McVety explores the intellectual roots of foreign aid in this history of the relationship between Ethiopia and the United States. Ethiopia was one of the very first recipients of American assistance, beginning in 1951 under the administration of President Harry Truman. McVety deftly links foreign aid to Enlightenment ideals and to classical economics. The book really picks up steam when she describes the diplomatic wrangling that took place right after World War II between an American elite learning to flex its global muscles and an Ethiopian leader, Haile Selassie, who skillfully combined personal charisma, pleading, and threats to win a large infusion of American capital and technical assistance, which he hoped would help modernize Ethiopia and maintain his own power. McVety’s book ends a bit abruptly and says unfortunately little about the equally interesting post-Selassie period. Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s current strongman, has proved to be an excellent pupil of the Selassie approach to donors: Ethiopia today receives more than $3 billion a year in foreign aid.
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