Global Insights: Leadership and Legitimacy in Post-pandemic Latin America

Last Thursday, I joined the Global Insights panel on Latin American politics under the Biden administration and in the midst of the pandemic. It’s a challenging period for the region, which continues to have some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. There are also major challenges for Biden, including negotiating with challenging counterparts in regional powers Brazil and Mexico, growing migration pressures in Central America, fires in the Amazon, the continued crisis in Venezuela, and so on. In addition to the public health crisis, the pandemic has caused massive social and economic damage in Latin America: increasing poverty and inequality, erasing decades of gains in education, and worsening reliance on informal employment in many countries. The panel, including Julia Buxton, Luis Schenoni, Matthew Taylor, and Juliano Cortinhas discussed all that and more.

Biden’s North America reset?

Along with Eric Hershberg, I have a new short post online at the American University Latin America blog. The piece is a policy-oriented slice of the work and conversations that have developed through the Robert A. Pastor North American Research Initiative during the past five years. We’ve made a lot of progress on an edited volume, with an optimistic publication target of late 2021.

After the Trump administration’s assaults on Mexico, migration, and NAFTA, there’s some hope for a change of pace in the post-NAFTA era. It’s worth mentioning that late in Bob Pastor’s life, we met with many of the folks who started new jobs in the Biden administration yesterday: Jake Sullivan, Juan Gonzalez, and Roberta Jacobson. The ideas in the piece are definitely differ somewhat from Bob’s, but depart from a serious engagement with his thinking and engagement

“President Biden inherits an old trilateral region that seemingly has no name and a badly damaged economic partnership, but the gravitational pull of the U.S. market, new rhetoric and policies from Washington, and other underlying drivers should restore the economic and political importance of the region, offering an opportunity to rethink the boundaries and purpose of North America.”

LSE Blog on Biden and Latin America

It is something of a cliché that there can be no “US policy toward Latin America” because there is no single “Latin America”. The region is too large and too diverse to be addressed by a single policy. Normally, this refrain is a helpful reminder that US policy should be attentive to variation in the region. But when the foreign policy team of the newly inaugurated President Joseph R. Biden looks to Latin America and sees that there is no “Latin America there”, this will reflect the central problem they face: a tremendous deficit of regional leadership. …

Now online, a new post at the LSE Latin America and the Caribbean Centre blog on President Biden’s relations with Latin America.

Out in FPA: “Status at the Margins: Why Paraguay Recognizes Taiwan and Shuns China”


My article with Francisco Urdinez, has now been just released in Foreign Policy Analysis. In “Status at the Margins: Why Paraguay Recognizes Taiwan and Shuns China,” we look at the relationship between Taiwan and its only remaining (but, so far, steadfast) South American ally.

Using a statistical model, we estimate Paraguay’s opportunity cost for recognizing Taiwan in terms of lost Chinese FDI and loans. Why would Paraguay pay this material cost? Drawing on elite interviews and documentary research, we connect the relationship to particular dynamics of international status-seeking. In doing so, we build on the small-state status literature and also examine how Paraguay’s domestic politics shapes this form of status-seeking. Comments welcome!

Working with Francisco was a lot of fun. This article emerged, spontaneously, from my time in Chile on the Fulbright. One of the wonderful things about the Fulbright is that is gives you the space and opportunity to forge new connections. This collaboration started over several lunchtime conversations. Great to see it, finally, make its way to the public. Even better to have made a good friend in the process.

LARR review essay

41zsbR5y+fL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_I woke up this morning to learn that my book, Latin America Confronts the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2015) was included in a new Latin American Research Review essay by Dexter Boniface. It’s a great essay, which offers a helpful assessment of the field and discusses several interesting recent books: “Controlling Their Own Destiny: Latin American Agency in the Context of US Hegemony.”

The essay looks at how recent work has adopted an “explicit focus on the agency of various political and social actors in Latin America…expanding the scope of inquiry beyond the confines of US foreign policy.” Boniface follows that discussion particularly through Cold War and post-Cold War periods. He also suggests ways to move this agenda forward substantively and to assess Latin America’s international relations today.

Professor Boniface also had some exceptionally kind things to say about my book, and he goes into great depth discussing the book’s case studies. About my book, Boniface kindly writes: “Tom Long’s book does stand out for its analytical rigor and should pave the way for more theoretically motivated scholarship on US–Latin American relations.” … “A more detailed, analytical, and cheerful study of Latin American diplomatic initiatives in the Cold War (and beyond) is found in Tom Long’s masterful Latin America Confronts the United States.” … “The book is one of the more sophisticated recent contributions to the literature on US–Latin American relations.” In short, it was a very nice way to start another day of being stuck at home!

In the unlikely event you chance upon this, you can find links to more reviews above. More info about the book here: Or if you feel so inspired, the book is available from Amazon.

