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v2.1 Reference

Modernizing Repression

Police Training and Nation-Building in the American Century

As American troops became bogged down first in Iraq and then Afghanistan, a key component of U.S. strategy was to build up local police and security forces in an attempt to establish law and order. This approach, Jeremy Kuzmarov shows, is consistent with practices honed over more than a century in developing nations within the expanding orbit of the American empire. From the conquest of the Philippines and Haiti at the turn of the twentieth century through Cold War interventions and the War on Terror, police training has been valued as a cost-effective means of suppressing radical and nationalist movements, precluding the need for direct U.S. military intervention and thereby avoiding the public opposition it often arouses.

Unlike the spectacular but ephemeral pyrotechnics of the battlefield, police training programs have had lasting consequences for countries under the American imperial umbrella, fostering new elites, creating powerful tools of social control, and stifling political reform. These programs have also backfired, breeding widespread resistance, violence, and instability—telltale signs of "blowback" that has done more to undermine than advance U.S. strategic interests abroad.

About the Author

Jeremy Kuzmarov is Jay P. Walker Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tulsa and author of The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs (University of Massachusetts Press, 2009).

Listen to a radio interview of Kuzmarov at


"A timely and important work, impressive for the breadth of its research, the clarity of its organization, the depth of its insight, and the acuity of its focus on a problem that has remained, for over a century, central to U.S. foreign policy."—Alfred W. McCoy, author of Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State

"A splendid contribution to the existing literatures that will be highly valued and much quoted by scholars and practitioners alike."—Martha D. Huggins, author of Political Policing: The United States and Latin America

"When Henry Kissinger once famously quipped, 'A country that demands moral perfection in its foreign policy will achieve neither perfection nor security' he was articulating a point of view that has long held sway among many Western leaders. Kuzmarov's book might not tip the balance in favor of a more just and morally consistent world, but it's at least a thumb on the scale, and worthy of every reader's time and careful consideration."—James Broderick, author of Now A Terrifying Motion Picture: Twenty Five Classic Works of Horror Adapted from Book to Film,

"Social issues and political studies collections will find this an excellent add—and much food for thought!"—The Midwest Book Review

"The scale and scope of research is remarkable, as is the author's astute ability to reduce complex issues into a readable narrative. . . . Kuzmarov has created in one insightful volume a superb history of an often-neglected aspect of American foreign policy."—The Journal of American History

"Kuzmarov identifies an important and understudied dimension of American foreign policy."—American Historical Review

"This book helps question the narratives of American exceptionalism and triumphalism . . . that ignore some of the darker chapters of America's role in the world, especially in the Cold War and its aftermath in places such as Iraq. It is a welcome addition to the historical literature that will undoubtedly serve as a precursor to a larger study on the topic."—H-Diplo

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