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One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy Hardcover – October 27, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300152655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300152654
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,369,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. Her analysis finds nothing inherently pernicious in the Bush administration's outsourcing of Iraqi security and reconstruction; contracting is a necessity given the ascendancy of the private sector as a key player in diplomacy in a globalized world. The executive branch's error has been to outsource proper oversight and contractor accountability—a laissez-faire approach she finds dangerous. Stanger is also troubled by the Pentagon's usurpation (and militarizing) of diplomatic and nation-building roles previously under the aegis of the State Department. She argues that the government must recognize that power in the 21st century flows from new sources and complacency at this stage threatens the government with enervation and possible obsolescence. These are vital, well-made and worrying points—readers will hope that the executive branch will heed the author's call to take the plunge and re-imagine government itself. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"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
(Debora Spar)

"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)

(General Anthony C. Zinni)

"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

(Joseph S. Nye)

"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

(Charles MacCormack)

"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

(Michael Ignatieff)

"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
(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
(The Boston Globe)

"As we debate how many more troops to dispatch to Afghanistan, it might be a good time to also debate just how far we've already gone in hiring private contractors to do jobs that the State Department, Pentagon and C.I.A. once did on their own.  A good place to start is with ...One Nation Under Contract." -- Thomas Friedman, New York Times
(Thomas Friedman New York Times 2009-11-04)

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.
(Charles H. Levine Memorial Book Prize International Political Science Assocation 2010-01-01)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 56 people found the following review helpful By R. C. Williams on November 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"The American homeland is the planet." - 9/11 Commission Report

Very rarely do I read a "policy wonkish" book in which I so clearly agree with the diagnosed problem, but feel like the solutions offered leave me completely at sea.

Allison Stanger's One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy is such a book.

Stanger is no slouch. She is Middlebury College's Russell Leng `60 Professor of International Politics and Economics, and directs the college's Rohatyn Center for International Affairs. Her clear, concise, and thoughtful new book is "blurbed" by some high-powered people, including USMC General Anthony Zinni (who calls Stanger's analysis "a superb work on government outsourcing and contracting"); Canadian Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff ("a clarion call to bring the business of government under more effective public control"); and Harvard University professor Joseph Nye ("well-reasoned").

But her book's conclusions left me scratching my head.

Stanger sets out to answer a big and crucially important question: In an age in which governments around the world have "outsourced" nearly everything to private for-profit corporations, how do citizens reestablish effective oversight over private-public partnerships? This outsourcing problem is so vast and extensive that even the Establishment New York Times, an overexuberant cheerleader for U.S. foreign policy if ever there was one, referred to contractors as a "fourth branch of government" in 2007, a sign of just how troublesome things have become.

Stanger's extended case-study is the United States, a "republic-turned-Empire" (to her credit, Stanger is willing to entertain the use of the term "empire" to describe U.S.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kleinfeld on November 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Allison Stanger has written a tour de force -- the first book that succinctly and accurately describes the new reality of 21st Century foreign policy -- and the urgent need for our government to adapt. Dr. Stanger lays out in lucid prose and deeply researched detail the outsourcing of American government -- not only in the well-documented military sphere, but in our development aid, diplomacy, and even homeland security arenas. She shows how our government has given up much of our ability to implement foreign policy -- and how we have lost the ability to oversee the implementers, private and nonprofit, whom we have hired. For anyone who longs for "smaller government" Dr. Stanger shows the results of those policies in reducing American power worldwide.

Dire as these problems are for America's continued strength, Dr. Stanger's conclusion is wise. She understands what many activists do not -- that private businesses and nonprofit organizations are now part and parcel of foreign policy worldwide, and that the movement towards a more open world in which private citizens make a significant impact on world affairs can't be stopped. The clock can't be turned back, she says: we live in a world where Bill and Melinda Gates can do more for malaria in Africa than most governments, and where the decisions of Walmart affect trade more than the demands of most countries. These are facts on the ground--they are caused by globalization, increased wealth, and the internet--they can't be reversed without returning to totalitarian states or a world of reduced connections between countries that would impoverish billions. Dr. Stanger thoughtfully concludes that when change cannot be fought, it should be understood, and managed.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on November 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The intent of this book is to highlight the implications of privatizing government policy, that present practice is scandalous, and that undoing government privatization is not the answer. Unfortunately, Stanger's overly academic treatise fails in all three missions, though her anecdotes and documentation of some of the numbers involved make the book worthy of a quick skim.

The Dept. of Defense is a good place to start. Stanger points out that the Pentagon's acquisition workforce shrank 25% between 1990-2000, while the volume of contracting increased 7X, and that between 2002-2005, the number of its contract employees rose from 3.4 million to 5.2 million. A key point here is that the simplest way to handled increased contracting with reduced staff is to issue giant contracts that allow subcontracting as desired - including evaluations. Thus, we end up with contracts that generate sub-contracts that generate sub-contracts, etc., for as many as five layers - adding costs at every layer. Then there's the missing billions in Iraq. Another typical problem is that various reports on procurement estimate that at least half of these contracts take place without full and open competition. Thus, there is no need for surprise when Stanger points out that a school costing ASAID $25,000 to build in Afghanistan could have instead be built for $50,000 by local Afghans (and probably generated good feelings for the U.S. at the same time). As for quality - shoddy electrical work by KBR is blamed for the deaths of at least 18 soldiers in Iraq, and Blackwater Security severely damaged U.S. credibility when it killed 17 civilians in Baghdad.
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