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Alliance Curse

How America Lost the Third World

Hilton L. Root

Publication Year: 2008

In Alliance Curse, Hilton Root illustrates that recent U.S. foreign policy is too often misguided, resulting in misdirected foreign aid and alliances that stunt political and economic development among partner regimes, leaving America on the wrong side of change. Many alliances with third world dictators, ostensibly of mutual benefit, reduce incentives to govern for prosperity and produce instead political and social instability and economic failure. Yet again, in the war on terror and in the name of preserving global stability, America is backing authoritarian regimes that practice repression and plunder. It is as if the cold war never ended. While espousing freedom and democracy, the U.S. contradicts itself by aiding governments that do not share those values. In addition to undercutting its own stated goal of promoting freedom, America makes the developing world even more wary of its intentions. Yes, the democracy we preach arouses aspirations and attracts immigrants, but those same individuals become our sternest critics; having learned to admire American values, they end up deploring U.S. policies toward their own countries. Long-term U.S. security is jeopardized by a legacy of resentment and distrust. A lliance Curse proposes an analytical foundation for national security that challenges long-held assumptions about foreign affairs. It questions the wisdom of diplomacy that depends on questionable linkages or outdated suppositions. The end of the Soviet Union did not portend the demise of communism, for example. Democracy and socialism are not incompatible systems. Promoting democracy by linking it with free trade risks overemphasizing the latter goal at the expense of the former. The growing tendency to play China against India in an effort to retain American global supremacy will hamper relations with both —an intolerable situation in today's interdependent world. Root buttresses his analysis with case studies of American foreign policy toward developing countries (e.g., Vietnam), efforts at state building, and nations growing in importance, such as China. He concludes with a series of recommendations designed to close the gap between security and economic development.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Foreign policy is a matter of perspective, and my perspective changed decisively during the period in which the ideas expressed here germinated.As a senior U.S. Treasury official in 2001, I began with a front seat at the creation of the Millennium Challenge Account, the invasion and subsequent administration of Iraq, and U.S. development policymaking under the Bush administration,...


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pp. 1

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1 Economic Logic of the Alliance Curse

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pp. 3-14

American globalism requires a new script. During the cold war that script was motivated by grand theories of social change that failed to establish correlations between what actually occurred and what we had grounds to expect.1 Yet cold war perceptions of threats and opportunities were built so well into our culture that they are repeated by today’s policymakers.2 We are...

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2 Democratic Paradoxes: Institutional Constraints on U.S. Democracy Promotion

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pp. 15-30

When the United States engages in foreign policy, it must confront two paradoxes: many people who hate the United States want to live here and, in contrast with the ideals and principles that Americans profess, their government supports repressive, even brutal regimes that enjoy little popular support. The following chapters provide a theoretical and historical framework...

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3 The Dangers of Triumphalism

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pp. 31-41

According to U.S. triumphalism, American resolve turned the tide of international Communism, brought down the Berlin Wall, and propelled the United States into its role as the world’s sole superpower. This belief appeals to collective pride and suggests a reassuring message for policy specialists and proselytizers in both parties. On the right, triumphalists maintain that U.S....

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4 Incompatible Missions and Unsuitable Organizations

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pp. 42-54

Perhaps the most costly miscalculation in American foreign policy is a failure to appreciate how the private interests of politicians affect their choice of public policies. One body of literature in economics known as public choice teaches that foreign policy serves the same electoral objectives for an incumbent administration as does domestic policy. Public choice allows us to...

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5 Social Bifurcation and Ultimatum Bargaining: The Vision Gap in U.S. Reconstruction Efforts

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pp. 55-67

American presidents are compelled to tailor their appeals to the electorate in a language that draws from domestic experience.Unfortunately, the domestic models and belief systems on which U.S. foreign policy are based diverge from the experience of developing nations.Worse, U.S. models and assumptions have created a gap between American conceptions and the...


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pp. 69

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6 The United States and China: The Power of Illusion with Chunjuan Wei

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pp. 71-85

To stabilize China, Chiang Kai-shek had two options: eradicate Communism or work with the Communists to build an inclusive modern state. U.S. assistance allowed Chiang to concentrate on the first and ignore the second. Emboldened to think that he could count on unconditional American support to win China’s civil war, Chiang had no incentive to form a coalition...

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7 The United States as Master Builder in the Philippines

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pp. 86-102

Perhaps the best way to understand the limits of U.S. vision for promoting adaptive social change in developing Asia is to contrast U.S. experiences in South Vietnam and the Philippines. The Philippines is where U.S. policy planners had the most time to observe, plan, and act relative to other third world interventions. Virtually no outside interference had to be contended with....

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8 Illegitimate Offspring: South Vietnam

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pp. 103-121

South Vietnam, like the Philippines, was the object of a monumental U.S. effort at nation building. It was a U.S. foreign policy priority for nearly two decades and the largest recipient of U.S. aid from 1954 to 1973. Created by the Eisenhower administration, the country’s raison d’être was to “serve as a bulwark against Communist expansion and . . . a proving ground for...

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9 Mirage of Stability: The United States and the Shah of Iran

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pp. 122-144

A persistent oversight in U.S. reconstruction efforts around the globe has been the failure to anticipate that an externally initiated process of change may introduce greater inequality within a nation by equipping one subset of a population with better survival tools than another. This situation may polarize society and destabilize it. In Iran under Mohammad Reza Shah...

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10 America’s Moral Dilemma in South Asia

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pp. 145-169

Diplomatic relationships between the United States and the Asian subcontinent are puzzling.Although American presidents have always championed the compatibility of democracy and development, building a cooperative relationship with India has proved elusive. In contrast, India’s neighbor and authoritarian rival, Pakistan, has received preference in economic and...


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pp. 171

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11 Walking with the Devil: The Commitment Trap in U.S. Foreign Policy

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pp. 173-179

By the standards the George W. Bush administration set for itself, a successful conclusion to the Iraq invasion was well within reach by the time the president declared victory on May 1, 2003. A constitution was ratified on October 15, 2005, and a general election took place on December 15, 2005, to elect a permanent 275-member Iraqi council. A government, headed by...

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12 Redeeming Democracy through the Market: Do Open Markets Produce Open Politics?

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pp. 180-189

The idea that the free market is the best school for the spread of democracy enjoys the status of a truism.Milton Friedman helped to popularize the view by stating that democracy requires private centers of economic power to counterbalance central state authority. The corollary is that commercial ties between nations nurture a freedom-loving, commercial middle...

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13 Linking U.S. Security to Third World Development

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pp. 190-199

Is there an alternative to militarizing the battle against terrorism in the image of the cold war? In 2002 Clare Short, secretary of Britain’s Department for International Development, proposed a shift away from military solutions and toward sustainable development. Such an alternative would open the policy arena to an array of interest groups, organizations, and institutions, closely...


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pp. 201

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14 Reframing the Purpose of U.S. Globalism: Strategies, Institutions, and Beliefs

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pp. 203-219

In the twenty-first century, prosperity in the United States will hinge on the growth of developing economies. As this book goes to press, more than half of global economic growth occurs in the third world.American security will be closely linked to developing a better relationship with emerging economies. Here are twelve key lessons that the United States should bear in...


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pp. 221-256


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pp. 257-270


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pp. 271-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780815701514
E-ISBN-10: 0815701519

Page Count: 286
Publication Year: 2008