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Yearly Archives: 2015

Peace in Colombia? Lessons from the failed 1999-2002 talks

I have a new article online at the excellent page Latin America Goes Global. There is an excerpt below, but you can read the whole thing at the link above.


December 16, 2015

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has wagered his legacy on the possibility of peace. He is not the first Colombian leader to do so, but Tuesday’s announcement of an agreement on restitution for the conflict’s victims, following a late September announcement of an agreement on transitional justice, has made it clear that the ongoing talks are making greater headway than ever before.

Santos’ immediate predecessor, Álvaro Uribe, made a very different bet on how to end the country’s five-decade internal conflict. Uribe wielded the military, much improved by U.S. hardware, training and intelligence cooperation, in pursuit of unconditional victory against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Uribe beefed up and deployed the coercive institutions of the Colombian state to improve the government’s position on the battlefield and re-establish state authority—though according to his critics often in collaboration with paramilitaries and at the cost of respect for human rights, according to Uribe’s critics.

There’s no doubt—despite their current personal spat—that Santos’ peace initiatives build on the success Uribe’s war against FARC. But the Colombian president would do well to look back to the administration of President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) who preceded Uribe. Like Santos, Pastrana gambled on a negotiated peace with the FARC. His effort was personal—before his swearing in, he traveled to FARC-held territory to meet the guerrilla leader. While Pastrana’s peace efforts coincided with poor military performance and popular demands for an end to the fighting, it also grew from the leader’s own hope to chart a new path for his country’s political and economic future.

Keep reading at Latin America Goes Global!

Kindle edition available now!


Good news!

While we are still waiting for the first hardcover copies of Latin America Confronts the United States: Asymmetry and Influencethe Kindle version is now available from Amazon. You can also download a sample of the book for free to your Kindle or any other device that runs the Kindle Reader program.

The Amazon site also features more information about the book, including some advance reviews from some of the top scholars of U.S.-Latin American relations: Philip Brenner, Abraham F. Lowenthal, and Richard Feinberg. Check it out!

Drugs, Human Rights, Trade, and Distrust

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. President Barack Obama tried to de-emphasize the role of security in U.S.-Mexican relations, but events made that difficult. Now human rights abuses are a growing concern.

The following article was published today by War on the Rocks. Here’s a brief excerpt from my piece. –TL

Last month, citing human rights concerns, the United States quietly withheld about $5 million in counternarcotics assistance for Mexico. The State Department declined to certify that Mexico met conditions imposed on the aid by Congress under the Leahy Amendment, triggering the 15-percent reduction in funding for Mexican security agencies. Though more than $140 million of other U.S. funding will continue to flow, the decision — first reported by The Washington Post and confirmed by a deputy spokesman at the State Department — was cheered by human rights advocates. A senior official at Human Rights Watch told The New York Times that the cut was “unprecedented.”

The State Department’s decision is symbolically important, but Mexico’s muted reaction was perhaps even more surprising. The Mexican government limited its response to a statement that criticized “unilateral practices,” but painted the aid cut as a consequence of U.S. executive–legislative relations. The focus was instead on the “deep and mature bilateral relationship” between the two neighbors. The muted Mexican reaction is no doubt a reciprocation of the State Department’s low-key handling of the issue and recognition of the fact that most aid money continues to flow, but also a reflection of the evolution of Mexican foreign policy toward the United States. Changes in Mexican politics and the “maturation” of bilateral ties allow U.S. policymakers to give greater weight to human rights without jeopardizing the broader relationship. The United States should use that space to respond to the growing concerns of Mexican citizens about human rights and accountability while reevaluating the failing military-led response to Mexico’s insecurity.

Read the rest over at War on the Rocks.

Book launch: Latin America Confronts the United States

Thanks to the U.S. Foreign Policy program at American University for the invitation to present my new book there today. It was an honor to launch the book where it all began. My former professor and current co-author Max Paul Friedman offered an incredibly kind introduction (which I wish I had recorded to listen to when I feel blue). It was fantastic to see a number of former students in attendance along with my former PhD and faculty colleagues.

The book will officially be out in just a few days. You can find out more at the Cambridge site and pre-order or get a Kindle version at Amazon. The price is a little (by which I mean a lot) steep, so if you can’t bring yourself to spend that much on a book, consider recommending it to your librarian so that you and all your neighbors can read it! There is ordering information on a flyer in the photo gallery above.

What I’m reading: Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods

Eric Helleiner, Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods: International Development and the Making of the Postwar Order, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014)

Having passed their seventieth anniversaries, the institutions created in the New Hampshire town of Bretton Woods remain at the heart of the global economy. The slew of criticism aimed at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in recent years only underscores their relevance, even as many critics argue the organizations are out of touch with the world’s shifting balance of economic power. Criticisms continue that the IMF sacrifices the fate of the world’s poor on the altar of failed macroeconomic policy models.

Many have traced both these flaws—inadequate attention to development and U.S. and European dominance—back to the organizations’ founding. Crudely summarized, the most frequent account of Bretton Woods emphasizes the leading roles of the U.S. official Harry Dexter White and British economist John Maynard Keynes. While the two advanced somewhat different plans, both focused overwhelmingly on the IMF, which prioritized monetary stability among high-income countries. The World Bank—then limited to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development  (IBRD)—was intended to address Europe’s post-war problems. Development was tacked on as an afterthought. White and Keynes hashed out the details. The United States, at the height of its power and increasingly the world’s financial capital, won most of the battles and thus drew up the plans for the post-war economic order.

