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Americans in Panama: A Century of Occupation and Invasion
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Most scholarly works on Operation Just Cause, the code name for the 1989 invasion of Panama by the United States, have focused on the capture of General Manuel Noriega. This focus ignores the complexity of U.S.-Panamanian relations and the long history of American citizens in Panama, however, and reinforces a puppet narrative. This thesis argues instead that the primary motive for Operation Just Cause was to protect the 35,500 American citizens at risk in Panama. By discounting this population, previous works offer limited insights into the invasion. Fully accounting for this large and vulnerable population makes clear that the use of military force represented a prudent response to a very real threat. The removal of Noriega was merely the means to an end: the protection of American citizens. Political, diplomatic, and economic pressure did not convince Noriega, who was never a “puppet,” to step down. In fact, they worsened the situation for Americans and compelled the Bush Administration to use the only remaining option: military force.
SubjectOperation Just Cause
Panama Canal Zone
Direct Military Interventions
Villar, David (2017). Americans in Panama: A Century of Occupation and Invasion. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from