At long last, my review essay “There is no map: International Relations in the Americas” is out today in Latin American Research Review. It reviews six books and tries to offer some synthetic lessons on the evolution of international leadership in the Americas. Comments welcome!
Citation: Long, Tom. 2019. There Is No Map: International Relations in the Americas. Latin American Research Review 54(2), pp. 548–555. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25222/larr.459
Reconceptualizing Security in the Americas in the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Bruce M. Bagley, Jonathan D. Rosen, and Hanna S. Kassab. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015. Pp. xix + 368. $49.99 paperback. ISBN: 9780739194874.
Brazil in the World: The International Relations of a South American Giant. By Sean W. Burges. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017. Pp. xi + 280. £30.00 paperback. ISBN: 9781526107404.
U.S.-Venezuela Relations since the 1990s: Coping with Midlevel Security Threats. By Javier Corrales and Carlos A. Romero. New York: Routledge, 2012. Pp. xii + 228. $47.95 paperback. ISBN: 9780415895255.
21st Century Democracy Promotion in the Americas: Standing Up for the Polity. By Jorge Heine and Brigitte Weiffen. New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. xii + 208. $47.95 paperback. ISBN: 9780415626378.
Aspirational Power: Brazil on the Long Road to Global Influence. By David R. Mares and Harold A. Trinkunas. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2016. Pp. x + 224. $32.00 hardcover. ISBN: 9780815727958.
Precarious Paths to Freedom: The United States, Venezuela, and the Latin American Cold War. By Aragorn Storm Miller. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016. Pp. xxi + 278. $65.00 hardcover. ISBN: 9780826356871.
I’ve just published my first piece in The Conversation, which looks at the rising tide of illiberalism — of left and right — in Latin America. Given the news of the last few days, it has a particular focus on Venezuela. Check out the new piece over at The Conversation…“Venezuela: how Latin American tolerance of illiberalism let a nation slide into crisis”
Despite the news hook, the piece really seeks to underline some of the lessons from my International Affairs article from November: “Latin America and the liberal international order: An agenda for research.” That article is discussed here, with a link to an open-access copy.
I am thrilled that my article “Latin America and the liberal international order: An agenda for research” has been accepted at International Affairs. In perhaps a major journal record, it was accepted last week and is already scheduled to be published in the November 2018 issue.
The article emerged as a response to the January 2018 special issue of the journal, edited by Princeton’s John Ikenberry, on liberal international order. It expanded quite a bit from there, but it is really great to see it published in the journal that inspired it. International Affairs has been a leading outlet for discussion of the liberal international order from a broad range of scholarly perspectives, and with a focus on policy audiences. It’s also just a fantastic journal, and one of my favorites to read. I use articles from International Affairs in my classes frequently because they tend to emphasize clear argument, concise presentation, and strong writing.
I can only hope my own piece does the same! The abstract is below. Please drop me a line if you’d like the submitted draft. The final version will be out soon, but of course I’m glad to get responses and thoughts before then. As the title suggests, this article is Part 1 in what I hope will be an expanding research project.
Abstract: Recent debates about challenges to the Liberal International Order (LIO)
have led IR scholars, both those critical and supportive of the concept, to
examine LIO’s origins and effects. While this work has shed new light on
the evolution of international order, there has been a surprising absence:
Latin America. We explore the theoretical consequences of this empirical
gap for IR’s understanding of LIO. After assessing the literature’s
treatment of Latin American and LIO, we offer a macro-historical sketch of
the region’s role in the order’s critical junctures. LIO has shaped Latin
America, and Latin America has shaped LIO—but not always in the ways
supporters or critics might expect. Despite Latin America’s long liberal
traditions, LIO’s benefits for the region have often been narrow. The
region’s sovereignty and statehood evolved alongside LIO, with
international experiences very different from those of areas colonized
during LIO’s expansion. Latin American engagement shaped the practices
of great powers through international law and organization, cooperation
and resistance. Despite its participation in LIO’s founding moments, Latin
America was often accorded second-class treatment. The experience of
Latin American states over two centuries—independent but often
internationally unequal—offers a rich vein of experiences of the
consequences of partial inclusion or marginalization from LIO. Deeper
study of Latin America’s history with LIO casts light on the ways in which
non-great powers outside the order’s core shaped, and were shaped by,
the elements of the evolving order.
