This introductory chapter discusses the shift from politicized confrontations like the imbroglio of 1900 to legalized disputes like the more orderly affair of 2007. It advances four basic findings. First, American government intervention on behalf of U.S. foreign investors was astoundingly successful at extracting compensation through the 1980s. Second, American domestic interests trumped strategic concerns again and again, for small economic gains relative to the U.S. economy and the potential strategic losses. Third, the United States proved unable to impose institutional reform in Latin America and West Africa even while American agents were in place. Finally, the technology that the U.S. government used to protect American property rights overseas changed radically over time.
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