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Concrete RevolutionLarge Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation$
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Christopher Sneddon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226284316

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226284453.001.0001

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“A Reclamation Program to Lead Them”

“A Reclamation Program to Lead Them”

The Bureau Goes Global

(p.52) Three “A Reclamation Program to Lead Them”
Concrete Revolution

Christopher Sneddon

University of Chicago Press

The third chapter describes the period when the US State Department increasingly conceived dams and river basin development as vehicles of technical assistance that, if used strategically, would demonstrate to current and would-be allies in the underdeveloped regions of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America the superiority of American developmental and political approaches vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. An important dimension of the Bureau’s institutionalization within the sphere of foreign policy concerned debates over how economic and technical assistance might enhance the capacity of American business interests to increase their global influence and investment opportunities. The central case study of this chapter is the Litani Project in Lebanon. Initiated in 1951, the Litani program was the Bureau’s first intensive foray into overseas technical assistance. The Bureau’s experiences in the Litani basin established an administrative and technological model of river basin planning that subsequent initiatives would follow, but also reflect the numerous organizational and environmental difficulties that harried nearly every major Bureau investigation in the tricontinental world. A key outcome of the Litani and similar Bureau initiatives was the creation of the “modern” river basin, which combined resource development through dam construction with more ambitious schemes of social engineering.

Keywords:   Bureau of Reclamation, development, geopolitics, Lebanon, Litani River basin, Middle East, river basin development

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