Up in Arms: How Military Aid Stabilizes—and Destabilizes—Foreign Autocrats

Basic. Apr. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9781541604018. $30. POL SCI
Political scientist Casey examines the link between authoritarian regimes and foreign superpowers. His book shows that after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union competed to prop up friendly governments abroad. Neither great power, he argues, was interested in democratic free choice, and both, with differing strategies, supported client states to expand their influence. The U.S., for instance, nurtured autocratic Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Guatemalan, and Iranian regimes, with varying degrees of success. American aid helped build these countries build modern armies, with democratic institutions to follow. Casey says the “friendly tyrant” approach was discomforting but served American interests. The Soviets, in contrast, promoted the subordination of the military to civil government. To prove his arguments, Casey offers several examples and contrasts their success and failures. He notes that subservient militaries tended to help autocrats maintain their hold, whereas powerful militaries have a pattern of taking control and nurturing coups.
VERDICT A valuable analysis of how military aid to other countries can hinder dictators as much as it can help them.
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