Foreign Policy Blogs

Adding to the Next President's Reading List

alliancecurse.gifContinuing on Moises Naim's theme of fixing double standards in American foreign policy (mentioned in my last post), Brookings Institution press recently published a book called Alliance Curse: How America Lost the Third World.

Authored by Hilton L. Root, a professor at George Mason University's School of Public Policy, the book argues that US policy makers must break their habit of “forging alliances with dictators who do not share its values of freedom and democracy.”

From the book's press page:

“In Alliance Curse, Hilton Root illustrates how misguided foreign aid policy can backfire, stunting rather than advancing political and economic development, and poisoning relations instead of capturing hearts and minds. Partnering with dictators can produce perverse disincentives for those regimes to govern for prosperity, resulting in corruption, economic failure, and instability. These policies contradict America's image as the champion of freedom and democracy, making the developing world even more wary of its intentions.

Why does this self-defeating tendency continue? U.S. policymakers find that the demands of their constituents‚ security, affordable raw materials, access to markets‚ are most easily accomplished by cutting deals with autocrats. Democracies, even poor ones, are less likely to exchange policy concessions for aid. Accordingly, the most corrupt low-income countries, those generally under autocratic rule, receive the bulk of U.S. bilateral assistance. But the ill effects of this trade-off can linger for generations.

The linkage of U.S. aid to oppressive regimes erodes goodwill toward America among indignant populations. And when the foreign assistance dries up‚ as it invariably does‚ the dictators themselves frequently turn on America and end their cooperation. It is no wonder then that the United States faces major foreign policy dilemmas in the very countries that were major recipients of aid.”

Sounds like another book that deserves to be on the next President's reading list.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.