During the Cold War era, the United States faced the prospect of expanding its power in Central America. But we miscalculated--grievously. After 1945, Central America teemed with leaders willing to alter the region's quasi-colonial status. Some, like Fidel Castro, sought out revolution to shatter the status quo. Others, like Anastasio Somoza Garcia, attempted to seek out new directions along more subtle paths. Nicaragua subsequently challenged American hegemony in a manner at once more deliberate and more dangerous than any other effort in the hemisphere. The Somoza regime, unlike its contemporaries, chose to utilize American institutions and American preferences to subvert the latter's power rather than reinforce it. American arrogance, combined with a complacent approach to policy in its global "backyard," offered a myriad of political, military, and economic opportunities to a leader willing to take risks. In the years after 1945, Somoza was thus able to peel away layers of clientage until, at certain moments, he could act as a partner of his northern neighbor.