In This Chapter

Operation Just Cause

The U.S. Invasion of Panama

Authored by: Barry Mowell

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  June  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415888479
eBook ISBN: 9781135070991
Adobe ISBN: 9781135071028


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The U.S. invasion of Panama was the largest active engagement of U.S. military forces since the Vietnam War, with some 27,000 troops deployed. The invasion involved coordination of various elements from all branches of the armed forces, was the most logistically complex and intricately planned and executed U.S. military operation in over 40 years, and was the largest-scale airborne deployment of U.S. forces since World War II. The incursion was justified in Washington on the basis of worsening human rights violations and other illegal actions perpetrated by the dictatorship of General Manuel Noriega. The operational objectives included safeguarding American lives, facilitation of democracy and human rights for Panamanian citizens, elimination of Panama’s role as a key transit point for international drug trafficking, and protection of the Panama Canal and its continued neutral operation. Although controversy has been raised concerning certain aspects of the invasion and its justification, Operation Just Cause was successful in realizing its goals via removal of the Noriega regime. This chapter provides an overview of the invasion, its origins, and its outcomes within the framework of both military history and international affairs.

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