Henry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes

This rough version is pretty firmly ensconced. It is also consonant with more recent criticisms of the Fund and Bank. That makes Eric Helleiner’s carefully researched account all the more interesting. Helleiner convincingly makes two overarching points, 1) a number of developing countries—particularly in Latin America—played important roles in the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions during the Second World War; 2) Latin American officials and their counterparts in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration were much more focused on development that is commonly thought. These negotiations, Helleiner argues, have been viewed through the lens of what came later, when the more conservative Truman and Eisenhower administrations pushed for greater orthodoxy.


Book launch: American University

I will be presenting my new book at American University’s School of International Service. We will be in SIS 300 from 4-5:30 p.m. on November 4. Please join us! (Plus, I hear there will be coffee and snacks.) I am thrilled to be launching the book at the same place I started it (well, up a few floors).

Latin America Confronts the United States: Asymmetry and Influence (Cambridge University Press, 2015) will be out in just a couple weeks. But you can tell your librarians now!

Download the flyer here: Tom Long Book Discussion

Academic job market reflections

Earlier this week, I was asked to talk to PhD students at American University as part of a panel about the academic job market. I wanted to share a few thoughts from that panel for those who couldn’t make it. These observations are, of course, based on my own experiences, which probably aren’t typical. However, during that process, I also sought out advice from dozens of professors and colleagues. In particular, however, I want to focus on what the academic job market looks like for first-time applicants who are graduating from non-elite doctoral programs (that is, outside the privileged circle of ten or so programs from which the majority of new, tenure-track professors are hired), and especially those with degrees in International Relations. The market is tough, but it’s not hopeless!

Tom Long, Sebastian Bitar, Ryan Briggs

With my classmates, Sebastian Bitar and Ryan Briggs, now on faculty at Universidad de los Andes and Virginia Tech, respectively.

My experience, by the numbers:

  • I applied for about 75 positions over a three-year period. I would say that I was semi-selective about where I applied (that is, I wasn’t automatically firing off applications to every vacancy). I customized every one of those applications to at least some extent. Keep in mind, this takes a lot of time.
  • About 35 of those applications were to tenure-track or permanent jobs. About 20 were for fellowships and postdocs. About 15 were for visiting/term positions.
  • I received three interviews (and three offers) for permanent positions, though none was at a traditional academic institution in the United States. Two were abroad. I was interviewed for one postdoc, also abroad (no offer). I interviewed for four visiting/term jobs (two offers, including my alma mater in odd circumstances).

My thoughts: (more…)

Job: University of Reading

Starting in January 2016, I will be a Lecturer in International Relations in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading. Marta and I will be moving to the United Kingdom later this year. We have a lot to learn about life in England, and I am still figuring out some aspects of the UK academic system. However, here are a few points about the city, the university, and the position.


Book update: Proofs sent!

LatAm Confronts-title pageJust a quick update on the progress of my first book, Latin America Confronts the United States. I just sent the final round of proofs to the publisher, Cambridge University Press. Including this project’s beginning as a dissertation, I have been working on it since early 2011. It is now out of my hands…until the first copies are quite literally in my hands. That process included fieldwork trips to Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, and Mexico. Thanks for all the support along the way! The book aims to provide a new look at U.S.-Latin American relations by focusing on some crucial moments from the post-WWII period.

As a very rough guide to the contents:

Ch. 1: Highlighting Latin America in studies of U.S.-Latin American relations
Ch. 2: Operation Pan-America, a Brazilian precursor to the John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress
Ch. 3: Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations, with a focus on Panama’s strategy.
Ch. 4: North American Free Trade Agreement and Mexican foreign policy
Ch. 5: Plan Colombia and U.S. counternarcotics policy
Ch. 6: Latin American influence in a context of asymmetrical power relations

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon now. The hardcover price is steep, and the paperback won’t be out for a while. However, if you could ask your library to place an order, that would be great!

Second GOP Debate in 140 words

It seems some people don’t have three hours (or sufficient antacids) to watch the horde of Republicans candidates joust whilst standing in front of Boeing 707. To save you time, I have summarized the GOP Debate in a 140-word public service announcement.

Trump: I’m so great, I don’t need to know anything!
Carson: I hope I sound logical by comparison.
Fiorina: I’m here! On the big stage! Now I will answer every question! {PRINTER ERROR}

Jeb!: I’m not my brother, but my brother’s not so bad.
Rand: Oh my god…am I the reasonable one?
Kasich: I did lots of things! Now let me take credit for Bill Clinton’s accomplishments.
Rubio: The reason I am such a bad senator is because I’m anti-establishment. Now make me president so I can bomb stuff!
Christie: Pay no attention to the looming indictments…
Cruz: Plannedparenthoodplannedparenthoodplannedparenthoodplannedparenthood
Huckabee: I am the Kim Davis candidate!
CNN: You’d all be better than Hillary. Now tell us how you’d be 80% as good as Reagan. Then tell us your favorite flavor of jelly bean. Hint: The only correct answer is “freedom.”

P.S.: You might think that I forgot Scott Walker. But actually Scott Walker cut Scott Walker out of the post because he’s in favor of smaller posts. And he did it in a blue state.