One Nation Under Contract


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The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy

Allison Stanger

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A definitive and disturbing look at one of the most important trends in government and global politics: the privatization of American foreign policy and its consequences.

International relations scholar Allison Stanger shows how contractors became an integral part of American foreign policy, often in scandalous ways—but also maintains that contractors aren’t the problem; the absence of good government is.  Outsourcing done right is, in fact, indispensable to America’s interests in the information age.

Stanger makes three arguments.

  • The outsourcing of U.S. government activities is far greater than most people realize, has been very poorly managed, and has inadvertently militarized American foreign policy;
  • Despite this mismanagement, public-private partnerships are here to stay, so we had better learn to do them right;
  • With improved transparency and accountability, these partnerships can significantly extend the reach and effectiveness of U.S. efforts abroad.

The growing use of private contractors predates the Bush Administration, and while his era saw the practice rise to unprecedented levels, Stanger argues that it is both impossible and undesirable to turn back the clock and simply re-absorb all outsourced functions back into government.  Through explorations of the evolution of military outsourcing, the privatization of diplomacy, our dysfunctional homeland security apparatus, and the slow death of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Stanger shows that the requisite public-sector expertise to implement foreign policy no longer exists. The successful activities of charities and NGOs, coupled with the growing participation of multinational corporations in development efforts, make a new approach essential. Provocative and far-reaching, One Nation Under Contract presents a bold vision of what that new approach must be.

    Allison Stanger is Chair of the Political Science Department at Middlebury College.

    "The book aims admirably for both breadth and depth, examining the specifics of private activity in defense, diplomacy, development and security under an intellectual rubric that cuts across all four spheres. This is a fascinating treatment of an important subject." -- Debora Spar, President, Barnard College

    "A superb work on government outsourcing and contracting for those who want to get past the myths and truly understand this hot topic. One Nation Under Contract should be required reading for all those leaders involved in fixing this process in order to get a clear sense and scope of this critical issue." -- General Anthony C. Zinni USMC (Retired)

    "Allison Stanger argues that the outsourcing of foreign policy functions as currently practiced is scandalous, but we cannot turn the clock back to top-down government. Smart power requires smart government, and this well reasoned book suggests how better to harness all the networks at our disposal in the information age." -- Joseph S. Nye Jr., Harvard University, author of The Powers to Lead

    "One Nation Under Contract breaks new ground in describing how the emergence of joint ventures between the government and private actors is transforming government accountability and diplomacy." -- Charles MacCormack, CEO, Save the Children

    "As governments around the world contract out important tasks to private corporations, Allison Stanger has asked the key question: how do citizens reestablish effective oversight over private-public partnerships? One Nation Under Contract is a clarion call to bring the business of government under more effective public control." -- Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    "Stanger, professor of international politics and economics at Middlebury College, comes to admirably nuanced conclusions in this important assessment of the trend of outsourcing critical tasks in the areas of foreign aid, defense, diplomacy and domestic security. . . . [Readers] will hope that the executive branch will heed the author's call to 'take the plunge and reimagine government itself.'"—Publishers Weekly

    "Slim but powerfully argued…provocative….By shining a light on what she calls America's ‘shadow government,’ [Stanger] does us the great favor of triggering a long overdue political debate." -- Thomas P.M. Barnett, World Politics Review

    "The real strength of this superb book is not what it reveals, as stunning as that may be, but how well [Stanger] assimilates the changed circumstances of modern-day governance and simply addresses what now must be done….Stanger deserves a gold medal for this book." -- Boston Globe

    "In a new century where the global democratization of information, technology, and finance has rendered distances and geographic borders increasingly unimportant, Stanger makes a strong case that monitoring and regulating the outsourcing of once-public functions to the private sector may be the most important, indeed the only logical non-military service, our government can provide. . . . Allison Stanger is a brilliant thinker and writer, and One Nation Under Contract is a book of uncommon insight."—Jack Shakely, Internet Review of Books 

    "Chapter five, where she demolishes the cost-savings arguments made by advocates of defense privatization, which have been meekly accepted as true without empirical proof for far too long, is worth the price of the book alone."—David Isenberg, Asia Times Online

    “…a stimulating work which should be read particularly by those who see the private sector as inherently efficient and reliable.”—Taylor Review

    Received Merit of Special Recognition for the 2010 Charles H. Levine Memorial Book Prize, given by The International Political Science Association's Research Committee on the Structure of Governance.
    ISBN: 9780300168327
    Publication Date: January 25, 2011
    256 pages, 5 7/8 x 9
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