Aid Imperium

United States Foreign Policy and Human Rights in Post-Cold War Southeast Asia
Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr.
How U.S. foreign policy affects state repression


Does foreign aid promote human rights? As the world’s largest aid donor, the United States has provided foreign assistance to more than 200 countries. Deploying global numerical data on US foreign aid and comparative historical analysis of America’s post–Cold War foreign policies in Southeast Asia, Aid Imperium provides the most comprehensive explanation that links US strategic assistance to physical integrity rights outcomes in recipient countries, particularly in ways that previous quantitative studies have systematically ignored. The book innovatively highlights the active political agency of Global South states and actors as they negotiate and chart their political trajectories with the United States as the core state of the international system. Drawing from theoretical insights in the humanities and the social sciences as well as a wide range of empirical documents, Aid Imperium is the first multidisciplinary study to explain how US foreign policy affects state repression and physical integrity rights outcomes in Southeast Asia and the rest of the Global South.

Salvador Santino Fulo Regilme Jr. is a tenured Associate Professor of International Relations based at the History and International Studies Section, Institute of History, Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Praise / Awards

  • “As someone who has straddled the worlds of human rights advocacy and comparative politics for many years, I have long been hoping to see such a wonderful book, one that is both theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich, and particularly one that combines true academic excellence with genuine experience of ‘how things really work.’ It should be read by scholars and practitioners alike.”

    —Steve Heder, School of Oriental and African Studies
  • “In this clear-eyed and commendable study, Salvador Santino Fulo Regilme Jr. explores whether and how foreign aid can improve human rights outcomes—and sometimes sets them back. Theoretically rigorous, with illuminating case studies of US aid to Southeast Asia, this book opens a new era of debate on a crucial topic.”
    —Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World

  • “Does US aid improve physical integrity rights in receiving countries? Through a masterly analysis of American ‘foreign strategic support’ in Thailand and the Philippines, Aid Imperium reintroduces politics to the picture, transforming aid recipients from passive players into key political actors for whom relations with the US and their own security imperatives plays a pivotal role in explaining the human rights impact of aid.”
    —Stephen Hopgood, SOAS, University of London

  • “Does US foreign aid help or hurt human rights in recipient countries? Aid Imperium, with unique scholarly insight, systematic rigor and conceptual care, offers nuanced answers to this important question. This is a must-read for anyone interested in US foreign policy and human rights.”
    —Julian Go, Professor of Sociology, the University of Chicago

  • “Salvador Santino Fulo Regilme Jr. has assembled hard data to support his interpretation of an ‘interest convergence theory’ that quantifies what he refers to as the ‘US Foreign Aid Imperium.’ His excellent reportage also brings the story forward to today’s headlines for readers unfamiliar with his two country cases.”
    —Paul Rodell, Georgia Southern University

  • “Regilme makes it possible to explain why authoritarian regimes seem to continue getting more aid without necessarily changing their repressiveness and human rights record.”
    —Obert Hodzi, University of Liverpool

  • "At a time when the fate of democracy is in question, this book is a must read. It explores the complex effects of U.S. foreign strategic support on human rights. With a laser focus on the Philippines and Thailand, it explains how and why certain types of leaders use this support to empower the state to foster the repression of their peoples."
    —Emilie M. Hafner-Burton, Professor of Politics, School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego; author of Making Human Rights a Reality
  • "Aid Imperium is a must-read for those who seek deeper understanding of how foreign strategic assistance shapes physical integrity rights in the Global South. Regilme Jr offers a comprehensive and dynamic framework for how ideational factors shape the material consequences of foreign aid, and provides important insights into the conditions that facilitate domestic state repression and human rights abuse."
    —Shannon Lindsey Blanton, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Aid Imperium offers compelling analysis of the ambiguous relationship between U.S. foreign support and domestic human rights abuses in Southeast Asia. Using cases from the Philippines and Thailand, S.S.F. Regilme teases out positive and negative causal relationships that other studies have failed to identify, integrating key factors from both international relations and domestic politics.
    —Stephen Brown, Professor of Political Science, University of Ottawa
  • "Aid Imperium clearly demonstrates the complexity of US foreign strategic support in different contexts, and it offers well-considered insights into the main independent variables that impact on the human rights situation in recipient countries. This book will undoubtedly find a place among scholars, students and general readers interested in US foreign aid programmes and public diplomacy for years to come."
    LSE Review of Books
  • "In this highly engaging book, Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr. makes an important contribution to this research, by examining the relationship between US foreign assistance and human rights––specifically physical integrity rights––in the Philippines and Thailand in the post-Cold War period. ...The book will be valuable to scholars of foreign policy, human rights, and international development."
    International Affairs
  • "Salvador Regilme skillfully explores many all-important topics in his well-argued and thoroughly researched book..."
    Australian Outlook
  • "Regilme’s case studies of the Philippines and Thailand show convincingly how the American emphasis on human rights as the legitimizing rationale for development aid quickly shifted to a focus on national security interests after 9/11."
    World Affairs
  • "Regilme presents a coherent and credible theory of the effect of foreign aid on recipient nations’ human rights conditions...Aid imperium could set the stage for a new school of thought within the literature on foreign aid."
    The SAIS Review of International Affairs
  • "Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr. provides a provocative account of how foreign economic assistance from the world’s largest bilateral donor—the United States—has harmed human rights in Southeast Asia after the Cold War. Aid Imperium advances a novel conceptualization of foreign strategic support (i.e., foreign aid in conjunction with public diplomacy) and provides an impressively researched narrative of its effects in the Philippines and Thailand..."
    Perspectives on Politics
  • “This book is one of the most fascinating pieces I have read on the relationship between the United States and Southeast Asia in the post–Cold War period. . . His overarching goal is to dispel two inaccurate narratives about foreign aid—the first being that foreign aid is good for the recipient country, and the second that any Western intervention in the developing world is evil and against any interests of the people in the south. I think he achieves this goal in a compelling manner with good social science research. . . Aid Imperium depicts a theoretically and empirically rich context within which US foreign assistance and internal domestic conditions in recipient states have helped shape human rights dynamics.” 
    Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies
  • Finalist: Foreword INDIES 2021 Book Award, Political and Social Sciences (Adult Nonfiction)

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News, Reviews, Interviews

Listen: Interview with New Books Network | 12/15/2021
Watch: Virtual Book Presentation, Co-hosted by the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago and Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, University of Hawai’i. | 08/23/2021
Watch: Author Interview by the Asia Global Institute, University of Hong Kong | 08/31/2021
Listen: Podcast Interview hosted by the Asia Global Institute, University of Hong Kong | 08/31/2021
Read: Feature written by the author on Asia Global Online | 07/21/2021

Product Details

  • 308 pages.
  • 16 figures, 1 table, 13 tables online.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12950-8

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