boost its neighbors' economies, if Nicaragua's export quotas were reallocated to Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala. The International Emergency E c onomic Powers Act permits such a embargo.g The President may invoke the Act to See Overview of Current Provisions of U.S. Trade Law, Subcommittee on Trade of the Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives December 4, 1984, p. 110, for disc u ssion of the IEEPA. 9 respond to an Ifunusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States." The Act requires the President to consult with Congress whenever possible before declar.ing an emergency, and to submit to Congress a report explaining and justifying his actions.

Such reports must be updated every six months while the emergency lasts. The trade restrictive authority of the Act states that the President may Itby means of instructions, licenses or otherwise, investigate, regulate, prevent, or prohibit virtually all aspects of foreign trade, from the transfer of exchange or credit to the import or export of currency and g oods.

The authority granted under the Act was exercised by Presidents Carter and Reagan toward Iran in retaliation for the taking of American hostages.

Objections to such action deserve serious consideration.

One is that economic boycotts are ineffective in the long term if alternative trading partners or financial supporters are available. This raises the question of Soviet willingness or ability to play the economic role in Nicaragua.it has assumed in the Cuban economy which received over 4 billion in Soviet economic aid last year.

The anemia of the Soviet economy and its large financial commitment to Cuba make it unlikely that it could readily take on the addi tional burden of funding a nearly bankrupt Nicaragua.

A further objection to a U.S. economic embargo is that the Nicaraguan economy is already collapsing under the weight of mis management and massive military expenditures and that a hostile move to cut off trade would be used as anti-American Nicaraguan pro p aganda. Finally, U.S. obligations under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) would require it to suspend its bilateral memoranda of understanding with Nicaragua and open up the possibility that the GATT would rule the action illegal. In that c ase, the U.S. could be required to pay compensation to Nicaragua, and if it refused to do so, Nicaragua, under the GATT rules, could legally take retaliatory trade sanctions against the U.S. Far more serious, it would mean the U.S. would be in viola tion of an international agreement to which it is committed as a free-trade nation.

Although an economic embargo has some potential drawbacks as a long-term policy, it should not be dismissed as a tactical policy option economy could weaken further internal sup port for the Sandinista government, which has already eroded substantially among farmers and peasants. One of the chief benefits of economic denial would be to curtail sharply Nicaragua's capacity to fund its expanding military force Pressure on Nicaragua ' s rapidly deteriorating Multilateral Development Organizations The U.S. has used its voting power in the Inter-American Development Bank to block financing for development projects in 10 Nicaragua; Washington should continue to do so. Managua's request fo r a 58.4 million agriculture loan has been the focus of recent controversy, but two other requests are currently under review totalling nearly 70 million. There is no justification for development loans to a government intent on eliminating private propert y and the market system.

Orders, the Nicaraguan government is consolidating state control of the economy. According to Commander Bayardo Arce, Ifany invest ment project in our country belongs to the State. The bourgeoisie no longer invests-it subsists.1f10 Through a series of Executive REGIONAL ECONOMIC ORGANIZATIONS Central America's regional organizations for economic develop ment and integration, the Central American Common Market and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, have been paralyz e d since the late 1970s economic conditions that interrupted the region's economic pro gress and partly by political instability. The question of whether the U.S. should assist these two institutions has been under study since the 1984 Kissinger Commission Report proposed that they be used as a channel to reinvigorate the region's economies exact nature and function remain unclear. Since Nicaragua cannot be excluded legally as a beneficiary of the two existing organiza tions U.S. development assistance shou l d continue on a bilateral basis with the other countries in the region. If any new regional tance directly to the private sector and to countries in the region that respect private property and operate on market princi ples The breakdown was partly caused by world I I Also under review is the Commission's proposal to create a Central American Development Organization, although its I organization is founded, it should be designed to channel assis- I Military Op tions I There are a number of options for exer t ing military pressure I on Nicaragua. While a full-scale U.S. invasion force should never be definitively rejected, the U.S. could achieve its objec tives through less costly and drastic action. Concluded the Kissinger Commission report, with respect to t h e use of military force: "We can expect negotiations to succeed only if those we seek to persuade have a clear understanding that there are circum stances in which the use of force, by the United States or by others, could become necessary as a last resor t .I1l1 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, known as the Rio Treaty, provides a legal framework for collective defense lo l1 La Vanguardia, Barcelona, Spain, July 31, 1984 Report of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, January 1984, p. 107. 11 in the hemisphere. The Treaty was invoked in 1965 for the 'opera tion in the Dominican Republic. Former Foreign Minister Fernando Volio of Costa Rica cited it as an ultimate recourse in a s peech at the Organization of American States in 1983, made to protest Nicaraguan armed incursions into Costa Rican territory. The U.S and its regional allies would be justified in taking collective military action against Nicaragua under the terms of the treaty in the case of a Nicaraguan "armed attack" against any of its neighbors.12 Reqional Defense Orqanizations If Nicaragua's neighbors in Central America move to form a regional defense organization, the U.S. should offer appropriate support.

