The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2024

78 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL The book doesn’t shy away from development failures—the inability of USAID’s programs to develop a meaningful alternative to coca, most prominently. His case illustrates the challenges Foreign Service officers face in responding to a changing Washington environment—as priorities swing from fighting communism to providing for basic human needs or from building democracy and small enterprise development to combating drugs—while dealing with Bolivia’s on-the-ground realities of corruption, weak institutions, coups, and countercoups. By focusing on a single country, he is able to tell USAID’s story from the inside, what it looks like from the field perspective, how Foreign Service officers responsible for implementing a program—together with their contractors, grantees, local counterparts, and employees—mesh instructions from Washington with real needs and political pressures in Bolivia. A Ph.D. in history with more than 50 years in development work, including 20 years at USAID, Heilman is well placed to tell this story. The book is both scholarly and operational. Each chapter includes a brief history of changes in Washington politics and policy, the Bolivian political and economic context, the evolving role of the USAID mission, and specifics on projects and program, successes and failures; each ends with pages of extensive notes. Heilman’s approach reflects the belief that foreign assistance can’t be understood without knowing the context shaping it, as well as the people and organization in the field responsible for delivering it. The author digs deeply into the history of U.S. development work well before USAID’s creation in 1961. He gives color to the history in descriptions of the role of individuals: Merwin Bohan, for example, a Foreign Service officer serving as commercial attaché in 1941 who headed a commission report that influenced future investments in Bolivia for decades, and Jim Bleidner, who lived with his family in a lemon orchard in the 1950s to improve beef production and build an applied agriculture research station. Heilman introduces us to program directors in the 1950s and 1960s who laid the groundwork for long-term campaigns in health, education, and agriculture and to the hands-on efforts of Peace Corps volunteers, many of whom, like Stacy Rhodes, later went on to become senior leaders in USAID. He talks about how initiatives like the effort to reengineer and reform the agency affected USAID mission structure and process and influenced implementation. With descriptions of bureaucratic in-fighting between State BOOKS Lessons from Bolivia USAID in Bolivia: Partner or Patrón? Lawrence C. Heilman, First Forum Press, 2017, $85.00/hardcover, e-book available, 346 pages. Reviewed by Desaix “Terry” Myers Few tools of U.S. foreign policy are as misunderstood as foreign assistance. Most Americans vastly overestimate its size. Consistently, for years, they have guessed it as 25 percent of the total U.S. budget. They may agree it is necessary but say it should be reduced—to around 10 percent. In fact, it is less than 1 percent. Many are also unclear as to what the assistance includes, how it is organized, how it is administered, or, most importantly, its purpose and what it achieves. Larry Heilman’s USAID in Bolivia addresses these questions with an indepth case study of 70 years of aid to Bolivia. The book is an ambitious effort to describe in a comprehensive way how the delivery of foreign assistance has evolved and how a USAID country mission works in the field. It tells the story of efforts to knit Washington politics and policy with a host country’s dynamics and its people’s needs to create a program that both supports development—better health, education, economic growth, and democratic institutions—and meets U.S. foreign policy objectives. In just over a dozen chapters, Heilman takes us from Franklin Roosevelt and the Good Neighbor Policy to George W. Bush and the near dismemberment of USAID, concluding with Barack Obama and the effort to make development, along with defense and diplomacy, a partner in the national security triad.