"This comprehensive history of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. government’s official bilateral foreign aid agency, deserves to be read by all students of U.S. foreign policy." Foreign Affairs
US Foreign aid is one of the most misunderstand functions of our federal government. Consuming less than 1% of the federal government budget, it has nonetheless played an outsized role in political debate. At the center of this controversy and misunderstanding has been the U.S. Agency for International Development, or AID, the government agency created during the Kennedy administration to administer America’s foreign assistance programs, an often-conflicted behemoth with a presence spanning the globe. In this book, journalist and foreign policy expert John Norris provides a compelling and rich story of AID, warts and all. There have been moments of enormous triumph: the eradication of smallpox, the Green Revolution, efforts to bring family planning to millions of women for the first time. There have also been florid, headline-grabbing failures in places like Vietnam and Iraq, missteps born out of ignorance and ethnocentrism, and money that flowed into the coffers of despots like President Mobutu in Zaire. In totality, the work of AID has touched millions and millions of lives in ways that have been truly profound, both good and bad. On the Eve of AID’s 60th anniversary, Norris shares history on an almost epic scale that remains largely untold.
John Norris has served in a variety of senior roles in government, international institutions, and nonprofits. In 2014, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Global Development Council, a body charged with advising the administration on effective development practices. Norris currently works at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Chapter 1: Tipping Points
Chapter 2: The Foot of the Mountain
Chapter 3: Larger than Life
Chapter 4: Crescendos
Chapter 5: The Devil’s Bargain
Chapter 6: The Carter Years
Chapter 7: The Reagan Years
Chapter 8: Uneasy Victories
Chapter 9: On the Precipice
Chapter 10: After the Towers
Chapter 11: Ambition Constrained
Chapter 12: Do as We Say, Not as We Do
Chapter 13: Conclusion
About the Author
This comprehensive history of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. government’s official bilateral foreign aid agency, deserves to be read by all students of U.S. foreign policy. The “enduring struggle” of the title is meant to refer to the difficulties of ending poverty in the developing world. But Norris’s description of the repeated attempts by the White House and the State Department to use USAID to advance foreign policy and strategic goals rather than developmental ones suggests another enduring struggle, in which Washington’s imperatives are more salient than those of low-income countries. Norris ably defends the record of USAID in promoting development but also documents its decline. Under President John F. Kennedy, the agency’s director enjoyed major resources and direct access to the Oval Office. Every president after Kennedy would contribute to USAID’s progressive marginalization, Norris shows, through poor choices of directors to lead the agency, ill-conceived administrative reorganizations, and the decision to allow the agency to lose its autonomy to the State Department. By George W. Bush’s first term, few in Washington objected when the president ignored USAID and preferred to create new bureaucracies to advance major new development initiatives, such as the task of addressing HIV/AIDS.
John Norris’ book The Enduring Struggle artfully captures the roller coaster history of USAID. The book takes an unprecedented look at the achievements that have saved billions of lives as well as the setbacks that have threatened the agency’s very existence. It is exceptionally well-researched, with original materials from presidential archives, oral histories from USAID and other governmental officials, and interviews of USAID professionals and diplomats. Whether for a development practitioner or a member of the public, this book is a fascinating account of the history of perhaps the least understood U.S. government agency.
John Norris has written a lively, compelling, and long-overdue history of AID and the foreign assistance program.This book is a must read for anyone who cares about development and America’s place in the world.
The Enduring Struggle come at a most opportune time. We need a fresh look at the ways we prioritize national interests and the institutions in our national security triad—defense, diplomacy, and development–responsible for protecting them. No agency involved in national security is more overlooked or less understood than the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the country’s lead agency for development and the foreign assistance programs to deliver it. Norris fills the void. His history provides a comprehensive overview of an agency with remarkable accomplishments, but which—despite impressive successes—has often fallen short of expectations and whose history is filled with no little controversy. Norris’ well-articulated review of that agency’s history is a good place to start toward that understanding and should become required reading for academics, practitioners and policy makers interested in balancing our approach to these escalating threats
I wish I had this book when I was running AID.
This is a unique story, one that highlights American global leadership through the lens of its humanitarian impulse, its capacity for trustworthiness, its willingness to cooperate and its commitment to stay the course. Norris hasn’t sugarcoated the challenges of an agency working in the world’s poorest countries and whose purpose has been misunderstood or misconstrued by political opponents.
12/13/21, Center for Global Development Podcast: John Norris and Wade Warren discussed the book and the future of USAID.