Central Am erican Council for Defense (CONDECA set up in 1964 as a joint defense organization for the region by Guatemala, Honduras El Salvador, and Nicaragua. The Sandinistas' takeover of Nicaragua caused a regional realignment that undermined CONDECA, since the ot h er members came to view Nicaragua itself as the chief threat to their security. Efforts were made .to set up a new organization leading in 1982 to the Central American Democratic Community, comprising Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. At t h e time, Panama and Belize declined to participate, but recent political shifts in those countries may reopen the possibility of an expanded membership There is a precedent for such an arrangement in the Matchinq Nicaraqua's Military Capability The U.S. al s o must be alert to changes in the regional balance of military force, and take appropriate steps to ensure that the defense capability of its friends in the region is ade quate, while preventing a dangerous escalation in the sophistica- tion of military a ssistance will enforce its prohibition on the. introduction of high performance jet fighters in Nicaragua a threshold, given the nature of the conflict and terrain in Central America.

Hind helicopter gunships,passed almost unnoticed in the shadow of the su spected delivery of MiG jet fighters to Nicaragua in November The U.S. must make clear that it Unfortunately, the U.S. may have drawn the line at too high Nicaraguan acquisition of Soviet-made MI-24 l2 Article 3 of the Rio Treaty reads that an armed attac k by any state against an American State shall be considered as an attack aga'inst all the American States and, consequently each one of the said contracting parties undertakes to assist in meeting the attack in the exercise of the inherent.right of indivi dual or collec tive self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

On the request of the State or States directly attacked, and until a decision of the organ of consultation of the Inter-American system, each one of the contracting pa rties may determine the immediate measure which it may individually take in fulfillment of the obligation The high contracting parties agree 12 19

84. These aircraft are the world's most heavily armed, sophis- ticated, and fastest helicopters. For the kin d of military operations suitable to Central American terrain, they are probably as effective as the aircraft that was not de1i~ered.l The U.S should move quickly to supply El Salvador and Honduras with Huey AH-1s Cobra helicopter gunships to counter Nica r agua's advantage DIRECT U.S. MILITARY INVOLVEMENT The use of direct military force against Nicaragua would be advisable only if there were an important change in the region's status quo A major military offensive by the Sandinista govern ment against its o wn population, the introduction of high performance jet aircraft or other advanced weapons systems into Nicaragua, or a Nicaraguan cross-border attack on any of its neighbors are the kinds of situations that might trigger a direct U.S. military response U . S. military operations that should be considered are full-scale intervention with U.S. forces, a block ade, the selective destruction of military targets in Nicaragua and the introduction of a small number of special U.S. and Latin American forces to aid the anti-Sandinista rebels. The successful action in Grenada can serve as a model.

There are important reasons for holding these options in reserve. Intervention with U.S. forces would be an extremely costly undertaking and would certainly entail the loss of American lives. U.S. intervention in Santo Doming0 in 1965 involved over 23,000 combat troops to restore order in a single city where they faced virtually no opposition It is also possible that direct military intervention in Nicaragua would require a p rolonged military occupation and a counterinsurgency campaign. To be effective, a U.S. naval blockade preventing the shipment of arms to Nicaragua would have to be in effect for an indefinite period and as in the case of an invasion, would limit the U.S. r esponse capability to crises elsewhere. The selective destruction of military targets, such as airfields or Soviet military materiel would 'achieve U.S. security objectives at a much lower cost, but it would be likely to provoke strong U.S. domestic and i n terna tional opposition if Nicaragua proclaimed its right of self defense and national ~0vereignty.l must be anticipated conveyed convincingly to the American public, it will not enjoy the level of public support crucial to the successful outcome of such a n operation. Adoption of any of these options also would Finally, the political repercussions of military options Unless the need for such action can be l3 l4 John F. Guilmartin, Jr Nicaragua is Armed for Trouble," The Wall Street Journal, March 11, 1985.

David Ronfeldt, Geopolitics, Security and U.S. Strategy in the Caribbean Basin (Rand Corporation, 1983). 13 I require at least the tacit acceptance of neighboring Central American countries, if future U.S.-Latin American relations are not to be jeopardize d, and joint action by the U.S. and its Central American allies should be undertaken 'if possible.

CONCLUSION U.S. policy to date has rested chiefly on military assistance to the Nicaraguan anti-government rebels as the most viable option for forcing the Nicaraguan government to move away from its alignment with the Soviet bloc and return to the original democratic ideals of the 1979 revolution. Further military assistance to the opposition forces has been defeated temporarily by Congress. Although it may be renewed in the future, the U.S in any event must explore the feasibility and effectiveness of other policy options to halt the consolidation of a Soviet-aligned, Marxist government in Central America.

The successful U.S. operation in Grenada in 1.983 a nd the progress made in El Salvador on both the military and political fronts, largely due to the combination of strong U.S. backing and pressure, demonstrate that a well-designed, consistent U.S policy can be effective in simultaneously protecting U.S. s e curity interests and promoting democracy and the rule of law in the Caribbean Basin area An important element of those 'achievements has been the demonstration of U.S. determination and its willing ness to use force when necessary to protect its interests and defend the right of other nations to genuine self-determination In Nicaragua, there is growing rebellion against the Sandinistas Marxist dictatorship, and in the international community, a belated recognition of the nature of the Sandinista regime and the dangers it poses to Western security. U.S. policy toward Nicaragua should build on these circumstances to thwart Soviet and Cuban-backed efforts to impose a Marxist totalitarian govern ment on the unwilling people of Nicaragua.

Virginia Polk Policy Analyst




S. Anna

Visiting Fellow