Evangelicals should stop ignoring its volatile problems.

For the average North American trying to understand the events in Central America, frustration and confusion are the first fruits of any serious study. To begin with, Central America is not familiar territory. As James Reston noted, most North Americans will do anything for Central America except read about it.

One problem encountered when studying events in that part of the world is gaining a true understanding of what is actually happening there. This is complicated by a historical myopia that is especially evident on the political Right. Conservatives have a propensity to view the conflict in Central America without regard for the history that shaped the current crisis.

An example of this can be taken from the current debate over U.S. policy toward Nicaragua. The United States has a long and unfortunate history of military intervention in the internal affairs of this country. The U.S. landed marrines in Nicaragua in 1912, and they stayed there until 1933. In fact, of the 30 times since 1850 that the U.S. has intervened militarily in Central America, 11 of these interventions involved our troops in Nicaragua. Moreover, the government of Somoza, who is often referred to as the “last marine,” was a creation of the United States. And our government openly supported the Somoza family’s repressive dictatorship for 43 years.

How can we dismiss this history so easily in our public debates? Is there any wonder why the present government in Nicaragua is bracing for another U.S. invasion? In light of what we have done before, and in light of the events in Grenada last year, is this a surprise?

Still another problem causing confusion in the national debate over our Central American ...

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