It took me a couple of months to get through this book
not because it was long or boring, but the font was too small and gave me a headache after reading 10 or so pages. I blame UNC Press
for picking Ehrhardt font
. This book was only 300 pages, so they could have enlarged the typeset and made it 400 pages. Then I wouldn't have to wear reading glasses on top of my regular glasses to get through this thing.
Anyway, the actual content was really interesting. I remember a movie from the 80's called Walker
(just released on DVD this year) about an American who took over Nicaragua in the 1850's thanks to the awesome firepower of a few helicopters. I think the helicopter bit was a commentary on the 1980's US involvement in Nicaragua, but William Walker
really did invade Nicaragua in 1855 w/ a private army and become the country's president. I've always been fascinated about how this could have happened just from a tactical standpoint. I mean how can a few hundred guys can take over an entire nation w/o some kind of huge technological advantage (like, say, helicopters in 1855)? It turns out they had plenty of local supporters, and they had to slowly accumulate territory and would never control the entire country. It also turns out there were other people putting together private armies to take control of Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and some other Latin American countries. Part of this was with an eye to expand US territory (more specifically territories that allowed slavery). Mostly these guys like Narciso Lopez
and John Quitman
wanted power and thought these Latin American nations were too weak to stop their private armies. They were wrong. Not only did locals fight them off, but Britain, France, and Spain helped defend these countries against what they considered a bunch of pirates. Still there was an ever willing group of volunteers and financiers
in the US who provided the backbone of these schemes. Essentially, the Civil War ended these kinds of expeditions, and people in the US forgot about it. However, people in Latin America did not. I guess if a bunch of American "soldiers" tried to invade your country, you might pass on your resentment to the next generation. So if you are travelling to any of these places, remember to leave your firearms at home lest you are mistaken for an invading army (I'm assuming your kids would also be armed).