One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy

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One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy
By Allison Stanger
Yale University Press, 2009
242 pp. $26.00
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As if the reality of U.S. President George W. Bush's foreign policy record were not problematic enough, dystopian caricatures of it usually add a raft of nefarious characters offscreen pulling the strings. In an earlier era, these would have been supervillains or arms manufacturers; today, they are often government contractors, such as Halliburton or Blackwater. Outsourcing has gone so mainstream, in other words, it even shows up in conspiracy theories. If the delegation of governmental functions to private companies has become standard practice, however, the scope, implications, and wisdom of it remain unclear, which is why One Nation Under Contract is so useful. Stanger gathers together information on outsourcing in three different spheres -- security, diplomacy, and development -- and in the process shows just how integral the phenomenon has become in establishing and maintaining the United States' global role in the twenty-first century. She also shows just how little thought and oversight have accompanied the use of contractors, with predictably unfortunate consequences. The status quo is unacceptable, she argues, and turning back the clock is impossible, so the answer is more transparency and accountability. Officials need to better understand and manage public-private partnerships so that they can serve national interests rather than undermine them.

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