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Perilous Partners: The Benefits and Pitfalls of America's Alliances with Authoritarian Regimes (Washington, Cato Institute, 2015).                                                                               Liberal democracies such as the United States face an acute dilemma in the conduct of foreign relations. Many states around the world are repressive or corrupt to varying degrees. Unfortunately, American national interests require cooperation with such regimes from time to time. To defeat Nazi Germany during World War II, the United States even allied with the Soviet Union, despite the barbarity of Josef Stalin’s regime.

But such partnerships have the inherent danger of compromising, or even making a mockery of, America’s values of democratic governance, civil liberties, and free markets. Close working relationships with autocratic regimes, therefore, should not be undertaken lightly. U.S. officials have had a less than stellar record of grappling with that ethical dilemma. Especially during the Cold War, policymakers were casual about sacrificing important values for less-than-compelling strategic rationales. Since the 9-11 attacks, similar ethical compromises have taken place, although policymakers now seem more selective than their Cold War-era counterparts.

In Perilous Partners, authors Ted Galen Carpenter and Malou Innocent provide a strategy for resolving the ethical dilemmas between interests and values faced by Washington. They propose maintaining an "arm’s length relationship" with authoritarian regimes, emphasizing that the United States must not operate internationally in ways that routinely pollute American values. This book creates a strategy for conducting an effective U.S. foreign policy without betraying fundamental American values.

Recent Reviews of Perilous Partners: The Benefits and Pitfalls of America's Alliances with Authoritarian Regimes (Washington, Cato Institute, 2015).                        

In Publisher's Weekly (August 2015) Despite the reference to "benefits" in the subtitle, few are described in this derisive Cato Institute treatise on post-WWII American foreign policy. Senior Cato Fellow Carpenter (The Fire Next Door) and adjunct scholar Innocent tear into successive presidential administrations for pursuing relationships with authoritarian regimes throughout the world. For a country claiming to be based on "peace, democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law," as Ronald Reagan put it, the actions of the U.S.—publicly and covertly—did not stay true to its founding ideals. Even Jimmy Carter, famous for his focus on human rights over the realpolitik of Nixon and Kissinger, comes under fire for not doing enough to distance the U.S. from human rights abusers, notably the Shah of Iran. The president who receives the least criticism is Bill Clinton, largely because his presidency fell after the Cold War and before the War on Terror. In the authors' opinion, the reasons given for aligning with repressive regimes were rarely vital to national interests, rather serving to justify interventionalism around the world. This lengthy read may be hard to swallow for some, but it will also be eye-opening to those confused by inconsistencies and discrepancies in American foreign policy over the last 70 years. (Sept.)

The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America (Washington, Cato Institute, 2012).                                                                                                                                                                                   Since Mexican President Felipe Calderón initiated a military offensive against his country’s powerful drug cartels in December 2006, some 44,000 people have perished, and the drugs continue to flow. The growing violence has created concerns that Mexico could become a failed state, as U.S. political leaders also worry that the corruption and violence is seeping across the border into the United States. But, as detailed by Ted Galen Carpenter in his compelling new book, The Fire Next Door, the current U.S.-backed strategies for trying to stem Mexico’s drug violence have been a disaster. Carpenter details the growing horror overtaking Mexico and makes the case that the only effective strategy is to de-fund the Mexican drug cartels. Boldly conveyed in The Fire Next Door, such a blow requires the U.S., the principal consumer market for illegal drugs, to abandon its failed drug prohibition policy, thereby eliminating the lucrative black-market premium and greatly reducing the financial resources of drug cartels. A refusal to renounce prohibition, demonstrates Carpenter, means that Mexico’s agony will likely worsen and pose even more significant problems for the United States.

Recent Reviews of The Fire Next Door:  Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America

In Publisher's Weekly, August 2012, The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to AmericaTed Galen Carpenter, foreword by Vincente Fox Quesada. Cato Institute (NBN, dist.), $24.95 (300p) ISBN 978-1-935308-88-1       The drug war across the U.S.–Mexico border has exacted a tremendous toll, according to Carpenter (Smart Power), a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. Using government data, the author reveals that in 2009 the Mexican drug cartels earned nearly $34 billion from their trafficking in North America, using their wealth to buy off the Mexican public and to corrupt politicians who dare to stand in their way (those who refuse bribes are assassinated). Comparing war-torn Mexico to a "Latin American Somalia," Carpenter says the powerful cartels often donate food, clothing, and medical care to impoverished locals and are seen as "cultural folk heroes." The author balances Mexican assertions that the cartels' weapons are bought from U.S. gun shops with U.S. officials' denial of these charges. The spike in violence has hit farmers, ranchers, innocent civilians--and increasingly Americans, both tourist visitors to Mexico and border police. In the end, this is a devastatingly frank probe of the cartels and their corrosive influence on both sides of the border. (Oct.)

