You don’t have to be a popular, democratically elected government to be overthrown by the CIA - but it helps. In the years since WWII the CIA has developed an impressive and effective playbook, one that they have refined through long practice, designed specifically to oust elected leaders considered unfriendly to US business interests.
In this book, Blum walks us through the 50 or so coups, political manipulation, and invasions engineered by the CIA and by the US military in countries in every region of the world, beginning with China, Greece, and Italy immediately after the war.
I was at least somewhat familiar with most of the coups described in the book, but there were a few surprises - Australia in the mid 70s was the most shocking. Gough Whitlam, the prime minister of Australia, attempted to rein in the security state and exercise civilian control over it - very naive, and doomed to failure. The CIA put heavy pressure on the governor-general of Australia to dissolve parliament and remove Whitlam from office - and what the CIA wants, the CIA gets, more often than not.
During the entire period of the cold war (the subject of roughly 90% of this book), as the US overthrew, disrupted, and invaded one country after another, the US press parroted State Department propaganda, claiming continuously and without evidence that it was really International Communism that posed the threat to Free Capitalist Democracies everywhere. In most cases where CIA or military involvement couldn’t be completely hidden, the official line was that US intervention was necessary to counter communist “infiltrators”. Infiltrators were coming out of the woodwork, it seemed, and were so skilled at deception that actual evidence of their existence was seldom offered.
The book only covers the period up to the mid 90s - an accounting of the intervening 18 years would fill another 100 or so pages. But, no matter: the playbook hasn’t changed very much, other than an increasing reliance on private “contractors” to carry out the wet work.