Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-2-2016

Major Department or Program



David F. Schmitz


On December 20, 1989, the United States invaded Panama to overthrow and arrest Panamanian dictator Gen. Manuel Noriega. The invasion, code-named “Operation Just Cause,” was the biggest deployment of U.S. troops since the Vietnam War and represented a turning point in the use of military force. However, previous scholarship has not examined "Operation Just Cause" in terms of its global context and its impact on future U.S. military interventions. This thesis asks why President George H.W. Bush chose to intervene militarily in Panama and how the end of the Cold War impacted that decision. It asserts that "Operation Just Cause" was an invasion with global implications and that it had a significant impact on the Bush administration's overall foreign policy. It argues that the lessons learned in this invasion provided the foundation of the Powell Doctrine that would later be employed in the Gulf War, the Bush administration's self-proclaimed foreign policy triumph. Moreover, the invasion allowed the Bush administration to define the threats that the United States would face in an era beyond super power confrontation and justify continued military preparedness.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Aversion -- Political aspects -- United States -- Treaties, Dictators-- South America, Manuel Antonio Noriega (1934-), Panama-- History -- American Invasion (1989) -- Operation Just Cause, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2016 -- History Department

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