In The Moral Liberal (August 25, 2012), a publication of Western Governor's University, in Drugs, Billions and Mexico by Alan Caruba:  "Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, has authored “The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America.” It will be published officially in October, so you are likely reading about it first here. The Cato Institute is a Libertarian think tank, a public policy foundation in Washington, D.C., funded primarily by some 15,000 individuals.

Carpenter’s book is a damning indictment of both Mexican and American policies regarding drugs. “The global trade in illegal drugs is conservatively estimated at more than $300 billion per year, and Mexico’s share is something in excess of $30 billion.”

Carpenter warns that “The deteriorating security conditions in Mexico, and the risk that the frightening violence there could become a routine feature of life in American communities as the cartels flex their muscles north of the border, makes it urgent that leaders of both countries reconsider their approach to the crisis.”

In Drug War Chronicle (December 20, 2012) "But having a smarter drug war is not going to get the job done, argues libertarian-leaning Cato Institute senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies Ted Galen Carpenter in The Fire Next Door. He rather convincingly makes the case that there is no solution to the Mexican drug war short of ending drug prohibition and sucking the money out the multi-billion dollar black market business in the substances we love to consume north of the border. Only then will the cartels be weakened enough to recede as a threat to Mexico and to the US, which as his subtitle indicates, is the real focus of his concern"   See rest of the review.

Response after a presentation to 100 men in Lakeway, Texas:

Dear Ted

On behalf of all the men at the Lakeway Men's Breakfast Club, thank you
very much for your presentation, March 13, 2013. Your book is very

The turnout was very good for your talk today and I'm pleased so many were
able to take advantage of your excellent presentation. You could tell
from the many questions there was an extremely high level of interest and
appreciation for you and your subject. We can't thank you enough for
sharing your experiences with us and taking time for us in view of your
busy schedule.


Tom Cain 512-363-5793 C:203-605-9679
Lakeway Men's Breakfast Club
Program Chairman

Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America (Washington, Cato Institute, 2008)

The United States confronts a host of foreign policy problems in the 21st Century, yet the Republic's security strategy is increasingly muddled and counterproductive.  The litany of misplaced priorities and policy failures grows ever larger.  More than five years after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, Amercian forces remain mired in an expensive nation-building mission in Iraq.  Washington's goal of making Iraq a united, secular, democratic model that that would transform the political environment of the Middle East looks today like a fool's errand.  Instead, the U.S. invasion of Iraq destablized that country and removed the principal regional strategic counterweight to Iran, greatly strengthening Tehran's power and influence and serving as the perfect recruiting poster for al-Queda.

Disagreements over Iraq policy as well as other matters have soured Washington's relations with its longtime European allies.  NATO is foundering in Afghanistan and displays a growing lack of cohesion and relevance.  At the same time, tensions are growing between the United States and Russia, North Korea, and Iran. The Taiwan issue has the potential to cause serious trouble in the coming years.

These and other foreign policy challenges that America confronts in the 21st century are discussed in this book, along with a diagnosis of what is wrong with Washington's current approach and an outline of an laternative strategy that would protect America's security while avoiding unnecessary and unrewarding military adventures.  Purchase this book

America's Coming War with China: A Collision Course Over Taiwan, (New York: Palgrave/ Macmillan, 2006)

One issue could lead to a disastrous war between the United States and China in the next decade or so: Taiwan.  In early 2005, China passed an anti-secession law that authorized the use of force against Taiwan should it declare independence, raising tensions in a region where emotions are already running high.  Many see the move as one step closer to war breaking out between China and Taiwan.  A growing number of Taiwanese want independence for their island and regard mainland China as an alien nation.  Mainland Chinese believe Taiwan was stolen from China more than a century ago, and their patience about getting it back is wearing thin.  Washington officially endorses a "one China" policy but also sells arms to Taiwan and maintains an implicit pledge to defend it from attack.  That policy invites miscalculation by both Taiwan and China.  The three parties are on a collision course, and unless something drramatic changes, an armed conflict is likely at some point.  In America's Coming War With China, Carpenter warns what the United States must do--quickly--to avoid being dragged into war.   Purchase this book

The Korean Conundrum:America's Troubled Relations with North and South Korea, coauthor, (New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2004)

For over fifty years, one of America's key security commitments has been to protect South Korea from North Korea.  A product of happenstance brought on by the end of World War II and frozen in time by the Cold War, the division of the peninsula once played a key role in America's containment of global communism.  Now, over ten years after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of communism as a serious threat to liberal democracy, the tensions between the two Koreas are a problem from another era.  With two heavily armed opponents, North Korea's nuclear pretensions, and a sizeable contingent of U.S. forces added to the mix, Korea remains an unstable and dangerous flashpoint.

