Print Сite this

U.S Invasion of Panama of 1989: Significance of Panama’s Geographical Location and the Canal

Introduction

After two years of economic sanctions failed to topple the Panamanian government, the United States government resorted to a massive military invasion to accomplish its objectives. The decision to invade Panama in 1989, an operation referred to as “Operation Just Cause” has been seen on many fronts by many analysts as both political and economic (Berryman & Gold 1989, p.7). This operation occurred under the then US President George H.W. Bush and interestingly, a decade after the Panama Canal treaties ratification that was meant to transfer the control of the canal back to Panama from the United States by the end of the century, 2000 (p.8). It is during this invasion that the US troops deposed the Panamanian long-time dictator, General Manuel Noriega and subsequently opposition leader and President-elect Guillermo Endara were installed and sworn into Office (Blum 1996, p.59).

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

According to the then intelligence and numerous media reports, the operation was meant to bring sanity into Panama by apprehending and bringing General Noriega to justice, and subsequently bringing democracy to Panama (VVAW 1989, p.46). However, critical observers do not agree with this as the sole purpose for this invasion, mentioning the US foreign policy. So what were the objectives of this invasion? Notably, this was the immediate significant large-scale post-Vietnam War by the United States, and the first-ever combat test of the Gold Water- Nichol Act that was enacted in 1986 (Berryman & Gold 1989, p.66). This act was meant to “fix shortfalls with inter-service cooperation and integration” (p.67). It is also critical to note that the United States military personnel remained in Panama during the canal-building all the way to 1999. This paper seeks to analyze the geographical significance of Panama and the Canal issue to the United States interests that led to the invasion Panama invasion in 1989.

The Panama Canal Issue

The increased scientific inventions saw the use of atomic bombs in World War II. This created a lot of concern for the United States and the world as a whole. To the United States, it was the defense of the canal that would ensure their continued access to the region (Blum, 1996, p4). They, therefore, ordered the canal engineers to do the surveys and come up with recommendations on what is needed to make the canal more efficient and secure. Some of the critical recommendations that were put in the proposal were: to deepen the canal to the sea level to eliminate the vulnerable locks; to construct another canal to pass through Nicaragua; and to complete the third set of locks (Zinn 2000, p.119).

The Security of the Canal

As noted, it is observable that the United States took the issue of the Canal security as a priority in the accessibility of the region. Berryman & Gold 1989 (p.69) note that it is a very sensitive area since it is easy to sabotage United Sates in both ground and air if the Canal is blocked. He also states that for its successful protection, it required a full corporation as well as the trust of the Panamanian government and military forces (p.41). This fact could explain the invasion and oust of the then General Noriega by the United States and the subsequent installation of a more friendly government.

The existing evidence has revealed that the United States government and the Pentagon planned to overthrow the Panamanian government and replace it with a dependent and subservient regime that would be ready to negotiate key provisions of the 1977 Panama Canal Treaties (Zinn 2000, p.11). According to the observers, the sections of the treaty that were more objectionable to the US military planners were like the shutdown in 1999 of all 14 U.S. Southern Command bases in Panama and the subsequent transfer of the Canal management and ownership to the Panama government (p.12). It is also important to note that the treaty prohibited the use of United States forces outside the Canal Zone and the U.S military bases (p.19).

The Value of Panama and Canal to the United States

The strategic geographical importance of the Canal was very evident in the United States’ aggression. Even though some observers would see that the US invasion of Panama was more of bringing justice to the then oppressed nation, Panama’s strategic geographical location to entire Latin America and the Canal issue was even of critical aspect, considering the United States foreign interest as earlier stated. The United States forces remained in Panama for the most part of the 20th century (Rotemberg & Saloner, 1990, p.45). The canals and Panama’s strategic landscape proved critical in the region as evidenced by the way United States forces guarded it during World War II, using a large number of forces, as German Submarines intensified their activities in the Caribbean Sea (Stuart & Sorenson2003, p.41). Come 1989, United States posted 10,000 military personnel to “guard and defend” the canal (p.43). Why did they do this?

The value and importance of the Canal were critical in relation to the commercial and military activities in the United States. This importance is still evident to date considering the United States foreign policy in Latin America, and the increased drug trafficking issue in the region and its impact on the United States (Stuart & Sorenson 2003, p.61). All these are despite the fact that presently, there are vast changes in transportation as well as communication policies and technologies (Saxenian 1994, p.72). Furthermore, even after the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, the United States still felt the need to open other routes in that region. The feeling that over-reliance on one route was not sufficient enough led them to negotiate another treaty, the 1916 Bryan- Chamorro Treaty, which guaranteed them an option route all through Nicaragua and the Gulf of Fonseca (VVAW 1989, p.81; Zinn 2000; p.7).

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

It is therefore important to note that the Panama Canal Zone is approximated to be 10 and 50 miles in width and length respectively (Almeida & Kogut 1999, p.906), plus its critical connection to Panama as a nation can be seen to generate three main benefits to the United States, namely:

  1. Economic benefit through wealth creation; over the years the United States have benefited in terms of saving costs of travel in terms of the shortened distance as well as travel time. This is because through the canals, ships that sail through the Western and Eastern points of the United Sates’ global destinations, especially between New York and California have helped the country generate and marshal huge wealth over the years (Krugman 1991, p.7).
  2. Political control of the region: the US interest in the control of the Latin America has a long history. The building of military base in Panama, particularly at the zone of the canal has been seen as a geo-strategic force that operates to ensure the United States controls the Latin America region as a whole, and the same time furnish a training and indoctrination center the military officers of the regions nations (Rotemberg & Saloner 1990, p.71; Berryman & Gold 1989, p.92).
  3. Maintaining transnational corporation; the existence of financial center in Isthmus has been very important in maintaining corporation with other nations in this region (Berryman & Gold 1989, p.94). It is estimated that between 80% and 90% of Panama’s foreign economic transactions are with the United States (p.94). Furthermore, a half of all the private sectors enterprises in Panama are associated with the United Sates (p.91).

