Observing the political path of Manuel Noriega from being a paid CIA operative and ally of the American government, to military governor of Panama, to ousted dictator, to convicted American prisoner, exposes a series of political interactions that culminated in Operation Just Cause on December 20, 1989. Coming in the shadow of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and preceding Operation Desert Storm, this brief military action is often overshadowed by the other world conflicts of the time. How does a county the size of America justify invasion of the tiny Panamanian isthmus? How does a dictator such as Manuel Noriega justify declaring war on the United States. Given the great disparity between these two nations, understanding these questions can help interpret their nature. In order to answer these questions, the events leading up to the violent confrontation help establish each nations’ political position and offer insight into their own justifications to engage in military action. The realist and Marxist political perspective theories can be used by analyzing and different levels the justification of armed action involving these two nations.
Throughout the 1970s and early 80s, Manuel Noriega was an asset to the United States as he worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency (The Associated Press). As Noriega’s political strength increased in the early 80s, so did the tensions with the Reagan Administration. These increased tensions led to increasing encounters between Noriega’s Panama Defense Forces and American servicemen and civilians stationed in Panama (Phillips). According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, “there were over 300 incidences of U.S. military personnel and family members' having experienced harassment, threats, or assaults at the hands of the PDF”. Accusations of election fraud plagued Noriega’s regime; coupled with evidence that those who opposed the regime were “physically beaten by Noriega’s Dignity Battalions” (Operation Just Cause). With the stability of the region deteriorating, many unnecessary civilians were relocated to more secure installations.
The newly installed president, George H.W. Bush responded to the situation by increasing the number of troops within the region and increasing military exercises within the Panama Canal Zone (Phillips). Following an attempted coup on Noriega’s regime, Noriega declared a state-of-war with the United States, “to confront foreign aggression” (Operation Just Cause). The day following the declaration of war, Panama Defense Forces shot and killed a United States Marine Corp Lieutenant as he was riding in a personal vehicle, acting as one of many causes for President Bush to order Operation Just Cause to commence. 26,000 military personnel were either already stationed in Panama or were deployed for this mission (Phillips).
Operation Just Cause lasted only days before American troops began to withdraw after meeting many of their objectives. Their...