The United States seems to be heading toward a confrontation with North Korea, as Koreans in the South and nations around the world anxiously witness mounting tension.  Carpenter and Doug Bandow take a look at the twin crises now afflicting U.S. policy in East Asia: the reemergence of North Korea's nuclear weapons program and the growing anti-American sentiment in South Korea.  They question whether Washington's East Asia security strategy makes sense with American forces spread thin with the Iraq war and with the looming prospect of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea becoming nuclear hostages.  Carpenter and Bandow put forth the most provocative solution yet to this gnarled and dangerous situation.  Purchase this book.

Bad Neighbor policy: Washington's Futile War on Drugs in Latin America (New York: Pelgrave/Macmillan, 2003)

The domestic phase of Washington's war on drugs has received considerable criticism over the years from Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley, Kurt Schmoke, and other luminaries who have catalogued its destructive effects on American society.  More recent converts such as New Mexico governor Gary Johnson have proclaimed the same.  Until recently, however, most critics have not stressed the damage that the international phase of the drug war has done to our Latin American neighbors.  That lack of attention has begun to change, and some disenchantment with the hemispheric drug war has been heard. 

Some prominent Latin American political leaders have dared to criticize Washington's actions and even hint that the option of legalization should be considered.  At the same time, the U.S. government seems determined to perpetuate, even escalate, the antidrug crusade.  The $1.3 billion military aid package to Colombia approved by Congress in the summer of 2000 confirms that the international phase of the campaign against drugs still has powerful support in Washington.

Spending on federal antidrug measures also continues to increase, and both the domestic and international tactics employed by the government in the name of an uncompromisingly drug-free society bring the inflammatory metaphor of war closer to reality.  Ending the prohibitionist system would produce numerous benefits for the United States and Latin America alike.  In this hard-hitting book, Carpenter takes a broad view of the fiasco that is Washington's drug war and provides a candid portrait of the situation in Latin America.  Bad Neighbor Policy is a must-read for anyone interested in the real story behind our relationship with the countries south of our border.  Purchase this book

Peace & Freedom: Foreign Policy for a constitutional Republic (Washington: Cato Institute, 2002)

The articles in this book are a representative sample of Carpenter's writings on a wide range of foreign policy topics for newspapers, magazines and policy journals.  They present a comprehensive view of what America's strategy should be in dealing with the rest of the world.  This approach, which Carpenter calls "strategic independence", emphasizes a vigorous defense of America's vital interests and a rigorous adherence to America's fundamental values.  Strategic independence rejects the notion that the United States should intervene militarily when vital interests are not at stake.  Promiscuous global interventionism places needless burdens on American taxpayers, entangles the United States in an assortment of irrelevant quarrels, and ultimately puts the lives of all Americans at risk.

Most of Carpenter's conclusions have stood the test of time.  His prediction that the drug war in Latin America would prove to be an endless futile crusade seems even sounder today than when first made in the mid-1980's.  His warnings that Washington's victory in the Persian Gulf War would be merely the beginning of a long and frustrating mission in that region, that nation-building enterprises in such places as Somalia and the Balkans would prove disappointing, and that America's NATO and East Asian allies would continue to free ride on the U.S. security guarantee have been borne out as well.  Most notably, his argument that the United States needed a more coherent and effective strategy to deal with the threat of terrorism seems all too evident in the light of the events of September 11.  These and many other issues are discussed in this book with a combination of historical perspective, strategic insight, and common sense.  Purchase this book

Other Books Written by Ted Galen Carpenter

The Captive Press: Foreigh Policy Crises and the First Amendment (Washington: Cato Institute 1995)  Purchase this book

Beyond NATO: Staying Out of Europe's Wars (Washington: Cato Institute, 1994  Purchase this book

A Search for Enemies: America's Alliances After the Cold War (Washington: Cato Institute 1992)
Purchase this book

Books Edited by Ted Galen Carpenter

NATO Enters the 21st Century (London:Frank Cass Ltd. 2001)  Purchase this book

China's Future: Constructive Partner or Emerging Threat? co-editor, (Washington:Cato Institute, 2000)
Purchase this book

NATO's Empty Victory: A Postmortem on the Balkan War (Washington:Cato Institute, 2000)  Purchase this book

NATO Enlargement: Illusions and Reality, co-edited, (Washington, Cato Institute, 1998)  Purchase this book

Delusions of Grandeur: The United Nations and Global Intervention (Washington: Cato Institute, 1997)  Purchase this book

The Future of NATO (London: Frank Cass, Ltd., 1995)

The U.S.-South Korean Alliance: Time for a Change, co-edited, (New Brunswick, N.J.:Transaction, 1992)  Purchase this book

America Entangled: The Persian Gulf Crisis and Its Consequences (Washington: Cato Institute, 1991)
Purchase this book

NATO at 40: Confronting a Changing World (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1990)  Purchase this book

Collective Defense or Strategic Independence: Alternative Strategies for the Future (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1989)  Purchase this book

Chapters in Books Edited by Others

"Cyprus and the Obama Administration: Good News and Bad News," in Cyprus 35 Years Later: What Is Needed for a Solution? ed. Eugene T. Rossides (Washington: American Hellenic Institute Foundation, 2010."

