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How to Make Love to a Despot: An Alternative Foreign Policy for the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)

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After generations of foreign policy failures, the United States can finally try to make the world safer—not by relying on utopian goals but by working pragmatically with nondemocracies.


Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has sunk hundreds of billions of dollars into foreign economies in the hope that its investments would help remake the world in its own image—or, at the very least, make the world “safe for democracy.” So far, the returns have been disappointing, to say the least. Pushing for fair and free elections in undemocratic countries has added to the casualty count, rather than taken away from it, and trying to eliminate corruption entirely has precluded the elimination of some of the worst forms of corruption. In the Middle East, for example, post-9/11 interventionist campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have proved to be long, costly, and, worst of all, ineffective.


Witnessing the failure of the utopian vision of a world full of market-oriented democracies, many observers, both on the right and the left, have begun to embrace a dystopian vision in which the United States can do nothing and save no one. Accordingly, calls to halt all assistance in undemocratic countries have grown louder. But, as Stephen D. Krasner explains, this cannot be an option: weak and poorly governed states pose a threat to our stability. In the era of nuclear weapons and biological warfare, ignoring troubled countries puts millions of American lives at risk.


“The greatest challenge for the United States now,” Krasner writes, “is to identify a set of policies that lie between the utopian vision that all countries can be like the United States . . . and the dystopian view that nothing can be done.” He prescribes a pragmatic new course of policy. Drawing on decades of research, he makes the case for “good enough governance”—governance that aims for better security, better health, limited economic growth, and some protection of human rights. To this end, Krasner proposes working with despots to promote growth.


In a world where a single terrorist can kill thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people, the United States does not have the luxury of idealistically ignoring the rest of the world. But it cannot remake the world in its own image either. Instead, it must learn how to make love to despots.



About the Author


Stephen D. Krasner is the Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations at Stanford University, a prominent scholar with deep policy experience, including a stint as Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the Department of State. He lives in Stanford, California.

Praise For…


[Krasner] debuts with a rigorous, historically informed argument that ‘good enough governance, not good government’ should be the guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy. . . Readers interested in foreign policy will find much food for thought in this sober, articulate account.
— Publishers Weekly

In How to Make Love to a Despot, Stephen Krasner exposes the false choice between nation-building in America’s image and disengagement from challenges overseas that have important implications for U.S. security and prosperity. He makes a compelling case for promoting good enough governance as the basis for a realistic and consistent long-term foreign policy. And he does so in a way that is not only accessible, but also entertaining.

— H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam

The most intellectually rigorous, insightful, and policy prescriptive writing on American foreign policy to appear in the first two decades of the 21st century. Stephen Krasner has brilliantly drawn from political science theory, history, and personal experience to produce a seminal work equally valuable to academics and students, government and military practitioners, and the general public. His persuasive argument that Americans must deal with the world as it is, rather than as they hope it might be, is underpinned by his clear-eyed assessment of U.S. security interests and deep appreciation of the role liberal values must play in policy formulation. Krasner's book will be an enduring classic.
— Karl Eikenberry, Ambassador and Lieutenant General, US Army, Retired, Stanford University 2011-2019

One doesn't have to agree with Krasner's conclusions to see the value in this book. It is tightly argued and thought-provoking and a must read—even for those who believe that support for democracy should remain a cornerstone of American foreign policy.
— Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Shall we sup with the devil or go for regime change in hell? America’s mission to make the world safe for—and through—democracy has succeeded only in the rarest of cases, as in Germany and Japan. In this most original contribution to the literature on democracy promotion, Krasner argues compellingly that U.S. policy must be modest and realistic. Outsiders cannot implant liberal democracy in alien soil. Instead, the lodestar should be "good enough governance,” which might eventually bring about the real thing.
— Josef Joffe, Stanford University

How to Make Love to a Despot is a thoughtful reflection on the limits of American foreign policy to remake the politics of difficult societies, written by one of the foremost scholars of international relations.

— Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man

In this Goldilock story 'good enough governance' is the guide for a just-right foreign policy -- preferable to utopian democratic dreams and dystopian global nightmares. This realist's counsel of modesty invites debate by proponents of America's many other foreign policy traditions. And it is debate not tweets that America needs to find its way in a complex world painted not in black or white, but hues of grey.
— Peter J. Katzenstein, Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies, Cornell University


Product Details
ISBN: 9781631496592
ISBN-10: 163149659X
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
Pages: 336
Language: English