The modern state is the most fundamental unit of international politics but the literature on comparative state formation has relatively recent origins. This literature builds on Western European cases and has slowly expanded its comparative scope to cover Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Scholars have debated the role of various factors such as war, religion, geography, and elite politics that shape or drive the state forming processes. Yet few have attempted to theorize about how foreign intervention may affect those processes. Ja Ian Chong’s book will thus be particularly helpful for those who study state formation in the global periphery. The book is also useful for diplomatic historians interested in understanding the range of impacts foreign intervention can theoretically have on the emergence of new states during colonization, decolonization, and the Cold War.
Why do key Southeast Asian states seem to cleave to the perception that the United States is a benign and stabilising force in the region, in spite of its debatable record during and after the Cold War? In Hard Interests, Soft Illusions: Southeast Asia and American Power, Natasha Hamilton-Hart demonstrates that the ruling regimes in these countries disproportionately support U.S. preponderance because they managed to consolidate domestic power with the economic and political resources that accompanied U.S. support during the initial stages of national development during the Cold War. Education, professional training, and experience subsequently sustained these cognitive biases within the policy elites.