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Allies of Convenience: A Theory of Bargaining in U.S. Foreign Policy

(Columbia University Press, 2019)


Since its founding, the United States has allied with unsavory dictatorships to thwart even more urgent security threats. How well has the United States managed such alliances, and what have been their consequences for its national security? In this book, Evan N. Resnick examines the negotiating tables between the United States and its allies of convenience since World War II and sets forth a novel theory of alliance bargaining.

Resnick’s neoclassical realist theory explains why U.S. leaders negotiate less effectively with unfriendly autocratic states than with friendly liberal ones. Since policy makers struggle to mobilize domestic support for controversial alliances, they seek to cast those allies in the most benign possible light. Yet this strategy has the perverse result of weakening leverage in intra-alliance disputes. Resnick tests his theory on America’s Cold War era alliances with China, Pakistan, and Iraq. In all three cases, otherwise hardline presidents bargained anemically on such pivotal issues as China’s sales of ballistic missiles, Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons, and Iraq’s sponsorship of international terrorism. In contrast, U.S. leaders are more inclined to bargain aggressively with democratic allies who do not provoke domestic opposition, as occurred with the United Kingdom during the Korean War. An innovative work on a crucial and timely international relations topic, Allies of Convenience explains why the United States has mismanaged these “deals with the devil”—with deadly consequences.​


"Standard bargaining theories are puzzled by the ability of allies that are not only weak but also distasteful to get so much advantage when dealing with the United States. In an important contribution, Evan N. Resnick shows that the answer lies in the open nature of the American domestic political system that allows the ally to build support within the United States and cripple the ability of the president to use his bargaining leverage. In these cases, the power of the United States does not translate into the power of the president."   Robert Jervis, coeditor of Chaos in the Liberal Order: The Trump Presidency and International Politics in the Twenty-First Century


"Resnick’s Allies of Convenience is an incisive analysis of the role of alliances in U. S.

foreign policy. This book will be of interest not only to international relations scholars but also to the current architects of American foreign policy. Coming at a time when alliances are currently being questioned and reevaluated, this book is a most welcome contribution."   David A. Baldwin, Princeton University

"In this outstanding book on a much-neglected subject, Evan N. Resnick unpacks the motivations of alliances among noncompatible states. With the aid of historical cases, the book shows why these alliances emerge periodically despite the general skepticism toward them. The book is a must-read for policy makers who many times engage in alliance formations for balancing and bandwagoning purposes without carefully considering their pros and cons."   T. V. Paul, author of Restraining Great Powers: Soft Balancing from Empires to the Global Era

"Allies of Convenience spotlights a domain of alliance politics that often bedevils U.S. foreign policy but eludes careful thought. It cleverly combines concepts, theory, and case studies to explain why the United States struggles to influence allies that need it more than it needs them. An important advance in neoclassical realist scholarship, it offers sharp insights into alliance management problems the United States must grapple with today and in the years to come."   Timothy W. Crawford, author of Pivotal Deterrence: Third-Party Statecraft and the Pursuit of Peace

"Allies of Convenience addresses an important but understudied topic, advances a novel argument, pits that argument against plausible competitors drawn from the literature, compiles a rich body of historical evidence to adjudicate among rival claims, and derives provocative implications, especially for policy. There is no other book that deals with alliances of convenience per se, and certainly not one that deftly combines theory, history, and policy import. This book should have an easy time standing out."   John Schuessler, author of Deceit on the Road to War: Presidents, Politics, and American Democracy

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