Distributing dollars for democracy: changing foreign policy contexts and the shifting determinants of US democracy aid, 1975–2010

  • James M. ScottEmail author
  • Ralph G. Carter
Original Article


In the late 20th century, the United States adapted to changes in the international arena and initiated innovative strategies of democracy promotion by providing assistance to governments, political parties, and non-governmental organisations all over the world. Through the lens of foreign policy change, this analysis examines the factors shaping US democracy aid decisions in the context of two major paradigm shifts—the end of the Cold War (1989) and the 9/11 episode (2001)—which establish three distinct US foreign policy contexts: Cold War, post-Cold War, and Global War on Terror. Examining democracy aid allocations; ideational goals; US interests; and economic, political and social factors, we argue that the external foreign policy context of each time period generates a different blend of determinants that shape democracy aid allocations, with ideational factors more consequential in the post-Cold War and Global War on Terror contexts, and interest-based factors more significant in the Cold War and Global War on Terror contexts. Evidence from the period between 1975 and 2010 provides support for our argument. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings.


Democracy aid Democratisation Foreign aid Foreign policy change 



The authors would like to thank Sarah Bush, Brandy Jolliff Scott, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceTexas Christian UniversityFort WorthUSA

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