William Ratliff

Biography: 

William Ratliff was a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Independent Institute. His BA is from Oberlin College; his PhD in Chinese/Latin American histories is from the University of Washington. He passed away April 11, 2014.

He wrote and lectured on the history and politics of Asia and Latin America and how traditional cultures and institutions influence modern conditions and prospects for political and economic development. He also wrote on Chinese relations with Latin America and on US foreign policy.

Ratliff’s studies include "Development with Chinese Characteristics: Asia’s Sinic Revolutions in Global Historical Perspective," in P. Caringella, ed., Revolutions: Finished and Unfinished (2012), chapters for B. Creutzfeldt, ed., China en América Latina (2012) and M. Nilsson, ed., Latin American Responses to Globalization (2012). He also wrote Vietnam Rising: Culture and Change in Asia’s Tiger Cub (2008), Doing It Wrong and Doing It Right: Education in Latin America and Asia (2003), and Law and Economics in Developing Countries (2000) with E. Buscaglia. He has coauthored studies of US policy toward Cuba and Latin America with R. Fontaine and on Juan Peron with S. Amaral. He is coauthor of The Civil War in Nicaragua (1993) with R. Miranda and Inside the Cuban Interior Ministry (1994) with Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier.

Ratliff lived and traveled widely in Asia and Latin America, published commentaries in all major US and many foreign newspapers and been interviewed on CNN, NPR, PBS, BBC, Voice of America, and China Radio International. On the Internet, he has written for "The Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and MSNBC’s "Opinion" section. He taught and lectured for nongovernmental organizations and at Stanford University, Tunghai University (Taiwan), the Austrian Defense Academy (Vienna), and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing). For two decades he wrote classical music reviews and features for the Los Angeles Times and the Metropolitan Opera's Opera News.

His research papers (collection 1, collection 2, and collection 3) are available at the Hoover Institution Archives.

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The Caudillo and the Chinese

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Sunday, April 30, 2006

Just how reciprocal is the courtship between Venezuela and China anyway? Pssst...don't tell Hugo, but the Chinese only love him for his oil. By William Ratliff.

Get Serious, Amigos

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Monday, January 30, 2006

Do the nations of Latin America really want economic development? By William Ratliff.

Undermining the Foundations of Organized Crime and Public Sector Corruption: An Essay on Best International Practices

by Edgardo Buscaglia, William Ratliffvia Analysis
Monday, August 1, 2005

Corruption and organized crime are serious criminal phenomena, but they are also much more than that. Not only is organized crime an impediment to national development and globalization, but with its links to terrorist groups worldwide, it is also a threat to the national security of the United States and other open and opening societies. The recent histories of Pakistan and Colombia demonstrate clearly how organized criminal groups support the expansion of transnational terrorism and even how misconceived domestic and international policies can simply make matters worse (Buscaglia 1999; Buscaglia and Ratliff 2001). The threat that these activities of organized crime presents is compounded because transnational criminal organizations often act with the tacit or explicit support of state authorities, as in the illegal traf?cking of radioactive, biological, and chemical materials and in the more conventional transport of military and other equipment (Buscaglia and Gonzalez-Ruiz 2002). That is, criminal groups frequently expand their activities worldwide by capturing the public policies of states with the support of corrupt public of?cials, who then do not work conscientiously for the good of their own nations or of the international community. Just one example is the transnational criminal organizations in Russia that engage in the traf?cking and supplying of weapons to terrorist groups inside and outside the Fed-eration's borders, which they do by corrupting local public of?cials and of?cials in the military establishment (Buscaglia 1997).

Organized crime, corruption, and links to terrorism are possible because of weaknesses in the control mechanisms of state and civil society, as demonstrated by conditions in Colombia (Buscaglia and Ratliff 2001) and by large-scale terrorist involvement in organized crime, including money laundering, as has been the case with the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland (Economist 2005). Theory and applied research suggest that there are interdependent links along the entire spectrum of political, socioeconomic, legal, and criminal justice domains (Shelley 1995; Buscaglia and Gonzalez-Ruiz 2002; Buscaglia and Ratliff 2000). For example, the analytical results found in Buscaglia and van Dijk (2003), from a sample of more than ?ve dozen countries worldwide, attest to the deep ties between the growth of organized crime and the growth of public sector corruption. Many believe incorrectly that in a large range of societies the links between organized crime and terrorists resemble the popular perceptions of a formal and structured "Ma?a" type (Buscaglia and Gonzalez-Ruiz 2002). But on the contrary, these criminal enterprises are dynamic and relatively loose structures, making the task of both law enforcement and intelligence analysis much more dif?cult (Williams 2001).