"Decision-Making Authority Is in Ankara; U.S. and EU Have Roles to Play," in Cyprus 35 Years Later: What Is Needed for a Solution? ed. Eugene T. Rossides (Washington: American Hellenic Institute Foundation, 2010.)

"The Great Powers and the Security Council," in Reinventing the United Nations, eds. Ajit M. Banerjee and Murari R. Sharma (New Delhi: Prentice Hall of India, 2007).

"Democracy and War," in Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, eds. Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close (Oakland, Independent Institute, 2007).

"Dealing with a Resurgent China," in China Cross Talk: The American Debate over China Policy since Normalization, ed. Scott Kennedy (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).

"Kosovo and Cyprus: The U.S. Double Standard," in The United States & Cyprus: Double Standards and the Rule of Law, eds. Eugene T. Rossides and Van Coufoudakis (Washington: American Hellenic Institute Foundation, 2002)

"High-Handed Nation Building: The West Brings ‘Democracy’ to Bosnia," in Exiting the Balkan Thicket, ed. Gary T. Dempsey (Washington: Cato Institute, 2002).

"NATO’s Search for Relevance," in NATO after Fifty Years, eds. S. Victor Papacosma, Sean Kay, and Mark R. Rubin (Wilmington, Del: SR Books, 2001).

"Collateral Damage: The Wide-Ranging Consequences of America’s Drug War," in After Prohibition: An Adult Approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century, ed. Timothy Lynch (Washington: Cato Institute, 2000).

"America’s Stance Toward Europe: Moving Away from a NATO-Centered Policy," in The Future of the American Military Presence in Europe, ed. Lloyd J. Matthews (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2000).

"The Amorphous 'New NATO' and America's Real European Interests," in NATO at Fifty: Perspectives on the Future of the Atlantic Alliance, ed. Susan Eisenhower (Washington: Center for Political and Strategic Studies, 1999).

"Eagle in the China Shop: The Economic Consequences of U.S. Global Meddling," in Economic Casualties: How U.S. Foreign Policy Undermines Trade, Growth, and Liberty, eds. Solveig Singleton and Daniel T. Griswold (Washington: Cato Institute, 1999).

"From Intervenor of First Resort to Balancer of Last Resort," in Asia After the Miracle: Redefining U.S. Economic and Security Priorities, eds. Selig S. Harrison and Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 1998).

"Trade and the Troubled U.S.-China Relationship," in China in the New Millennium: Market Reforms and Social Development, ed. James A. Dorn (Washington: Cato Institute, 1998).

"Ending the International Drug War," in How to Legalize Drugs, ed. Jefferson M. Fish (London: Jason Aronson, 1998).

"Wishful Thinking and Strategic Evasions: The Campaign for NATO Enlargement," in NATO and the Quest for Post-Cold War Security, ed. Clay Clemons (New York: Macmillan, 1997).

"Learning to Live with Nuclear Proliferation," in Market Liberalism: A Paradigm for the 21st Century, eds. David Boaz and Edward H. Crane (Washington: Cato Institute, 1993).

"Direct Military Intervention," in Intervention into the 1990s:U.S. Foreign Policy in the Third World, ed. Peter J. Schraeder (Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner, 1992).

"The U.S. Should Reduce Its Military Role," in The New World Order: Opposing Viewpoints, ed. Matthew Polesetsky (San Diego: Greenhaven, 1991).

"An Independent Course," in America's Purpose, ed. Owen Harries (San Francisco: ICS Press, 1991).

"China and America in a Changing World Order," in Economic Reform in China: Problems & Prospects, eds. James Dorn and Wang Xi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).

"America's China Policy: The Virtue of Patience," in U.S.-China Policy (Washington: International Security Council, 1990)

"Overt Military Intervention," in Intervention in the 1980s: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Third World, ed. Peter J. Schraeder (Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner, 1989).

"Beyond U.S. Paternalism: A New Security Strategy for the Pacific Basin," in An American Vision: Policies for the 90s, ed. Edward H. Crane and David Boaz (Washington: Cato Institute, 1989).

"Two Cheers for SDI," in Assessing the Reagan Years, ed. David Boaz (Washington: Cato Institute, 1988).