Insurgency and Tyranny in Central America
1979 - 1989
By William R. Meara
Published in April 2006 by Naval Institute Press
Want to understand insurgencies? Read Contra Cross.
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Read a review from "Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy"
"In 1949, Alexander Foote
wrote a small book, “A Handbook for Spies” which contains all one needs
to conduct espionage. Now comes another small volume, “Contra Cross”,
William Meara which contains much of what one needs to understand to
for that matter support an insurgency. Based on his experience in
“A boots-in-the-mud personal memoir from the battlefields of El Salvador’s Marxist revolution and Nicaragua’s Contra War, Contra Cross is also an eerily timely admonition of the challenges and pitfalls of today’s ‘transformational’ efforts to democratize the world. It is a warning that victory will require both a very long-term commitment of major national resources and some serious attitude adjustments by us, beginning with our military and diplomatic corps.” -- Dr. Timothy C. Brown, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University, author of The Real Contra War
Why does the United States have such difficulty dealing with insurgency?
A look back at the Central American wars of the 1980s sheds light on the problem. Contra Cross presents one young American officer’s journey through Central America’s violent decade of revolution and counterrevolution. Bill Meara started out as a teacher at a Catholic school in Guatemala, but he went on to become one of fifty-five U.S. military advisers assisting the Salvadorans in their fight against communism. By the end of the decade, he was in the U.S. Foreign Service working as a liaison officer to the Nicaraguan contras. Meara was one of very few Americans to work on both sides of insurgency in the region: in El Salvador he supported efforts to defeat insurgents; with Nicaraguans he worked to keep an insurgency alive.
Contra Cross takes readers into the world of an American adviser struggling with cultural differences and human rights violations while trying to stay alive in murderous El Salvador. We join Meara on dangerous helicopter rides into contra base camps on the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, and learn what it’s like to be in a U.S. embassy under attack. From Special Forces school at Ft. Bragg, to lunch with Communist defectors in El Salvador, to a contra POW camp deep in the jungle, we get a taste of life on the cutting edge of America’s controversial Central America policy.
More than a collection of war stories, Contra Cross explores the difficult moral and ideological issues of the Central American wars. Meara’s experiences with insurgency and counterinsurgency allow him to provide critically important insights on why the United States has such difficulty dealing with ragtag armies of third-world rebels.
“Dead-on accurate, readable, and honest, this book will give no comfort to those gringo politicians still mourning the communist failures in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Bill Meara is someone who has the insurgency-counterinsurgency era in Central America nailed.” -- Col. John Waghelstein, USA (Ret.), Naval War College, former commander of U.S. Military Group – El Salvador and of the 7th Special Forces Group
“Contra Cross is not only a refreshing and an uplifting change from most war memoirs, it is also punctuated with the beautifully written highs and lows of everyday life. Meara studiously avoids both personal aggrandizement and being an apologist for American politicians. His clear and uncommon common sense is refreshing and does much more: It adds weight to his observations both as a Green Beret--trained officer and a U.S. State Department foreign service officer. For the military historian as well as anyone seeking a deeper understanding of how American overseas assistance worked, this book is a must. The fact that the writing reflects intelligence, candor, and fairness to all sides is a terrific bonus.”
-- Loyd Little, former Green Beret
author of the award-winning Vietnam novel Parthian Shot
William R. Meara
on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1984 to 1988, attaining the rank
of captain, and then joined the U.S. Foreign Service where he has
served as a diplomat in Honduras, Spain, the Dominican Republic, the
Azores, the United Kingdom and Italy.
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