There is ample evidence of organized crime's involvement in some major piratical attacks in the Malacca Strait, for example, with the threats those attacks posed to persons, to property, and to the delivery of, among other things, 80 percent of the oil shipped to Asia's booming economies. Indeed, organized crime may be involved in the setting up of "phantom ships" that intelligence sources say are under the control of al-Qaeda (Ratliff 2005a, 2005b; Burnett 2002). What is more, evidence suggests that these links between terrorism and organized crime are on the rise. For example, since 1990 the transnational organized crime linked to speci?c terrorist operations has increased at an average rate of 8, 19, and 21 percent yearly in Latin America, Africa, and Eurasia, respectively (Buscaglia and Gonzalez-Ruiz 2002). Thus the links between organized crime and states with weak or corrupt governance constitute an important threat to international peace and security as well as to national development and well-being. They demand a response that will both improve national governance and development and reduce links that threaten national and international security. The composite indices of organized crime and corruption in Buscaglia and van Dijk (2003) were used to identify the institutional factors linked to reductions in complex crime. This policy essay goes one step further by delineating best practices in counteracting organized crime and public sector corruption.

This essay is in three parts: (1) focus and background, (2) methodology and empirical analysis, and (3) policy recommendations taken from the study of best international practices in counteracting organized crime and public sector corruption.

The Democracy Problem

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, July 30, 2005

In Latin America these days, democracy isn’t working very well. Indeed, it almost never has. Why? By William Ratliff.

Red Dragon, Black Gold

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, April 30, 2005

China has a voracious need for imported oil. Can the planet handle another economic superpower? By William Ratliff.

China Goes South of the Border

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Sunday, January 30, 2005

Chinese President Hu Jintao has spent more time in Latin America than George W. Bush. What are the Chinese up to? By William Ratliff.

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After Fidel

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, October 30, 2004

Once the island’s aging caudillo is finally gone, what will become of Cuba? An assessment by William Ratliff.

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Surviving Fidel

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 30, 2004

The U.S. embargo against Cuba is an abysmal failure. Let’s end it. By Hoover fellow William Ratliff.

Russia's Oil in America's Future: Policy, Pipelines, and Prospects

by William Ratliffvia Analysis
Monday, September 1, 2003

Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin will hold a summit at the end of September that will focus on economic and other ties between the United States and Russia. The two presidents have long recognized the central position of energy in our bilateral relations, and in that sphere, nothing is as critical as oil. Today Russia may again be the largest oil exporter in the world, but very little yet comes to the United States. Russia’s oil industry is dominated by rich and aggressive young private companies. Generally, they are eager to deal with foreigners, but despite significant state reforms they often are still inhibited by a dilapidated, state-controlled delivery system and a residue of traditional thinking and institutions. Many of Russia’s as-yet-unresolved post-Soviet prob-lems exploded in mid-2003 when the prosecutor general’s office attacked Yukos, the country’s most modernized, productive and pro-American private oil company. Thus even as Washington and American oil industry leaders actively sought alternatives to unstable sources in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, basic questions re-emerged in Russia about the privatizations of the 1990s, the security of private property, the mixing of law and politics, and the exercise of power in the Kremlin. Today Russians, with the support of American and European allies, must create conditions that will welcome the foreign funds, technology, and expertise needed to develop the critical oil industry but also to lay foundations of law and infrastructure that will help make Russia a stable member of the world community. Americans must decide how much involvement Russia can constructively absorb to promote not only short-term oil supplies but also long-term Russian development and broader U.S. foreign policy goals. Finally, the critical long-term lesson of 9/11 and other recent experiences for Americans is that even as we cultivate Russia as an ally and major source of oil, we must actively develop alternative sources of energy. In an unstable world, the United States must not forever be held hostage by other nations with their often very different cultures, institutions and interests.

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Why El Jefe Cracked Down

by William Ratliffvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Fidel Castro may look like a blundering madman, but instead he’s calculating and entirely rational. Hoover fellow William Ratliff on a tyrant who “knows exactly what he is doing.”

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