Publication updates: World Politics + Foreign Policy Analysis

Within about a ten-day period, I received two very exciting “accept” notices for pieces that I’d been working on for quite a long time. I’m very glad to say that I have two new forthcoming articles, one in World Politics and the other in Foreign Policy Analysis! I’ll explain the two pieces a bit below, but they are quite different. One is connected to a long-term project of historical research. The other emerged as a sort of side project, basically from conversations with Francisco Urdinez while I was in Chile for the Fulbright. That said, it ended up connecting closely with some of my IR theory interests around status, asymmetry, and small states. I’ll update with further publication information and links when that’s available, but here are the citations:

  • Tom Long, “Historical Antecedents and Post-WWII Regionalism in the Americas,” World Politics, Vol. 72, No. 2 (forthcoming, April 2020).
  • Tom Long and Francisco Urdinez, “Status at the Margins: Why Paraguay Recognizes Taiwan and Shuns China,” Foreign Policy Analysis (forthcoming, n.d.).

World Politics

The first article, in World Politics, draws on archival work that I gathered over several years in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States (State Department and Truman Library). It’s part of a big project about the post-WWII period in the Americas, which also produced my recent piece on the Larreta Doctrine in Perspectives on Politics, with Max Paul Friedman. The plan is for this to lead to a book project that would explore creation of regional order- and institution-building, with greater attention to Latin American designs, interests, contributions, and frustrations.

63-1383-53Substantively, the article explores Latin American contributions to emerging security orders in the late 1940s. There’s some classic work on this era’s influence in domestic Latin America politics (e.g., Bethell and Roxborough), but the multinational archival work on foreign relations remains pretty thin. Theoretically, it engages with IR debates about regional variation in postwar orders, connecting to debates on comparative regionalism and the “Why is there no NATO in Asia?” debate launched by Hemmer and Katzenstein nearly fifteen years ago. Methodologically, it employs historical institutionalism’s conceptual tools to offer a more systematic explanation of how “history matters” in the formation of international institutions. This meant really diving into the dynamics and logics of critical junctures, as well as mechanisms for change in historical institutionalism (layering and conversion, especially).

This article has been a long time in the making. Just to give you a sense: I drafted and presented the first, historical component of this article for a December 2016 history seminar at the Latin America Centre at Oxford University. I had a rough version out for comments to colleagues in late summer 2017. The acknowledgements note is like half a page, because I presented earlier versions of this so many places (ISA, LASA, CIDE, PUC, UniAndes, Oxford, UCL). It’s been a long road (with a bit of fairly gut-wrenching rejection along the way), but I also got a lot of support and great feedback that motivated me to work through some issues and aim high with the sharpened version. World Politics! I couldn’t be happier about where it ended up.

Foreign Policy Analysis

The second piece, which was accepted about a week before the World Politics article, emerged during my Fulbright in Chile. Basically, the brilliant Francisco Urdinez told me about a project involving Paraguay-Taiwan relations, and wanted to talk about the literature on small states. One thing led to another, and Francisco being a very generous scholar, this turned into a really fun collaboration, during which I learned a lot. The piece is mixed methods, drawing on a counterfactual model to estimate the opportunity cost paid by Paraguay — Chinese loans, investments, and credits lost as a lack of diplomatic relations. Taiwan’s aid, investment, and market don’t make up the difference. Over various iterations, it became clear that this set up a puzzle — why continue to pay this cost? To explore this, the article draws on interviews and a longitudinal case study.

201810080021t0001Our answer is two-fold. Internationally, the Paraguay-Taiwan relationship creates status benefits. Those benefits are asymmetrical, but valued by each side. However, this is status “at the margins” of international society, and it differs in important respects from the types of great-power-centric status that receive the most attention in IR. There’s also an important story about the domestic foundations: elite structures in Paraguay allow for concentration of material and immaterial status benefits, while also shaping a narrow and conservative foreign policy decision-making structure. I got to delve into research about de facto states, recognition and international-legal sovereignty, and small states and status, all of which helped me think through this bilateral relationship in new ways.

The relationship has continued to evolve, even since we sent the piece. What we’ve seen is growing domestic contestation about opportunity costs and the division of benefits, largely among sectors of the Paraguayan economic elite. Taiwan has responded to this (and to the loss of allies elsewhere) with policies quite evidently targeted at minimizing these divisions and underscoring the “status at the margins” that Paraguayans value.

JHU Conference: Latin America and the liberal international order

LALIO event pic

Photo by AU CLALS

Given the strike, I have time for a few overdue updates on recent work…

In mid-November, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference and workshop at Johns Hopkins University on “Latin America in the liberal international order.” The event was a highlight of my first decade in academia. In part, that’s because it was an amazing group and a day-and-a-half of fascinating discussion. But it was a particular honor to be include because the agenda and call for the conference were explicitly connected to an article that I published a year ago in International Affairs. That article pointed out how minimal discussion of Latin America has been in one of IR’s current obsessions: the origins, development, and crises of “liberal international order.” My point was not just that Latin America’s experience was overlooked, but that it has some very important things to tell us about how international orders develop and relate to areas outside their geopolitical cores.


