The Foreign Policy Auction
On Sunday, I’ll be hosting the FireDogLake Book Salon, and talking with Dr. Ben Freeman, author of “Foreign Policy Auction,” an eye-opening new book examining the extent to which lobbyists representing foreign governments shape the foreign policy decisionmaking of the United States. It’s very well done. We’ll be talking about it on Sunday, December 2, at 5:00pm Eastern Time.
By way of introduction, I was asked to prepare some remarks about the book in advance of our conversation, which are up at the website. It should be an interesting conversation!
The influence of foreign money in American politics is hardly a novel concern. Indeed, the very structure of power relations in the global arena—itself dominated by US hegemony—predicts that foreign agents will look to influence the direction of American policy abroad, as Samuel Huntington observed fifteen years ago. “American politics attracts foreign money,” Huntington wrote in Foreign Affairs, “because the decisions of its government have an impact on people and interests in every other country. The power to attract resources is thus a result of the power to expend them, and the resource inflow is aimed at affecting the direction of the resource outflow.”
And yet, very little academic attention has been directed at the problem. While Stephen Krasner may have famously decried the “organized hypocrisy” of Westphalian state sovereignty—namely, that far from the exception, government meddling in the business of other countries is the norm of international relations—everyone else seems to have taken this recognition as, well, good enough. Even so, it is surprising that so few scholars have bothered to ask how governments mobilize their most effective tool—money—to get what they want from Washington. To be sure, there are notable exceptions. The most well-known study of the effects of foreign lobbying on American policy is John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby, a book better known for the firestorm of controversy it ignited than the substance of its content. Aside from this, however, political scientists and other interested observers have had surprisingly little to say on the topic.