The Strategic Geographic Analysis

Since the middle of the last decade, the world has become very small in terms of regional access (Held & McGrew 2007, p.4). This is because the costs of moving from one place to another or communicating with a person overseas have improved tremendously (p.6). This may lead one to ask if there is any reason for the geographical boundaries, especially in economic and social terms. However, the increased interest in regions and space has not diminished as expected and instead the increased interest in geographical distribution of economy is seen to mark the beginning of the explicit importance of geography (Almeida & Kogut 1999, p.75).

Classical economist Adam Smith Wealth of Nations, cited in (Stuart & Sorenson 2003, p.11) explains why some nations had grown more prosperous than others. He explained this using the division of labor to improve productivity. However, modern economists have directly linked the economics and geography in a more close association. For example, Cristaller (1933) cited in (Held & McGrew (2007, p.63), highlighted different levels of production but emphasizes on the importance of reducing transportation and communication costs to increase profitability, hence increasing the wealth of nations. One more influential explanation occurs in Lancaster (1979), who states that the “economy of agglomeration” may make certain nations to concentrate their activities in a certain geographical region to extend their political influence in order to increase their wealth against the interest of the concurred region (Stuart & Sorenson 2003, p16). According to Held & McGrew (2007, p.171) the strategic functions of the nation can be used as a basis for global or regional operation. The distinction between national global economies is defined by the strategic geography as defined by the powerful nation (p.173). It is through this strategy that a nation would want to hold a specific geographical region important considering the resources available and the surrounding regions importance (p.174).

Conclusion

Panama is a very critical state to the United States. The strategic geographical location of its Canal was not only very crucial United States’ interest in the early years but still hold the historical importance to date. Even though some would defend the fact that the US invasion of Panama was more of bringing justice to the then oppressed nation, the Panama’s strategic geographical location to the entire Latin America and the Canal issue was even of critical aspect. Their interest of controlling the region relies heavily on the canal and its host country, Panama. This could explain why United States forces remained in Panama for the most part of the 20th century. And still, the interest is still intact considering the theoretical perspectives associated with nation’s interest in terms of economic and security issue. For example, rather than economic interest, it is known that Panama forms parts of the countries in the Caribbean region that are hub for drug trafficking. Thus holding the region as part of its geographical plans is seen as away of maintaining its security and the fighting the general crime.

Reference

Almeida, P & Kogut, B. (1999) Localization of knowledge and the mobility of engineers in regional networks. Management Science, 45, 905-917.

Berryman, A & Gold E. (1989) Panama: Behind The Headlines (A Report by the Latin American and Caribbean and NARMIC Programs of the Peace Education Div. of the American Friends Service Committee). Philadelphia: AFSC.

Blum, W. (1996) The CIA: A Forgotten History. London and New Jersey: Zed Books Ltd.

We will write a custom
essays
specifically
for you!
Get your first paper with
15% OFF
Learn More

Held D & McGrew G. (2007) Globalization Theory: Approaches and Controversies. New York: Sage Publishers.

Krugman, P. (1991) Increasing returns and economic geography. Journal of Political Economy, 99, 483-499.

Rotemberg, J & Saloner, G. (1990) Competition and human capital accumulation: A theory of interregional specialization and trade. NBER working paper 3228.

Saxenian, A. (1994) Regional advantage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Stuart, T & Sorenson, O. (2003), The geography of opportunity: Spatial heterogeneity in founding rates and the performance of economic terms. Research Policy: in press.

Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW (1989) Vietnam Veterans Fact-Finding Delegation To Panama–Final Report. Brooklyn, N.Y.

Zinn, H. (2000). A People’s History of the United States. Chicago, Harper Colophon Book.

Cite this paper

Select style

Reference

StudyCorgi. (2021, November 7). U.S Invasion of Panama of 1989: Significance of Panama’s Geographical Location and the Canal. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/u-s-invasion-of-panama-of-1989-significance-of-panamas-geographical-location-and-the-canal/

Reference

StudyCorgi. (2021, November 7). U.S Invasion of Panama of 1989: Significance of Panama’s Geographical Location and the Canal. https://studycorgi.com/u-s-invasion-of-panama-of-1989-significance-of-panamas-geographical-location-and-the-canal/

Work Cited

"U.S Invasion of Panama of 1989: Significance of Panama’s Geographical Location and the Canal." StudyCorgi, 7 Nov. 2021, studycorgi.com/u-s-invasion-of-panama-of-1989-significance-of-panamas-geographical-location-and-the-canal/.

1. StudyCorgi. "U.S Invasion of Panama of 1989: Significance of Panama’s Geographical Location and the Canal." November 7, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/u-s-invasion-of-panama-of-1989-significance-of-panamas-geographical-location-and-the-canal/.


Bibliography


StudyCorgi. "U.S Invasion of Panama of 1989: Significance of Panama’s Geographical Location and the Canal." November 7, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/u-s-invasion-of-panama-of-1989-significance-of-panamas-geographical-location-and-the-canal/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2021. "U.S Invasion of Panama of 1989: Significance of Panama’s Geographical Location and the Canal." November 7, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/u-s-invasion-of-panama-of-1989-significance-of-panamas-geographical-location-and-the-canal/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2021) 'U.S Invasion of Panama of 1989: Significance of Panama’s Geographical Location and the Canal'. 7 November.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.