Busy media day, with appearances on DW News (Germany) and Al Jazeera English. Both spots were on Argentina’s mounting currency crisis, with the peso losing half its value this year and suffering a really steep drop last week.
The year-long decline owes to a number of structural constraints, but last week’s near panic was caused in large part by some botched communications that created a lot of uncertainty and enhanced doubts about President Macri’s fiscal management. The government will try to rectify that this week, but losing value against the dollar is much easier than getting it all back. This is a closely watched number in Argentina, with really big political implications. The only “positive” for Macri is that the Kircheristas are themselves caught up in problems with serious corruption alleged and lots of concerning evidence coming to light.
— Warwick Newsroom (@warwicknewsroom) September 3, 2018
I was looking at government budget plans that had the peso gradually falling to nearly 22 pesos to the dollar — by 2021. It’s now struggling to stay above 40. Those economic plans, like many others, have gone up in smoke.
I haven’t done much in this space for a while, but I will try to add a bit of summary about my time in Chile on the Fulbright from March to June, what I learned last week in Mexico for the Robert A. Pastor North American Research Initiative, and some very brief capsule reviews on some of the books I’ve been reading over the summer.
I’m thrilled that H-Diplo and the International Security Studies Forum just published a roundtable of my book, Latin America Confronts the United States. It’s a huge honor! There are reviews from Juan Pablo Scarfi of Universidad Nacional de San Martin , Laura Macdonald of Carleton, Richard Feinberg of UCSD, and Gian Luca Gardini of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, along with an introduction by Dustin Walcher of South Oregon.
Walcher writes: “The reviewers are generally impressed with Long’s accomplishment. In the most laudatory essay, Richard Feinberg calls the book a “seminal contribution to international relations theory.” Gian Luca Gardini concludes that “[o]verall Latin America Confronts the United States is an excellent book not only because of its academic rigor and quite original focus and approach, but most of all because it makes the reader think deeply and widely about U.S.-Latin America relations and more broadly. It revives the diplomatic-history approach to international relations.” Similarly, Laura Macdonald holds that “Long displays convincingly … that although most Latin American states were not ‘mice that roared,’ even very small states were able at times to challenge, revise, or subvert U.S. policies in order to achieve outcomes more in line with their administrations’ own objectives.” She concludes, “this volume represents a valuable contribution to the project of rethinking the relations between the powerful and the less powerful within a rapidly changing global order.” Finally, Juan Pablo Scarfi finds that the book “is a groundbreaking study and contribution to an emerging scholarship that seeks to globalize international relations by examining it through the lens of the South, the so-called Third World, and the perspective of weaker states.'”
2017 has been quite a busy year, both professionally and personally. In September, I started a new post at the University of Warwick in the department of Politics and International Studies. It’s a great department, regularly ranked among the top five Politics departments in the UK. I am teaching an MA course on Rising Powers and finalist undergrad course on Latin America that combines comparative politics and IR. My new students and colleagues have been great. We also moved to Leamington Spa, which was shortly thereafter named happiest town in the UK. I’m not sure about that, but it is full of coffee and tea shops, so it might be the most caffeinated, which is basically the same thing.
I spent about two months earlier in the year in Colombia on a British Council Researcher Links, collaborating with my friend and colleague Sebastián Bitar of Universidad de los Andes. We held a number of events related to Colombian foreign policy and the effects of the peace process. I also worked on an — ultimately unsuccessful 😦 — ESRC New Investigators grant application. Seb and I are wrapping up a journal article as one of the products of that collaboration.
A number of publications bunched together, making 2017 look like a very productive year. My book was released in paperback in June and received a number of largely positive reviews. The royalties are allowing me to live large, with a moderately priced dinner for two every six months. (Just kidding! All royalties go to WOLA.) (more…)
My newest article is just out as part of a special issue of the journal Contemporary Politics, vol. 24, no. 1. The issue came out of a workshop at the College of Europe, called Between cooperation and competition: major powers in shared neighbourhoods. The workshop and issue were organized and edited by Simon Schunz, Sieglinde Gstöhl & Luk Van Langenhove, who did a great job putting this all together. The whole special issue is available here.
My article looks at US-Brazilian interactions in Latin America, drawing on and extending Brantly Womack’s asymmetry theory (abstract below). Routledge allows me to offer free access to my own article for the first 50 readers through a special link, available for a limited time here. Please help yourself to a free copy, while they last–on the condition that you cite it copiously, of course!
