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Sunday, April 21 2019 @ 08:51 PM UTC

New book offers detailed picture of Panama operations in ‘89

Books & Reading By Alex McVeigh Pentagram Staff Writer - The United States invasion of Panama was, for a brief time, a dominant case study for military service institutions as a study in post-Cold War tactics. But as larger issues in the Middle East have come to define the past twenty years of American conflict, the Panama invasion has lost its luster for the military strategist. The Center of Military History has recently released its own take on the events leading up to the invasion, written by Lawrence Yates. ‘‘The U.S. Military Intervention in Panama: Origins, Planning, and Crisis Management, June 1987-December 1989” provides a complete historical overview of the events that led to the invasion of Panama. Yates, a Ph.D. who spent 24 years teaching and writing about military conflicts at the Combat Studies Institute, was in Panama in 1989, during Operation Just Cause. (more)

His book is a detailed chronicle of the rise of Gen. Manuel Noriega, and how his rise to power led to the strain on U.S.-Panama relations, finally reaching the point where invasion became the only alternative.

The book begins and ends with the events of the night of December 16, 1989. That night, four American service members were in a car that ran a roadblock close to the Panama Defense Forces headquarters. Guards at the checkpoint opened fire, killing a Marine, Lt. Robert Paz.

This event was the final straw in the increasing tensions between the PDF and American forces stationed across Panama.

Yates does a great job of detailing exactly why the U.S. had such a vested interest in Panama. Under the rule of Colombia until 1903, when the Theodore Roosevelt administration negotiated their independence, Panama was always viewed as a strategic location, so American ships would not have to go around the tip of South America.

The book doesn’t focus much on narrative storytelling, it reads more like a textbook. Yates bases much of his work on conversations with the senior military officials involved, which provide a complete tactical perspective of the gradual ‘‘ratcheting up” of the U.S.military presence.

Non-military readers might find the extensive use of acronyms distracting, as there are multiple mentions of ‘‘SOUTHCOM,” ‘‘JTF-Panama” and ‘‘JSOTF.”

There are also lots of names thrown about, and plenty of operation names, which can sometimes be hard to follow.

But it isn’t meant to be a New York Times Bestseller kind of history novel. It comes from the Center of Military History, so it’s not necessarily for the casual reader.

As mentioned before, the book ends with the death of Paz, and the former President George H.W. Bush deciding that delaying intervention would put American citizens in unnecessary danger.

A companion piece to this book, chronicling the actual events of Operation Just Cause is currently being written by Yates.

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