The organizing was led by the historian Dr. Christy Thornton of Johns Hopkins and PhD candidate Luis Rodríguez Aquino, along with Eric Hershberg of the American University Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. They put together a great group of scholars from IR, political science, history, and sociology, including people from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and the United States.

LALIO event posterThe first night started with an all-star (plus me) panel. I found myself sitting between Daniel Deudney–who perhaps co-coined the term “liberal international order” in 1998 with John Ikenberry–and Margaret Keck, whose work with Kathryn Sikkink reshaped IR’s approach to human rights and transnational activism. Down the row, my mentor and friend, the brilliant and always eloquent Max Paul Friedman,  who followed Voltaire’s quip about the Holy Roman Empire but questioning whether the liberal international order was actually, liberal, international or orderly. Next to Max, Arlene Tickner of Colombia’s Universidad del Rosario, who is one of the most influential voices and advocates for IR scholarship that is inclusive of the Global South and its scholars. And Christy kept things moving with insightful questions.

The panel and the next day’s workshop, where we discussed in depth draft papers covering a range of related topics (see the list here) ranging from democracy to nuclear security to international law. Christy drew on her work on Mexican contributions to the international economic orders–she and I had been thinking along parallel lines. I am working on a paper with Carsten-Andreas Schulz on the history of multilateralism in the Americas during the nineteenth century, particularly regarding the emergence of multipurpose multilateral international organizations. It was a fascinating event, and way more than I expected when describing what I saw as an important gap (and opportunity) in the IR debate on liberal international order.

Having gotten such great feedback, we’re all working on revisions to our initial working papers. Hopefully, I’ll have updates about new research and a special journal issue dedicated to the topic before too long.

UCU strike

I’m currently participating in the UCU strike, which is taking place at Warwick and sixty UK universities over issues of pensions, fair pay, the increased use of staff on short-term and part-time contracts, and pay gaps for women and non-white colleagues. I spent the morning out on my first picket line (in the rain, of course), discussing these concerns with colleagues.


Though not officially on the strike agenda, many of us are also concerned about the massive administrative burdens caused by a slew of metrics (often poorly considered or admittedly flawed), which are used for short-sighted evaluation and the constant, nearly fetishized ranking of universities. Salaries have gone down in real terms even as workloads and student fees have gone up.

It’s really no fun having to go on strike (and not just because of the rain). Of course, we’ll all lose eight days of pay. I certainly didn’t enjoy explaining to students that the term would end early and suddenly; one gets into this line of work because one believes in the value of education, so cancelling classes isn’t a decision taken lightly. We also know that most of us will ending up doing most of the work we miss over the strike days (though the union would rather we didn’t). Much of the work is simply displaced and unpaid. In my case, I worked nights and weekends to get feedback to students before the strike so that could work on their essays. I already have scheduled meetings with supervisees for after the strike, which would have been part of my normal schedule otherwise, but now is being done on what would be research time. As is often the case, research is pushed to nights, weekends, and unused holiday time–even though it makes up much of a our evaluation and promotion cases.  But unfortunately–and despite Warwick’s more progressive position–at the national level, there has been little response from universities to these important issues. All of them have gotten measurably and demonstrably worse over the last decade. So, here we are…


Publication on Latin American security

Sebastian Bitar and I have published a new entry on “International Security in Latin America,” for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American Politics. The chapter surveys the state of the field relating to Latin American security, including topics such as state security, transnational organized crime, high homicide rates, borders, and more. In the region, “isolated state responses are insufficient to respond to transnational dynamics; although some coordination has been achieved, intergovernmental responses have produced limited gains and substantial unintended consequences.” The piece emerged from collaboration during Seb’s visit as an IAS in 2018; he is an associate professor at Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia.

The piece is available here:

Articles on Larreta Doctrine’s relevance for Venezuela & Latin America today

AQ covershotMax Paul Friedman and I have a couple short articles out that connect our Perspectives on Politics (currently open access) article more directly to current events.

The first was published last weekend in the Uruguayan newspaper La Diaria (Spanish). It’s written especially for a Uruguayan audience and relates to that country’s diplomatic traditions. Those are particularly interesting now because Uruguay has taken a rather contrarian position on the regional approach to Venezuela recently. That now includes stating an intention to leave the Rio Treaty on collective defense.

The second was published in Americas QuarterlyIt looks at the invocation of the Rio Treaty last week by sixteen Western Hemisphere signatories. Tying that to the Larreta Doctrine–initially a proposal for the Rio Conference agenda–it argues that history makes the Rio Treaty a poor tool for promoting democracy: “The doctrine further offers a solution to the sovereignty dilemma by allowing representatives of a sovereign people to work out guarantees and permissions before they lose their voice to dictatorship. It could also help protect against violations of sovereignty in the form of, say, unilateral U.S. interventions or extended military occupations, common in the first third of the 20th century.”