Abstract: Until its recent crisis, Brazil’s rise, combined with seeming US decline and distraction, led observers to declare South America a ‘post-hegemonic’ region. How have US and Brazilian ambitions and capabilities affected the countries’ relations within the shared neighbourhood of the Western Hemisphere? Building on work by Womack, B. [2016. Asymmetry and international relationships. New York: Cambridge University Press], the article analyses the US-Brazil-South America relationship as a regionally located, asymmetrical triangle. During two centre-left presidencies, Brazil sought to shift the dynamics of the hemisphere’s soft triangles. Brazilian diplomacy redefined its neighbourhood as South America, developed exclusive regional groupings, and assumed the role of pivot to shape relationships between the US and South America. In the face of sceptical neighbours and weakened Brazilian capabilities, the regional triangle is likely to return to a more ‘normal’ configuration in which the United States acts as a central, albeit often uninterested, pivot.
A couple quick media spots. I talked to The Guardian‘s reporter David Agren about Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal of an “amnesty” for organized criminal bosses, and whether that was likely to reduce violence. In short, I have my doubts. In full, I said, “I am sure some punished narcos would appreciate an amnesty, but it would not do much to stop the ongoing violence. The market and the rewards would continue to exist, and different groups would continue to compete — often violently — over that market.
“Even if a Pax mafiosa were the intention, it is probably not feasible today. First, the organized criminal groups are much more fragmented. Second, they are involved in crimes beyond drug trafficking, and I doubt the Mexican population would stand for official tolerance of extortion, kidnapping, oil theft, and human trafficking. Those revenue streams would remain in the event of an amnesty. Third, the state is much different. It is less hierarchical, with different parties governing at different levels. Often, the local and state levels are most relevant for organized crime. There is evidence that the party of local government, and changes in party, matter to levels of violence in Mexico. It also means that not everyone would be on board with a proposed pax or even an amnesty.”
I also talked earlier in the day with Gerhard Elfers, the impeccably dressed Business News Anchor for DW News, regarding Venezuela’s economic crisis and President Maduro’s proposal for a crypto-currency as a way out of the crisis (or at least around US sanctions.
(belated post) I talked to Deutsche Welle and Bloomberg Turkey recently about the economic crisis in Venezuela. The interviews followed a “selective default” on part of the country’s debt obligations. Since then, there has been another round of purges and politically motivated crackdown, followed by military takeover of management, of key Venezuelan agencies and state-owned enterprises. This time, the target is CITGO, the Venezuela-owned (albeit heavily mortgaged) oil refining and gas distributing company that is familiar to many in the United States. The purge is highly unlikely to arrest the country’s falling oil production (one of the stated goals) after two decades of neglect and under-investment. Meanwhile, Venezuela is running out of liquid reserves and has fewer overseas assets to offer as collateral. It has already promised away much of its reduced oil production in exchange for earlier loans, which eats into the cash that it can generate. Its non-oil exports are negligible, and despite the import crisis, domestic production of basic goods has been hollowed out.
Earlier comment below the jump:
I reviewed Hal Brands’s intriguing Making the Unipolar Moment for Political Science Quarterly. The review has been published as part of the fall issue, and it is available online for free. Brands’s account of U.S. grand strategy in the late Cold War is well worth the read, though ultimately I think he understates the contradictions within U.S. policies and overstates their role in determining the course of events elsewhere in the world. Brands has a knack for sweeping, synthetic history and writes in a way that engaged academic and non-academic audiences alike.
My review: “In 1991, the United States bestrode the world as a victorious Gulliver, seemingly more loved than feared. The unprecedented power of the “unipolar moment” makes it easy to forget the pessimism that dominated U.S. punditry two decades earlier. In a sweeping, three-decade account, Hal Brands argues that U.S. foreign policy rebounded from post-Vietnam “malaise” by taking advantage of three underlying favorable trends: gradual Soviet weakening, incipient globalization, and the growth of pro–human rights civil society. U.S. policymakers did not directly create these forces, but their statecraft turned them to U.S. advantage. In Brands’s telling, President Jimmy Carter recognized these trends but lacked coherent policies to take advantage of them. In contrast, President Ronald Reagan is heralded for an effective mix of bellicose rhetoric, military spending, and aggressive responses to perceived Soviet gains in the “Third World” during his first term, followed by a relaxation of tensions on his terms in his second. Brands shows President George H.W. Bush as an expert manager whose reactions to fast-moving events were united by consistent beliefs.”