Hemispheric Giants: The Misunderstood History of U.S.-Brazilian Relations

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9781442207875: Hemispheric Giants: The Misunderstood History of U.S.-Brazilian Relations

Tracing the full arc of U.S.-Brazilian interaction, Hemispheric Giants thoroughly explores the enigmatic and often-misunderstood nature of the relationship between the two largest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Britta H. Crandall asks the crucial question of why significant engagement between the United States and Brazil has been so scarce since the inception of the bilateral relationship in the late 1800s. Especially, she critically examines Washington's so-called "benign neglect"—a policy often criticized as unbefitting Brazil's size and strategic importance.

Drawing on a rich array of archival sources and personal interviews, Crandall pinpoints the key examples through time of high-level U.S. policy attention to Brazil. Her comprehensive analysis of the ebbs and flows of policy engagement allows Crandall to tease out common threads among her cases. In so doing, she shows that the label "neglect," implying a one-sided, fitful relationship, is far from the reality of a mutual, ongoing policy engagement between the U.S. and Brazilian governments. To be sure, their different relative power positions and foreign policy traditions have limited high-level bilateral engagement. However, Crandall argues convincingly that the diminishing power disparity between the United States and Brazil is leading to closer ties in the twenty-first century—a trend that will bring about growing cooperation as well as competition in the future.

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About the Author:

Britta H. Crandall is adjunct professor of political science at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.

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Much of what is written on U.S.-Latin American relations relies on media reports or recycles other academic works. Crandall, in contrast, took the time to interview U.S. policymakers and career diplomats. Her discovery: the mainstream complaint that the United States has forever neglected Brazil is way off the mark. In fact, U.S. officials―at both the senior and the middle levels of the bureaucracy―have recognized Brazil's relative weight and have repeatedly sought to engage its Foreign Ministry. But hung up on fears of being overwhelmed by U.S. power, or driven by their own dreams of Brazilian hegemony over South America, Brazilian diplomats have often turned their backs on U.S. advances. In this well-researched and balanced treatment, Crandall foresees the potential for bilateral cooperation on emerging global issues, ranging from financial stability to energy supplies, on which U.S. and Brazilian interests may converge. But will Brazil sufficiently redefine its strategic posture to pick up these gains? (Foreign Affairs)

This volume clearly advances the state of knowledge on inter-American affairs and contributes to decentering foreign policy analysis. [Hemispheric Giants] offers valuable portraits of frequently overlooked events, and delivers an impressive punch of context and comparison. (Latin American Research Review)

A stimulating and analytically powerful study of Brazilian-U.S. relations. Arguing against the idea that the United States 'neglects' Brazil, Britta Crandall refocuses the bilateral relationship over time and offers fresh and important guidelines for the future of the relationship as Brazil, in the twenty-first century, will play an increasingly important regional and global role. (Riordan Roett, Johns Hopkins University-SAIS)

Hemispheric Giants directly and cogently attacks the mainstream whine that the United States has forever neglected Brazil, marshalling strong evidence that U.S. officials―both at the senior and middling levels of the bureaucracy―have in fact recognized Brazil's relative weight, but more often than not have had their aspirations dashed by Brazil's own reluctance to engage constructively with Washington. We are fortunate to have this sophisticated and balanced framework for assessing past and present U.S.-Brazilian relations. (Richard E. Feinberg, University of California, San Diego)

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